No trip to Chicago is ever complete without a deep dish pizza. Buy a beignet in New Orleans. Don’t go to Maine without eating lobster.
These are the types of recommendations we hear when we travel to new destinations, and it’s no surprise. Food is a critical gateway to fully immersing ourselves in a destination, and traveling foodies often spend time exploring restaurants that promise to deliver the best and most authentic flavors of a place.
When scouting out these restaurants, particularly in the United States, platforms like Google Maps and Yelp often are the go-to sources for quickly finding restaurants that satiate our food and culture cravings. It’s not always easy, however, to satisfy the conscience.
That’s where America for Animals (AFA), a nonprofit based out of San Diego, California comes in. Believing we’ll make ethical dining decisions if we’re empowered with easy access to information, AFA developed The Humane Eating Project, an app that helps diners find restaurants serving vegan, vegetarian, and humanely sourced food.
“We know that everyone wants to do the right things, it’s just a matter of making it easier and clearer what the right thing is to do,” says Jonathan Wadley, founder and CEO of AFA. “[We thought], if we could make it easy to always eat humanely when eating out, it would give the people the power to help animals.”
And with the Humane Eating Project, it is easy to help animals. The app works similar to other map-searching services, so it’s a quick, intuitive process to find socially responsible restaurants when you’re traveling. The rest is economics 101. Eating at restaurants with a commitment to ethically sourcing food and avoiding establishments serving inhumane dishes reduces demand for farms and facilities with cruel animal practices.
To achieve its goal of helping animals, The Humane Eating Project isn’t just promoting restaurants with a commitment to humanely sourcing food; it’s also calling out offenders. Restaurants with cruelly-produced dishes clearly listed on their menu appear on the app’s “watch list.” Dishes the group defines as cruelly-produced include foie gras, shark fin soup, and veal.
The app was first released on iOS in 2014, and then on Android in May this year. While it’s a relatively new app and many restaurant listings, particularly in smaller towns, still need to be added, The Humane Eating Project is a significant step towards filling an information gap with regards to ethical dining.
Many popular restaurant review platforms can be used to find vegetarian and vegan dining options, but lack easily accessible information with regards to restaurants serving humanely-sourced meat. Yelp has filters that include “Good for Family” and “Good for Kids,” but what about “Good for Animals?” Not an option. A search for “humane restaurants Philadelphia,” turns up a result for animal advocacy group The Humane League, but no dining options.
Many of the listings provided in the app are from VegGuide, and from the hard work of AFA’s volunteers. Listings in the app are crowdsourced too, so the thoroughness of the database will only improve with time.
In addition to providing ethical restaurant listings, the app also educates users on humane eating. In the app, users can learn more about what is defined as humane eating, as well as the aspects of cruelty faced by some animals raised for food production.
As socially conscious travelers, many of us are emotionally affected by sad information. For our benefit, the app is careful to educate through words and to exclude the graphic images that many animal rights groups often use. Wadley makes it clear this decision was strategic.
“I’ve been working with animal welfare in one way or another for 15 years, and I’ve seen more images of animals suffering on factory farms than I can count,” Wadley says. “Whenever I see [those images], I can’t help but still have an emotional reaction to it. It’s heartbreaking.”
Wadley goes on to stress that AFA wants users to have nothing but a positive experience with the app saying, “We don’t want anyone’s lunch to be ruined; we just want them to eat humanely.”
In the future, AFA plans to increase the app’s database to include humane dining options for international destinations. For now, socially conscious travelers exploring the US can rejoice: the power to eat well and do good is in our back pocket. On our phone.
While traveling the world as a digital nomad, Christina found it difficult to find the fine travel experiences that satisfied her conscience. She started The Wayward Post with Ziggy to help travelers find those travel experiences that are driving positive change and to give the Wayward hat tip to travel-related brands doing the right thing. All while amplifying the work of amazing writers and photographers.
When she's not writing for The Wayward Post, you'll find her working with do-good brands run by amazing people with the marketing agency, ZATWIC. Or maybe just drinking a craft cocktail. Follow her on Twitter.