Clare Bland is passionate about transforming conventional animal agriculture.
She has developed philanthropic support for a major medical center and teaching hospital, companion animal shelters, a wildlife rehabilitation center and hospital, and most recently, the United States’ leading farm animal protection group, Mercy For Animals.
Now, she works as The Good Food Institute’s development director and keeps us moving toward a brighter future of food every day.
Clare took a few moments to share her hopes and plans for this future with us:
E: You’ve been working in the nonprofit world for nearly two decades—clearly philanthropy is important to you. When did you start to consider food choices a part of that?
C: Growing up, I saw farm animals everywhere in the fields of rural England. After relocating to the United States, I was puzzled not to see any farmed animals, even in agricultural communities near Minneapolis-St. Paul where my husband, Michael, and I first lived after immigrating here. Through online videos and books (Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation … Matthew Scully’s Dominion ... so many life-changing books), I learned that the animals were all out of sight—and therefore out of mind for most—hidden in the intensive confinement of factory farms. I started removing animal products from my diet, just wishing I’d had this realization years earlier.
My first development role was with a major teaching hospital and community medical center in Seattle, but it wasn’t until I joined the team at the Progressive Animal Welfare Society in Lynnwood, Washington, that my professional focus and personal passion started to come into alignment.
E: What have been some of the most exciting developments you’ve seen since then in the world of animal agriculture?
C: For starters, it’s seeing corporate giants, such as Nestlé, commit to animal welfare reforms that impact their entire supply chains, ensuring, for example, that the eggs they source do not come from caged hens. Each time another big company makes such a commitment, this pressures others to follow suit or lose customers, who are demanding more humane treatment of animals.
E: And once those giants shift, it’s easier for consumers to make better food decisions too, right?
C: Exactly. That’s what’s so powerful about The Good Food Institute’s work: We’re working to make the most humane, environmentally friendly choice the default choice.
A big part of this is getting the plant-based products more widely available in retail stores, and then getting these products better placement: right next to their conventional counterparts. When the animal-based and plant-based options can be compared side by side, it’s easier for people to find and try new options. And when they learn the plant-based option tastes awesome and is healthier, and the price is competitive, this will start a huge shift.
Now on the horizon are the clean meat, dairy, and egg alternatives, which are grown outside of an animal without the need for slaughter. Just this week, Perfect Day announced its animal-free milk would be available starting in 2017. This will impact so many more people who don’t choose plant-based milks and maybe never would. But once they try the clean product that’s indistinguishable from the conventional one, they will make a positive impact on climate change, animal welfare, and their own health. Now that will be a game changer.
E: Are there any GFI projects you're particularly excited about?
C: The policy work we're ramping up right now thanks to Nicole, our incredible policy director! Until the legal and regulatory framework is in place so that the developers of the newest plant-based and clean foods can get their products into grocery stores and onto restaurant menus, we're not going to transform the broken food system. Once we have that framework, the sky's the limit.
E: And you’re the one enabling this work by keeping the lights on! Can you tell me more about what you do and why it’s critical for GFI’s mission?
C: As GFI is a nonprofit, our work is powered by philanthropy: gifts and grants from our family of supporters. And as we were launched just this year, it’s even more critical to build a firm base of support right now in our first few months so we can grow from strength. Working closely with our fearless leader, Bruce, it's my job to secure the resources needed so that our program experts can focus on the science and technology, the innovation, the policy work, and the corporate engagement. Another part is ensuring that our donors always feel connected to the projects they're supporting, that they're the first to learn of the successes they are making possible.
I love that I get to spend time with people to really learn about their personal visions for making a better world through their philanthropy. Then I find the GFI program that truly inspires them and will be the best fit for their gift. Every gift makes a huge difference to making a healthy, humane, and sustainable food supply a reality. If you'd like to know more, please get in touch!
E: I know how busy you are, but what do you do in your free time, if you have any?
C: Yoga helps keep my mind and body somewhat in shape. I love to read (just started Jonathan Balcombe’s What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins , and I volunteer with my local bunny rescue: Those furry orphan faces help keep me in the moment! Our rescue dogs, Ralph and Rufus, are rather elderly now—nearly 16 and 13—so our family outings are now gentle strolls on the beach rather than long mountain hikes. We try to enjoy everything that Southern California has to offer.
E: Including all of those plant-based food options, I imagine?
C: Oh, definitely: Hip, the little vegan restaurant just a mile from my house, serves the World’s Best Reuben Sandwich!
E: I’ll be right over! Thanks, Clare!