Holy Cow: How This Funder Found Religion in Farm Animals

Farm animal advocates just scored a brand new ally in what may seem like an unlikely place. And no, I'm not talking about former Daily Show host Jon Stewart's announcement that his life's work will now focus on giving sanctuary to abused farm animals (however awesome that may be). I'm talking about North America’s leading Jewish sustainability organization, Hazon. Earlier this month, the Humane Society of the United States, the nation's largest animal protection organization, announced that they would partner with Hazon—which takes its name from a Hebrew word meaning "vision"—to launch a series of programs aimed at furthering farm animal welfare education and advocacy.

As we've written before, the welfare of the country’s 9 billion chickens, cows, pigs, and other edible creatures is often overlooked by mainstream animal welfare philanthropy, which devotes little money to protecting these animals compared to companion animals. In fact, though, this is where some of the most urgent work to relieve animal suffering needs to be done. 

Related: Chickens Need Not Apply: A Closer Look at the ASPCA's Grantmaking

The partnership between HSUS and Hazon was announced in advance of Food Day 2015—an annual holiday intended to inspire Americans to change their diets and food policies at large. The two groups are hoping their partnership will inspire more compassionate food choices, particularly within the Jewish community. According to Hazon:

Though diverse Jewish perspectives agree that animals matter, there is a huge diversity of views about just how much they matter and the reasons why we should care about animals. Obviously, this is a deep and complex topic, and we are just looking at the very tip of the iceberg.

This intersection of Jewish life and farm animal welfare is no accident, and for the funder behind this initiative it represents the convergence of two of its major program areas. The Emanuel J. Friedman Philanthropies (EJFP) is the umbrella organization for the personal charitable giving of Emanuel “Manny” Friedman and a handful of Friedman family foundations. Of their four program areas—D.C. public schools, pediatric asthma care, vibrant Jewish life and compassion for animals—the last two appear to get the most attention. And even though these program areas might seem completely unrelated to one another, EJFP has found ways for its giving to overlap within its program areas, essentially killing two birds with one stone (humanely, of course).

Beyond its program areas, details on EJFP’s giving portfolio are thin. What we do know is that this funder is actively seeking collaborative partnerships with organizations that have complementary grantmaking objectives. EJFP does not accept unsolicited grant proposals, but it does accept brief letters of inquiry for funding consideration. This funder prides itself on its grantees' success and thus puts a heavy emphasis on performance and evaluation metrics before considering funding a project.

This most recent initiative seems to support that.

The HSUS-Hazon partnership model comes after a successful test run of Hazon’s programming this past summer. With a generous grant from EJFP, Hazon gave out mini-grants of $500 and personalized programmatic assistance to summer camps around the nation interested in implementing their own food justice programs using Hazon materials. The pilot program was deemed a success, racking up over 1000 participants, and subsequently a huge partnership with the Humane Society.

The two organizations have a range of initiatives planned, including a camp program for Jewish youth that explores the practices of industrial animal agriculture along with what Jewish tradition teaches about animal welfare and environmental sustainability. They also plan to develop co-branded programming and materials for synagogues with tips and resources for living green within a traditional lifestyle.