The project, which is currently in the midst of its funding campaign, is the brainchild of a software developer and an animal rights advocate. The app-creator's plan is to offer the first extensive database of restaurants that provide humanely raised meats and vegetarian and vegan meals. Think of it like Zagat and Yelp! with a humanitarian twist.
"We have a food system where suffering is built into the process," says Jon Wadley, 35, co-founder and chief executive officer at America for Animals. "The overwhelming majority of farm animals experience tremendous suffering in our factory farm system. Everybody wants to do the right thing and doesn't want to hurt animals, yet we don't really know how. There isn't an easy way to do that." Wadley has a history of standing up for animals. He volunteered with community groups to get foie gras off California menus. (Foie gras is the fatty liver of a force-fed goose or duck.)
"I was sitting there at a little desk in a little office trying to figure out how I could help stop the production and sale of foie gras across this giant country," Wadley says. "I just realized that I wasn't able to do that. Only technology could do that. There was no way sitting in San Diego that I could have a big impact in Wisconsin."
Wadley says it was clear that if he and other animal welfare advocates were going to tackle these types of problems, they'd need the tools to make a difference. Something like an app or website.
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Enter co-founder and chief technology officer Tim Drees, 42, a seasoned software developer. Although new to the animal welfare front, he immediately noticed the community wasn't leveraging modern social tools to promote the cause. So he and Wadley joined forces to form America for Animals, and ultimately The Humane Eating Project app that's scheduled for release in February 2014. "There's no organization like this in the animal welfare area," he says. "There's tremendous potential with smartphone technology and all the new ways we can track information."
There will be two levels to the app. For those just wanted to get their feet wet with animal welfare, the app will offer a simple restaurant finder that IDs restaurants that offer vegan, vegetarian, or humanely raised meats. The app will also feature a more advanced level for power users, a tool to actually petition restaurants to add more humane options to their menus.
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The app is starting with thousands of restaurants in its database and, in its second phase, will go back to verify that all restaurants making humanely raised claims will have to be certified by a program like Animal Welfare Approved, Global Animal Partnership, or Certified Humane, the creators say.