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Erica Meier, the executive director of Compassion Over Killing, the animal advocacy organization that recently announced its Three Greeen Stars awards for the area’s top vegetarian/vegan restaurants, promptly responded to my concerns and questions over this year’s VegDC.com contest. Her unedited responses are below.

How many of the winners were part of COK’s Restaurant Outreach Program?

Since COK launched our Restaurant Outreach program in 2004, we’ve worked with more than a dozen area eateries in the D.C.-Metro area, helping them create vegan options to add to their menus. This program, which is absolutely free to restaurants, has been met with incredible success largely due to the increasing interest in healthier and more humane foods. Restaurants we’ve worked that were voted as serving the “Best Vegetarian Food” of 2008 by visitors to VegDC.com include Java Green and Asylum, as you mentioned in your article in the Onion, as well as Ella’s Wood Fired Pizza and Busboys & Poets. Other restaurants we’ve worked with include Equinox, Asian Grill, Pete’s Apizza, Science Club, and more.   

Why didn’t you mention this program connection in the press announcement?

This contest was created to celebrate the wide variety of delicious animal-friendly options available in and around the nation’s capital. There are over two dozen all-vegetarian restaurants in the area, plus there are hundreds of other restaurants listed on VegDC.com featuring delicious vegetarian options on their menus. 

Did you think of not including these program restaurants in the final tally, since they have a connection and history to COK and its members?

This contest was not limited to COK members; it was open to everyone who visited VegDC.com. More 1,000 people participated in the contest, and we asked them vote for their personal favorite veg-friendly eateries.  

Did COK employees vote in the contest?

COK has four employees, and we did not vote in the contest.

Do you think that the awards give off the impression that they are rewarding participants in your Restaurant program?

No, I don’t think so. I think people vote for the restaurants they like the most, and these happen to be the restaurants they vote for. While we’re proud of the success of our Restaurant Outreach program and are thrilled that people are enjoying the vegan options available at the places we’ve worked with, we’re even more excited by the growing availability of vegetarian food the area in general—which was what the contest was about. 

As you noted, our program isn’t mentioned anywhere in the contest promotion, nor is it mentioned in listings on VegDC.com for these restaurants. Our goal is simply to demonstrate how delicious and easy it is to choose vegetarian fare in the nation’s capital, and to encourage people to explore these options when dining out.