You may not believe this, but I love a good vegetarian dish. I regularly order them—-and not just to see how much care a kitchen puts into these notoriously neglected plates. Sometimes I order them because I want a break from meat. Sometimes I do it as a symbolic acknowledgment of the environmental problems that livestock farming can cause. But I rarely order them because of some contest like the VegDC.com‘s Three Green Stars

The Green Stars were handed out last month by Compassion Over Killing (COK), a D.C.-based animal protection group. Some of the winners include Java Green (Best Vegetarian Restaurant), Amsterdam Falafelshop (Best Cheap Vegan Eats), Asylum (Best Vegan Brunch), Sticky Fingers Bakery (Best Vegan Dessert), and Meskerem (Best Ethiopian).  I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve had quality meals at a few of these places, notably Java Green (which manages to impart some nice flavor to its mock meats) and the Falafelshop.

But here’s my issue: At least two of the Green Stars winners—-Java Green and Asylum—-have worked with COK as part of the non-profit’s Restaurant Outreach Program. Here’s the pertinent paragraph from the ROP page:

COK also works with restaurants to add separate vegan menus—normally including mock meats and vegan soy cheeses—to their selections. Several restaurants, such as Washington Deli, Pumpernickel’s Bagelry, Asylum, and Big Belly Deli now offer vegan menus as a result of working with COK, and Java Green in downtown D.C. reopened as an all-vegetarian (nearly vegan) restaurant!

The Washington Post reported that more than 1,000 people voted in this year’s Green Stars contest. It gives no mention whether COK employees and members—-folks, in other words, who could possibly reward Restaurant Outreach Program graduates—-were allowed to vote. I have sent an e-mail into COK for clarification.

At the very least, the contest gives the impression of rewarding those restaurants that take part in the outreach program, which is fine, I guess, depending on whether the eateries had to pay COK for the program assistance. COK needs to acknowledge such a relationship in its Three Green Stars press release, which it didn’t (at least the one I got), and people need to know that there’s the potential for favoritism in this contest.

More as I hear it from COK.

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