I wanted to know what people in our movement need. So I asked them. This post is as simple as that.

Specifically, I asked them to answer these three questions about their animal activism:

  1. What do you need?
  2. What are your problems?
  3. What are your opportunities?

This wasn’t a formal survey—I didn’t ask many people, or code and quantify the results, or get a representative sample. But I think it’s still valuable, in a smaller, more personal way.

This type of question-asking is something I carry with me in everyday life. It’s immensely valuable to pick up thoughts, ideas, and needs on an ongoing basis. The “just ask some people” type of survey is open to all of us. Not only do you get some answers that may surprise you, but it’s also a good way to meet activists from around the world.

Also, one thing to note is that you might disagree with some of the answers people give when you do this kind of exercise. In fact, if you’re talking to a diverse enough group of people, you’re almost sure to be challenged and stretched. (Read the responses I got, and see what kind of internal intellectual or emotional response they prompt in you.) What’s important is recognizing that these are the genuine feelings and thoughts of other activists in our movement. That perspective is valuable.

Here are the almost-verbatim answers (with some minor changes to aid reading and comprehension) from the activists who I asked: Corey Rowland, Beau Broughton, Jocelyn Cole, Faraz Harsini, and Tonia Moore.

Enjoy!


Corey Rowland

What do I need?

I had trouble forming my answer to this because I often am not sure what I need. I think I need opportunities to connect with myself and others. I am very aware of the risk of activist burnout because I can feel it building in myself or others at times. I think being a part of a supportive and loving community is really important in sustaining the work we are doing. I also need opportunities to see the impacts of my efforts. I need to feel like the work I am doing is paying off in some way.

What are my problems?

My biggest challenges are definitely time and specifically deciding how to spend my time. Living in the SF Bay Area, there is always so much to do (both in the animals rights community and of course outside of it). I work as a high school teacher, which can suck up a lot of your time if you aren’t careful! I think I also struggle with a lot of self-doubt. I want to get better at trusting myself and to be more willing to take risks. Sometimes the ideas that sound the silliest can be game-changing! I often have ideas, but because of the hustle-and-bustle of life and my dismissive attitude, I think I let opportunities pass me by.

What are my opportunities?

In the past year I have learned that my greatest opportunities as an activist can come from the awkward, uncomfortable, sometimes threatening intersections of my identity as an activist and all the other roles I fill. I was fired from my teaching job earlier this year for getting arrested in a mass action and it ended up being an experience I would never want to undo (I learned a lot and thankfully, got my job back!). I am also a friend, family member, artist, and ally in other movements. I belong to social circles outside of the AR movement, and this can be leveraged to build support from folks in these circles. I think it is crucial for activists to remain genuinely involved in communities outside of the animal rights community so we can best utilize our growing power and remain conscious of how animal rights fits into the bigger picture that is the world!


Beau Broughton

What do you need?

We need volunteers from all walks of life to lend their passion and dedication to our efforts to end the abuse of animals raised for food. The Humane League acknowledges that there are myriad ways to influence change for farmed animals, so we have a big tent in welcoming supporters of all stripes. We are looking for online activists, for volunteers to help with community-building events and fundraising, for dedicated advocates to join us at protests and other campaign actions, and for influencers to spread our message on social media, to name a few.

What are your problems?

It can be challenging to see change occur at a slower pace than we’d like, or may have previously anticipated. For example, in our work encouraging major corporations to implement welfare policies for egg-laying hens or broiler chickens, it may take months or even years for a company to make a public commitment that meets our standards. So, while it’s not necessarily a problem, since we are making major gains with dozens of companies and changing public perception of farmed animals, it’s important to have perspective. As activists, we want the world to change yesterday, but we must be strategic and pace ourselves for the long fight ahead.

What are your opportunities?

At The Humane League, we have great opportunities for seasoned and aspiring activists across the spectrum of involvement levels. We have the Fast Action Network for those “armchair activists” who want to take a few high-impact actions online a few times each week. We also have opportunities for people to plug into on-the-ground actions with our team of full-time grassroots staff in major cities across the country, as well as volunteer coordinators to facilitate actions with those who may live outside a major city.


Jocelyn Cole

What do you need?

I think the movement for animal liberation could benefit greatly from more consistently dwelling in nonviolence and agape love (both behaviorally and at mind). Thus, I need to take the time to figure out what steps I can take, and what specific work I can do to help make the types of cultural changes I would like to see.

What are your problems?

I am putting my efforts and energy in many different directions, thus potentially keeping me from taking the time to figure out the steps mentioned above. I think the content of nonviolence and agape is relevant to all aspects of the movement, and of an organization, but currently I am struggling with where to start.

What are your opportunities?

I am surrounded by a community with a lot of experience and knowledge, endless opportunities to train and better myself, and spaces to learn from and connect with each other. I have close friends who help me grow as an individual and as an activist, and together we are doing the best we can to help and be the movement.


Faraz Harsini

What do you need?

Money. Eventually you can do anything with money.

What are your problems?

Money.

Let me combine 1 and 2 and explain! If I had the money, here are things that I’d focus on:

A—Informing/educating people. This would accomplish another thing that I think is important: normalizing veganism. You know how we quote Melanie Joy all the time, that the reason people eat meat is because it’s normal, necessary, and natural. So we should do the reverse and normalize veganism!

Informing people can be accomplished via different approaches, and some of my favorite ones are:

I—What Ethical Choices Program (ECP) does. They have about 150-200 educators in many cities in the US, and recently India and Canada too. They are very well organized (I personally have observed how they manage all these educators), and they go to high schools. They have four types of presentations: ethical based, environmental based, health based, and a combination of all. They reach out to teachers and ask if they’ll let them give these presentations in a related class. But the thing is ALL the presentations include a 3-4 minute video showing slaughterhouses, etc! I’ve seen the comments from the kids and how successful this has been. Teachers are stubborn, but a lot of kids actually listen. The last time I checked a year ago, they were reaching out to something like 20,000 students! And by now it’s probably more! If you think about it, this is a good portion of all the high school students! A lot of kids actually can’t become vegan right away because of their parents. But what it does is that when this generation becomes parents, or when they grow up, when they hear veganism they would be much more accepting than our parents! This is the best way to invest for the future (probably 10 years), but it will have a great return.

II—I would spend some of that money on advertisement, and education through advertisement. In the last Animal Rights Conference I asked a lot of influential AR activists that if you had so much money to spend on advertisement, what message would you choose—ethics, environmental, etc. One of the best things I got out of this last ARC is actually the answer to this question! It would be the health-related messages. Because what eventually caused a huge drop in the rate of cigarette smoking was the health ads. So we went from ads with doctors who were pro smoking, to today, that smoking is not COOL anymore! We should make eating animals like that!

Source: Annual adult per capita cigarette consumption and major smoking and health events in United States, 1900-1998 – Hanson, Venturelli, and Fleckenstein (2009). Pulled from Our World in Data – Smoking.

Also I always say from here to your workplace, how many times are you exposed to unhealthy and carcinogenic foods? And how many times you see something actually healthy, encouraging people to eat fruits and veggies?Almost all TV and radio ads have some sort of animal abuse or unhealthy thing in them.

Sidenote: I think health related things are something tangible for people. It’s their body, their health. And the habits and behaviours of one individual can have negative impact and consequences on the same individual. Environmental issues are not tangible for people. Also even if they understand the issues, the responsibilities get diluted between a lot of people so they don’t feel bad as much. An ethical approach I believe is something in between. But I think that should be included in those ads so every now and then people see the word “vegan”, on buses, in metro stations, etc.

III—Having more vegan doctors. That and what Dr. Greger does, taking new scientific data, and making them simple and understandable. This is very effective because, first, most people don’t understand science (lol), and, second, because they don’t have any ideas what scientists do and where these new information come from! However, I’m not sure but I’m afraid that most of his audiences are already vegan. So a combination of everything I said about advertisement would be necessary to get the message across. And I will invest on this.

Bottom line: In my opinion having an organized mechanism for advertisement would be extremely effective. This includes different approaches at the same time: some ads saying meat is like smoking, some ethical related, etc.

I actually had one of the students in our AR org come up with a design that is catchy, relating meat and cancer (fig. below).

Sources: NCBI, IARC, and WHO

B—Making vegan things cheaper and available. This is why I want to have a chain restaurant if I had money, and offer very tasty and cheaper foods there. When I get a pizza and I ask them to remove cheese and meat and use vegan cheese, and they charge me more for it, that doesn’t help people consider veganism as something normal and easy. Reaching out to chain restaurants to have vegan options also helps.

A huge barrier for people becoming vegan in my opinion is the picture that they imagine when you say vegan food. They probably think, “Oh so… you basically eat salads”, or, “Veggie burgers suck” (because they tried them 10 years ago, and sure they sucked back then, but today is a different story). Or many think the meat alternative is tofu! They don’t think about all the great stuff that we have. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT (in my humble opinion) TO CHANGE THAT IMAGE! We need them to imagine a tasty Impossible Burger (which isn’t available in all places, which is another issue). So I would donate money to some organization to take care of it.

One other thing I would want to do if I were rich would be to start a company. This company would have teams. (And I should say this is in my childish imagination, having no information about how businesses work). So in each team there’s a lawyer or businessman or investor, and a representative from a vegan distribution center (or someone who can manage and restock vegan foods in stores). This team would reach out to places that serve or produce non-vegan stuff, and help them to make the transition to a vegan place.

I got this idea after I was in a protest in front of store that produced fresh chicken meat, meaning they slaughtered the chicken right there, probably in the backyard. During our protest, the owner was extremely angry. He was red and was yelling. Police were there just making sure we stay on the sidewalk. Then cops thought it was fine, and they left. Next, a few activists broke into the store, and forcefully saved several chickens. This is not a comment about their action. I just started to look at this from the owner’s perspective. When he goes back to his friends and family, how will he describe veganism? I think if my dad came home and said this happened to him, I would have hated vegans forever! Also, in any talk with customers or any opportunity he finds, he would trash-talk veganism. So I thought, “What if instead of this much hate, we did something positive?” So this team would go there, and say, “Hey, we’ll give you money for investment, we’ll help you to make the transition, we’ll take care of all the paperwork and legal stuff for you! Most importantly we’ll advertise for you. And hey, eventually you will make way more money than you do now!”

This would accomplish several things at once:

  • Spreads good words about veganism. He would then tell his family and friends how successful his business has become! So we’re basically planting seeds this way.
  • Makes non-vegan stuff less available. This is another important factor that makes eating meat inconvenient! Eventually, most people just want something easy and cheap!

What are your opportunities?

In my case, the plan is that I will work on clean meat for a few years, and during this time I will learn a little about businesses and find connections and people who trust me and partner up with me, maybe to start a restaurant, or something to do with clean meat. Or both.

Lastly, I said money and business a lot in my answer, but the truth is my goal has never been becoming rich. My only goal is to do the most effective thing to save animals. But I can’t do all of these things alone. However, if I were rich, I could support other orgs to do these kinds of things. Maybe some of these things are already happening, but if they had more money they could do much more.

Also, with money, you can influence politics—for example, meat taxes, restricting import and export of animal products to other countries, or passing more animal protection laws. You know how much the egg/dairy/meat industries have manipulated people via politics, well, with money we can neutralize that!


Tonia Moore

What do you need?

What I need is a better understanding of where to focus my efforts (i.e., what types of actions are most likely to result in the most change?). I love doing outreach, for example, but I also suspect that convincing people one at a time to adopt a vegan lifestyle is probably not going to change much, if anything, for somebody trapped on a farm facing an early death. There are so many channels that may lead to animal liberation—legislation (working within the political and legal systems), protests, going into places of enslavement to expose the truth—I feel like I can’t do everything and doing a little bit of each may just be exhausting and ineffective…

What are your problems?

My problems are (similar to question #1) figuring out exactly what methods work and are worth my time. And also how to deal with my own emotions better. I get enraged when animals are suffering and dying — but my rage doesn’t help the animals, tears me up inside, and turns people outside the movement off so that they won’t respect the movement or listen to what we have to say. I need to learn to keep my emotions in check without imploding.

What are your opportunities?

I am starting to realize that opportunities for outreach present themselves every day. For example, if someone admires your faux leather coat, you volunteer the info that it’s vegan. I also have opportunities to open the minds and hearts of loved ones but sometimes I shy away from these discussions because I fear I’ll feel super disappointed (crushed, actually) if they don’t see the animals’ perspective. I find myself sometimes not engaging on AR issues with the people I’m closest to because I’m afraid they won’t understand and our relationship will suffer.


Animal Movement Project (AMP) is a platform dedicated to building the movement for animals.

We share thoughts and ideas that can take the movement for animals from x to 10x. Our focus is predominantly on animals exploited for food since they account for more than 99% of the animals exploited by humans. The topics covered are often about ways to tie the pieces of the movement together or to fill in the gaps. We focus on connecting people, ideas, and resources to each other.

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