Zoe Weil

Zoe Weil

“I realized that this was the work I wanted to do, and I just had to figure out how to do it.”

Zoe Weil is one of the world’s revolutionary thinkers. As a leader in humane education – a model that centers around sustainability, humanity, and justice – she advocates a bigger vision for schooling that shows care for people, for other animals, and for the environment. As Weil sees it, students – or, as she calls them, Solutionaries – can be empowered with the knowledge, skills, and will to solve the world’s most pressing problems.

Like all revolutions, it doesn’t come easily. The education system in Weil’s home country of America is in dire need of an overhaul. It centers on traditional curriculum models and standardized testing, which values how much a student knows over their ability to apply learning. Insecure funding causes public schools to steer away from “controversial” topics and unconventional teaching methods. Subjects are taught separately, presenting challenges to multidisciplinary teaching methods that could be more relevant to real-world topics such as climate change or factory farming. Teachers themselves are frustrated and the passion that brought them to teaching is waning.

But Weil’s work is making waves. As well as being the co-founder and president of the Institute for Humane Education (IHE) for which she has developed multiple humane education graduate programs, she has delivered six TEDx talks, and authored seven books for youth and adults on humane education raising a generation of solutionaries, both in the classroom context and at home.

Weil grew up idolizing Dr Jane Goodall, and dreamed of following in her footsteps to work with animals. But, like many of us, by the time she entered university Weil had stopped imagining that future for herself. Instead, she studied English literature before enrolling in law school and promptly dropping out. She couldn’t have known it then, but just as she felt she was at a loose end, a new path was laying itself before her.

Weil began volunteering with a researcher who was working with chimpanzees. Though she couldn’t have been closer to her childhood dream, she found it wasn’t all she’d imagined. “While the research wasn’t painful or invasive, the chimps were still imprisoned, and their futures seemed bleak,” she recalls.

She then worked as a teacher and naturalist at a wildlife centre for injured and orphaned animals, and while she loved teaching young people about animals, she was again confronted with the ethics of the programs, which brought wild animals to schools for presentations.

By this time Weil had been instilled with the love of teaching and returned to university with the aim of becoming a professor. Discovering a program at the University of Pennsylvania that offered weeklong courses to middle school students, Weil saw the opportunity to reach students and, in so doing, change the course of history. She proposed several courses, including one on animal issues and another on environmental issues.

I realized that this was the work I wanted to do, and I just had to figure out how to do it.

To her surprise the animal issues course turned out to be the second most popular of the sixty courses offered that summer, and Weil taught a class full of enthusiastic 12- and 13-year-olds. She found humane education deeply rewarding and felt heartened by the impact she was having. She taught a class about product testing and the animals who suffered severe pain, injury, and death for household and beauty products; the next morning a student came to class bearing homemade leaflets. “While the rest of us were having lunch, he was standing on a Philadelphia street corner handing them out,” she remembers. “He’d become an activist overnight.”

This was Weil’s ‘aha’ moment: “I realized that this was the work I wanted to do, and I just had to figure out how to do it.”

After graduating, Weil began working as a humane educator with a local SPCA, but again she felt that something wasn’t quite aligned. She was only allowed to teach about companion animals, but wanted to extend her compassion-driven brand of teaching to all animal issues. Soon she moved to the American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS), where she became their Director of Education, developing a humane education program that she began teaching in schools. It addressed global ethical issues relating to animals and the environment, from product testing and pollution to factory farming and climate change. Animalearn reached 10,000 students across several US cities, and Weil soon began training others to become humane educators, expanding the reach of humane education across the country.

Education is the root system underlying all other systems.

Despite this success, Weil yearned for systemic change. She saw a need for the education system to embrace humane education programming, and for students to have access to ongoing learning on these issues. The obvious access point was the teachers, who could be trained to deliver humane education in their classrooms, as a framework connecting all subject areas.

With this new vision, Weil left AAVS and in 1996 co-founded the Institute for Humane Education. She began creating the first graduate programs, and even a Ph.D. program, in comprehensive humane education. IHE started to offer workshops for teachers around the U.S. and Canada, and now offers online courses and free downloadable resources on a broad variety of issues ranging from compassion, ecology, conservation, extinction, and ethics, enabling teachers to do this work in classrooms on almost every continent.

Most recently, IHE created the Solutionary Program, a comprehensive set of tools that teachers in middle and high schools can use to support students in solutions-focused learning. The program has seen such success that in 2018 the Office of Education in San Mateo County began implementing the solutionary approach as the core educational philosophy for their curriculum. This program will reach over 95,000 students across the county.

Explaining her philosophy, Weil says: “Education is the root system underlying all other systems. If we nurture compassion in children and provide young people with the knowledge and skills to create meaningful positive changes, we will witness the unfolding of a more humane, just, and healthy world for all beings.”

In the time that Weil has worked in humane education, she has propelled its expansion from a field associated with the welfare of companion animals, to a comprehensive and intersectional field that embraces and champions the interconnections between human rights, animal protection, and environmental preservation. Weil’s revolutionary work has carved out a place for compassion, ethics, and responsibility in students’ learning, and has challenged educators to imagine a bigger and more meaningful purpose for schooling. And she shows no signs of slowing down: she is currently writing her eighth book with the bold title, How to Solve the World’s Problems.

It hasn’t been a linear path, but Weil has created a version of that future she imagined for herself as a child, working to improve the lives of animals on a global scale.

Dawn Moncrief

Dawn Moncrief

“The connection is real.”

As Dawn Moncrief sits down for this interview, she is tired and jetlagged from a long intercontinental flight. Even so, she is eloquent and thoughtful. It’s obvious that her knowledge of the food system is immense and that her dedication to reforming it formidable. Moncrief is the founding director of A Well-Fed World (AWFW), a non-profit hunger relief and animal protection advocacy organization based in Washington, DC. It’s a job that takes her all over the world, working with local partners on a strategy to tackle some of the biggest global challenges.

“I was very attuned to issues around hunger,”

The organization is unique in its dual mission to tackle two of the world’s most complex issues: world hunger and the suffering of animals used for food. It’s no small feat, but Moncrief hasn’t let that stop her from working to change the conversation about food justice, and proving that the same foods that are best for people, are also best for animals, and the environment.

Moncrief moved to Washington, DC in the mid-90s to attend George Washington University, where she earned two master’s degrees in international relations and women’s studies, both with a focus on economic development. In DC, she had the benefit of exposure to key policymakers, and the headquarters of major development organizations, providing her with vital insights into the food policy landscape. She had wanted to work on poverty issues for as long as she could remember. “I was very attuned to issues around hunger,” she reflects.

It was at grad school that an acquaintance first introduced her to veganism. Moncrief had been vegetarian since she was a teenager. “I wasn’t politicized around it,” she explains, “I just knew I didn’t want to hurt animals.” She had never heard of veganism, but as she began to research the global impacts of meat, egg, and dairy consumption, she realized that it perfectly aligned with her ideas around food security and hunger. Moncrief could see that meat consumption hurt low-income communities, especially women and children. Her work began to focus on the ways in which the production and consumption of animal-derived foods increases disparities, exacerbates global hunger, and negatively impacts communities’ access to natural resources.

“It’s important to be authentic, to inspire people.”

On sanctuary tour after conference presentation at Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY.

Moncrief began to unpack the system that enabled food to be unjustly distributed, with staple food crops being diverted to high-income countries that were able to outbid low-income countries for crop availability. She saw that this put upward pressure on prices, forcing low-income countries to export large quantities of food – both crops and animal products – at high prices, even though their own people were hungry. She learned about animal agriculture companies “land-grabbing” in low-income countries so that they could establish factory farms, which pollute the environment and harm local farmers’ ability to grow food, further increasing hunger. But looking at the organizations working in international development, or even in food policy, she was surprised to find that they wouldn’t advocate meat reduction (not even as “part” of the solution).

After finishing grad school, Moncrief began working with women-in-development organizations, but she felt complicit working within a framework that used meat and dairy in their food programs, while these products caused such devastation.

Fortunately, she chanced upon a presentation by Pattrice Jones discussing animal agriculture and its connection to global hunger. Inspired by jones and other activists connecting the dots and deconstructing the global food system, Moncrief began working within the animal advocacy movement. Eventually she was able to make the Plants-4-Hunger educational campaign that she had started developing in grad school into a gift-giving campaign that helps alleviate world hunger using plant-based foods, a unique take on the traditional ‘animals as food’ gifts programs. When her passion for global food justice eventually called for a dedicated organization, Moncrief founded A Well-Fed World, utilizing the Plants-4-Hunger as their flagship program.

Climate-Diet presentation organized by UN Green Group. Dawn Moncrief, speaker with Wendy Werneth organizer. United Nations, Geneva Switzerland

With many organizations focused on technological “fixes” to reduce the negative consequences of meat consumption (such as improving feed conversion inefficiencies or decreasing the inherently harmful environmental impacts of rearing animals for food), reducing consumption through behavior change was dismissed or ignored. Reduction of animal products was unpopular and, importantly, challenged big business. So Moncrief decided to address the issues by connecting with NGOs and influencers to put plant-based hunger and climate solutions on the agenda.

“It’s important to be authentic, to inspire people.”

AWFW addresses the harm done by development programs using animals, and dispelling the myth that animal products are a superior option for people in need of food. Moncrief created the Humane Facts campaign, which unpacks misleading food labeling and exposes the true meaning behind the language of “humane” meat – words like “free-range,” “cage-free” and “grass-fed,” which are used to make consumers feel that they are making healthy and ethical food choices.

Through its partnerships and global grants program, AWFW provides vital funding to organizations to support vegan feeding and farming programs for low-income communities, both in the United States and internationally, as well as farmed animal care and rescue programs Their most significant partnership is with the International Fund for Africa in support of their vegan school lunch program in Ethiopia. “For some of these kids, it’s the only meal they’re getting,” explains Moncrief.

“Not just the overconsumption of meat, but meat itself as a form of overconsumption; so that every time you’re eating it, you’re thinking about how resource intensive that is.”

Through these international partnerships, AWFW is reframing what makes a ‘healthy’ diet and challenging the dependence of the international development industry on animal products to feed people. Instead, it is highlighting the benefits of plant-based food choices for undernourished populations, and proving that veganism can offer a more sustainable solution to world hunger and food security issues.

By shifting to plant-based foods and using veganic farming practices, the impacts of livestock on resource scarcity, environmental pollution, land degradation, and climate change can be avoided. Where animals overgraze and degrade the soil, growing plants helps build health back into the land. Plant-based farming empowers communities, who can feed themselves high-density nutritious foods that also strengthen, rather than pollute, local ecosystems and natural resources. It’s a win-win.

AWFW advocates veg-friendly policies at local and federal levels, working with think tanks and policymakers to incorporate plant-based food strategies into their programs. The organization analyzes research and communicates the food security benefits of plant-based food and farming, thereby advancing structural change that supports its vision of a just food system where all people have enough of the right kinds of food, and in which people are nourished, animals are spared, and the environment is protected.

AWFW’s strength is in its willingness to challenge some of the most harmful – yet accepted – behaviours in society, regardless of backlash from animal industry bodies or other organizations with vested interests.

Food waste is already a topic on the global agenda, but Moncrief is taking it a step further. Her vision is to reframe meat as a form of overconsumption. “Not just the overconsumption of meat, but meat itself as a form of overconsumption; so that every time you’re eating it, you’re thinking about how resource intensive that is.”

While Moncrief is clear that veganism is not a silver bullet for world hunger, she is developing a more nuanced conversation around consumption, and empowering people to understand the impacts of their choices.

“The connection is real.”

“Reducing meat consumption and going vegan does take pressure off the food system so that basic food staples are more accessible to low-income countries,” she explains.

Dawn Moncrief. Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur.

She becomes emotional as she tells the story of a farming family in El Salvador who had to choose between selling their crops to pay for the lease of their land, and feeding their children. Two of their children died.

“These very poor countries with lots of hunger are exporting either meat directly, or food to be used for meat and other animal products, to high-income countries,” she says. “So, the connection is real.”

With Moncrief at work, it’s difficult to doubt that things are changing for animals. AWFW’s strong message and research-based advocacy is making huge strides possible in terms of re-framing the role of animal products in food policy and hunger alleviation. Where other organizations shy away from advocating for unpopular solutions, AWFW sticks to its mission, bringing plant-based hunger and climate solutions into the mainstream, and proving to critics that what helps animals and the environment also helps people – there’s no need to choose.

Learn more and support A Well Fed World
Photos and interview by Jo-Anne McArthur. Text by Anna Mackiewicz.

 

Young Women Changing the World for Animals

Young Women Changing the World for Animals

“Young people have such an inspiring capacity to hope and dream which is what we need to keep building momentum to push this movement even further!”

 

 

The face of animal farming is changing. As industrial farming spreads to all corners of the world, the fate of billions of animals hang in the balance and the effects of raising animals for food are becoming clearer. The environment is on the edge of catastrophe, human health is being compromised, and hunger is affecting more people than ever.

But there is cause for hope! A new generation is on the rise, bringing with it innovations and a fresh world-view. Veganism is the fastest growing social movement, and young people are speaking up about the challenges that threaten our future. Through tireless passion, dedication and command of new ways of communicating and organising, young people are challenging the injustices of our world, and demonstrating that there is another way.

Meet several young women working to change the world for animals.

 


Haile Thomas – The Happy Org. 

Haile Thomas is a vegan activist and social media influencer, and, at just 17 years old, is the youngest Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach in the United States. She founded non-profit The Happy Org to bring plant-based nutritional education to youth in some of the country’s most underserved communities and to empower young people and their families to make health and lifestyle choices that are good for them, for animals, and for the planet.

By providing nutrition and humane education to youth through cooking classes, summer camps, and in-school programs, Thomas is improving individual health outcomes and subsequently public health outcomes for entire communities.

“Knowing that I can contribute positively to the changing narrative surrounding veganism and also that every dish I order, every trip to the grocery store I make, and every bite I take makes a difference and a statement to the world, means everything to me. “

Learn more about Thomas’ work and follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

 

Zofia Pawelska – Lab Rescue 

Zofia Pawelska is the 22-year-old founder of Lab Rescue, a Polish not-for-profit organisation dedicated to rehoming animals used in scientific testing. Since arranging to take 16 rats from a laboratory two years ago, Pawelska has built relationships with laboratories to promote adoption for animals who have been used in research. She says that people in Poland are becoming aware of the use of animals in laboratories, and that there is a trend building to adopt rescued animals, rather than buying them from a breeder or pet store. Lab Rescue is bridging the gap between laboratories that seek an alternative to euthanasia for animals, and families wanting to offer a loving home to them.

“Before Lab Rescue, laboratory animals were forgotten, but now I can see it’s common to have a rat rescued from a laboratory, not bought from a shop.”

Follow Lab Rescue on Facebook and Instagram to learn more.

 


Yuri Suzuki – Animal Rights Centre Students

Yuri Suzuki is the 22-year-old founder of Animal Rights Center Students, a student group of the Animal Rights Center, Japan, where she also works in corporate relations for farmed animal welfare. The group, which is open to middle school, high school, and university students, does outreach work such as leafleting on campuses, as well as community building through study groups and vegan social events. Animal Rights Center Students aims to expand its network of advocates, empowering young people all over Japan to engage in animal rights activism.

“I first came to learn about the suffering of animals when I was studying abroad in California and meeting many vegetarians and vegans. After returning to Japan, I was shocked by how few young people were working for animals here. There are many club activities on my campus, but there was no club working for animal rights and welfare, and I thought that there should be.”

Follow Animal Rights Center Students on Facebook and Instagram to learn more.

 


Zoe Rosenberg – Happy Hen Animal Sanctuary

Zoe Rosenberg is a 16-year-old animal rights activist and the founder of Happy Hen Animal Sanctuary, a California-based sanctuary for abused and mistreated farmed animals. Rosenberg founded Happy Hen when she was just 11 years old, and since then she has saved over 600 animals from the food industry, sharing their stories with the world. This year, Rosenberg received media attention when she was arrested for chaining herself to a slaughterhouse chute while protesting the exploitation of cows at the meat processing plant at California Polytechnic State University.

Rosenberg is also a sought-after speaker, who shares the story of her journey in activism to change the perception of activism as something extreme, and inspire others to take action for what they believe in.

“I spent my entire childhood dreaming of starting a dog and cat rescue. At school, I would walk around asking people to sign petitions to ban puppy mills and hand out information about local dogs who needed homes. It never once occurred to me that there were other species who needed help, let alone other species that needed help significantly more than dogs and cats.”

Learn more about Rosenberg’s work, and follow Happy Hen Animal Sanctuary on Facebook and Instagram.

 


The women of Young Voices for Animals

Young Voices for Animals (YVA) is an Australian non-profit organisation dedicated to educating and empowering young people to build a better world for all animals. Harley McDonald-Eckersall, 21 and Kianna Hope, 25, are two of the members who founded YVA in 2017, and they have since been joined by Emmy Montgomery, 24. These young women are part of the powerhouse team leading the way for youth animal advocacy in Australia, creating events and workshops, to inspire and engage young activists. This year YVA launched Catalyst, a leadership and development program that supported 15 passionate young people aged 15-19 to become effective change-makers for animals. They also hosted Australia’s first ever Youth Animal Rights Conference.

“YVA was started because a few of us developed the same realisation that, whilst there were a lot of young people who were really passionate about making a better world for other species, there was a lack of youth specific groups who were dedicated to building empowering communities for young people.”

Learn more about YVA’s work and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

 


Mónica Salvado

Mónica Salvado is a 17-year-old animal rights activist from Portugal, working to expose the suffering of farmed animals, and raising awareness about the reality of life inside Portuguese industrial farms. Salvado uses her Instagram account @thisveganteen_ to show the lives of animals who are kept invisible behind the walls of factory farms and slaughterhouses. She is currently planning an activism tour of Portugal during which she will give lectures about The Save Movement, and host vigils showing people simple ways that they can get involved in activism.

“After seeing all the things I’ve seen, I couldn’t continue staying at home, knowing that animals are suffering. When we are with friends, they remain in factory farms. When we are at the cinema, or at a restaurant, they remain in slaughterhouses. They never have a break. So, why should I be silent?”

Follow Salvado’s work on Facebook and Instagram to learn more.

 


Avalon Llewellyn 

Avalon Llewellyn is a 17-year-old vegan activist and mental health advocate. Llewellyn became involved in animal activism as a child, learning about the lives of animals in the food and clothing industries, and at 13 she went vegan. In the years since, she has inspired countless others to do the same, using social media as her main tool for reaching and engaging with other young people. She organises meet-ups where groups of young people can connect with peers, explore shared values, and discuss animal rights issues, and provides mentoring by email to those wanting to learn more about or try veganism.

At just 15, Llewellyn published an e-book titled “The Modern Guide to Going Vegan at a Young Age” (full disclosure: she donates a percentage of proceeds to We Animals!).

About writing her e-book, she says, “There are lots of things for people who are going vegan, but I found that there was almost nothing for young people who are still living with parents, who can’t choose everything. There’s peer pressure. There’s family pressure. There’s school pressure. So I kept that in mind.”

Follow Llewellyn’s work on Instagram.

 

Avalon Theisen – Conserve It Forward

Unbound Project

Avalon Theisen is the 17-year-old animal activist and conservationist behind the non-profit organisation Conserve It Forward, which she founded at just nine years old. Based in Florida, Conserve It Forward runs educational programs on subjects including amphibian conservation, animal advocacy, sustainable eating and peacemaking. The group promotes education and action that benefits the natural world, humans, and non-human animals. The connection between the food we consume and the damage we cause to the environment continues to drive Theisen’s work. In the years since founding the organization, she has given a TEDx Talk on her journey in conservation, attended the 2015 COP 21 climate change conference in Paris to speak about environmental issues, and has visited the White House to discuss how our food choices affect the environment.

“Children and teenagers may think that because of their age, they cannot help or that what they can do now is not impactful. I don’t agree. Youth make up a large proportion of the population, and so even if our acts our small, each action adds up to a lot of positive change. Young people’s voices are important because they show that we can all make a positive difference!”

Learn more about Theisen’s work and follow Conserve It Forward on Facebook.

 

Lila Copeland – Earth Peace Foundation

Sixteen-year-old Lila Copeland is the force behind Earth Peace Foundation, a California-based non-profit focussed on bringing humane education about the animal welfare, environmental, and human health impacts of animal agriculture into schools and clubs for young people. The foundation also petitions government agencies for legislative and policy change to protect animals. In 2015, Earth Peace Foundation launched the Healthy Freedom campaign, with the aim of bringing vegan meals into all California public schools every day of the school year. So far, Earth Peace has been successful in petitioning the Board of Education to pass a resolution that mandates vegan meals in the Los Angeles Unified School District, California’s largest district by number of enrolled students.

“Kids literally are the future. If we can get in at school age and educate them about what animal agriculture is doing to animals, the planet, and human health, kids will make the right choices. I know they will.”

Learn more about Copeland’s work and follow Earth Peace Foundation on Facebook.

 

Genesis Butler – Genesis for Animals

Genesis Butler is the 11-year-old animal activist behind Genesis for Animals, a non-profit organisation that raises funds for animal sanctuaries around the world. After visiting animal sanctuaries and seeing how much time and money was required to care for the animals – and that most sanctuaries were struggling to meet their costs – Butler decided she wanted to help.

Butler is already a sought-after speaker, regularly speaking at animal rights events across the United States and in Canada, sharing her story of activism and compassion. She is one of the world’s youngest TEDx speakers, and has won numerous awards for her advocacy.

“Advocating for the animals is so important because the animals need our voices. Animals aren’t voiceless, it’s just that people don’t listen to them, so it’s important to speak up for them so they will never be silenced.”

Learn more about Butler’s work and follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

Steph Yu

Steph Yu

“I wanted a permanent sustainable lifestyle, not a quick fix.”

 

I have never met Steph Yu, but it feels like I have. Reading her blog, I feel as though we’re friends. She divulges her passion for life and pours out the wisdom that inspires so many to prioritize their personal health and happiness and choose a vegan diet.

Yu has mass appeal with almost 200,000 Instagram followers, built by sharing her relatable story with rawness and authenticity.

A Chinese-Canadian writer, podcaster, and video-blogger from Vancouver, Yu is almost overwhelmingly positive, filled with appreciation and enthusiasm for life. She’s also the epitome of health and, at only 22 years old, is a strong advocate for personal wellbeing. But though it’s hard to imagine, it hasn’t always been that way. 

Yu’s is a familiar story. Her life looked perfect from the outside. She appeared to be a high-achieving, confident and outgoing teenager from a happy family. She was on the school council and a talented dancer. But on the inside, Yu was falling apart. Her parents’ marriage was hostile and violent, and Yu began to spend more and more time out of the house to avoid the toxicity of her home life.

The weight of keeping this part of her life secret became too much to bear. In an effort to exercise some control over an out-of-control life, Yu began to manage what she ate. Over time, her fear, frustrations and anger manifested in both anorexia and orthorexia – a condition characterized by an excessive preoccupation with eating healthy food.

“That summer was the loneliest time of my life,” she remembers. “I felt like the world had turned against me, and everyone was trying to take me down.” Looking in the mirror one day, she was shocked by what she saw: “I was an underweight, unhappy, unenthused shell of a person.”

“I wanted a permanent sustainable lifestyle, not a quick fix.”

Acknowledging that she needed help, Yu booked a doctor’s appointment. The doctor advised that she quickly put on weight by eating fast food. But Yu had a different idea. “I was done with abusing my body and done with temporary solutions. I wanted a permanent sustainable lifestyle, not a quick fix.”

Yu began researching, and discovered veganism, which would become her route to sustainable health and a happier life. Slowly but surely, she began to recover. She put on weight, and soon she was able to rediscover the happy, energetic and positive young woman she had once been.

Yu decided to channel her story – every up and down – and use it to inspire others to build the healthy lives they longed for. 

Her popular YouTube channel and Instagram teaches her followers about her vegan lifestyle. Her What I Ate series details her everyday meals, showing that vegan eating can be accessible and easy for anyone.

She uses her podcast, A Beautiful Mess, to interview inspiring individuals on topics as diverse as self-love, spirituality and religion, mental health, body image and veganism. Her blog and e-book, Gaining Back Your Life, tell her own story as a source of empowerment and support for others on the search for a healthier, happier life.

“What motivates my animal advocacy is every memory of an experience I’ve ever had where I’ve been pushed to the side, silenced… It reminds me of what these beings suffer.”

All the while, she aims to create change not only for humans, but for other animals as well. In fact, for Yu, our experiences are linked. “What motivates my animal advocacy is every memory of an experience I’ve ever had where I’ve been pushed to the side, silenced, taken advantage of, and helpless. It reminds me of what these beings suffer and endure every second of their existence.”

It was only after discovering the benefits of veganism that Yu made the connection between her diet and animals. “It was in New Zealand when we passed a field with cows roaming,” she remembers. “I went up to the fence, and they all came over. I spent over an hour talking, singing, and laughing with them all, and when I left cried big fat tears. I think that was my first personal, first-hand experience with how sentient, feeling and beautiful animals were.”

Now, she sees animals and human health as intrinsically connected. Yu believes that by empowering people to live with greater care, compassion, and authenticity, she can make real change for animals. “Before I was vegan I know I wouldn’t have been swayed by an argument for the animals,” she says. “But I was always interested in how to be healthier holistically.”

Indeed, her advocacy is having a serious impact for animals. Yu recently brought veganism to the international tourism market by working with Intrepid Travel to develop their first all-vegan food tour of India. 

What is her next project? Yu plans to start her own business in the health and wellness field, helping people to live healthy and compassionate lives – for their own sake, and for that of the animals.


Follow Yu on Instagram, YouTube, and listen to her podcast.  

Text by Anna Mackiewicz. Photos by Jo-Anne McArthur. 

Seven Women Protecting Oceans and Sea Life

Seven Women Protecting Oceans and Sea Life

The amazing thing about aquatic animals is that they are at once so different and yet so similar to us.

 

Human activity is taking its toll on marine environments and threatening these fragile ecosystems. From pollution and overfishing to the impacts of our over-dependence on livestock farming, oceans and sea life are suffering.

But through sheer determination and dedication coupled with their wealth of experience, women all around the globe are offering hope for oceans and the animals who live in them. By exploring our relationship with marine environments and nurturing compassion within their communities, these female ocean warriors are tackling the issues head on, challenging our current attitudes and behaviours, and bringing us closer to this vital part of planet earth.

Meet seven women protecting the oceans and sea life:


Madison Stewart/aka ‘Shark Girl’

Australian filmmaker and conservationist, Madison Stewart, aka ‘Shark Girl,’ began scuba diving at the age of 11. By the time she was 14 years old, the sharks in the Great Barrier Reef that she knew and loved had been reduced to a mere few by government-approved gill net vessels. Stewart uses film as her medium to raise awareness and spark conversation about sharks and the issues affecting these highly misunderstood creatures.

“I always aim to either stop or change something happening to sharks but mainly to raise awareness in the hope that people join me in fighting for the change we so desperately need.”

Learn more about Stewart’s work and follow on her Facebook and Instagram.

 

Becca Franks/Visiting Assistant Professor with the Environmental Studies department of New York University 

Becca Franks is an environmental research scientist with a mission to tell the world why fish matter! In 2012, Becca Franks joined the Animal Welfare Program at The University of British Columbia, where she began studying fish and aquatic animal protection. Throughout her career, Franks has been interested in fundamental patterns of well-being. She is especially fascinated by the evidence that regardless of species, well-being is linked to learning, exploration, and discovery.

“My goal is to generate scientific information about aquatic animals that helps society see their true value. By true value I mean giving them the chance to express their behavioral and psychological potential so that we can appreciate what we have in common and celebrate what makes them unique. I believe that science can contribute to achieving this goal, but only if we study animals living in environments in which they can thrive.”

Learn more about Franks’s work.


Dr. Supraja Dharini/TREE Foundation

Dr. Supraja Dharini, founder of Trust for Environment Education, Conservation and Community Development (TREE Foundation) in India, is bringing awareness and commitment to protecting nature through biodiversity and conservation work with sea turtles, environmental education, and community development.Since its inception, and with the drive of Dr. Dharini behind it, TREE Foundation has seen significant successes for the threatened sea turtle populations with which it works.

“I was originally inspired by Dr. Jane Goodall who made me see and understand that each and every one of us can make a difference through our actions. Having been greatly saddened by seeing a deceased Olive Ridley sea turtle on the beach near my home, I decided there and then to establish TREE Foundation to address this problem and reduce sea turtle deaths. My job is to ensure that TREE Foundation makes lasting positive change for humans and marine life alike.”

Learn more about Dr. Dharini’s work and follow on TREE Foundation on Facebook.


Mary Finelli/Fish Feel

Mary Finelli is president and founder of Fish Feel, the first organization devoted to promoting the recognition of fishes as sentient beings deserving of respect and compassion. Fish Feel works to educate people about and advocate for fishes as sentient beings, but they also draw attention to the ways in which our own future is inextricably linked with that of fishes.

“Most people are so uninformed about fishes, many deny that they are sentient and some claim they are not even animals! I want to disabuse people of faulty notions about fishes, and help enlighten them as to how wondrous they are. I especially want them to realize that fishes suffer fear and pain, to be aware of the immense cruelties being inflicted on these many animals, and how it also harmfully impacts so many other species, including our own.”

Learn more about Finelli’s work and follow Fish Feel on Instagram and Facebook.


Puja Mitra/Terra Conscious

Puja Mitra, founder and director of sustainable tour operator Terra Conscious, is a professional conservation practitioner revolutionizing the tourism industry in Goa.

Mitra’s vision for the future of Goa’s rural communities and environment is inspiring local businesses to take collaborative action towards more sustainable and responsible tourism. By empowering rural communities through awareness and capacity-building programmes, Mitra and her team are helping those whose livelihoods depend on a thriving marine tourism industry to tackle conservation challenges.

“There is definitely more awareness about oceans and coasts now due to many initiatives and programmes established by a growing community of researchers and organisations across the country. But there is still lots more to do. Nurturing a more sensitive relationship with our oceans and coasts is key to enabling any lasting change in policy, the type of activities offered, and better representation for coastal communities.”

Learn more about Mitra’s work and follow Terra Conscious on Instagram and Facebook.


Dr. Lori Marino/The Whale Sanctuary Project

Neuroscientist and expert in animal behavior and intelligence, Dr. Lori Marino is the founder and president of The Whale Sanctuary Project. Dr. Marino has published over 130 peer-reviewed scientific papers, book chapters, and magazine articles on brain evolution, intelligence and self-awareness in other animals, human-nonhuman animal relationships, and captivity issues. Her mission with The Whale Sanctuary Project is to create the first permanent seaside sanctuary in North America for captive orcas and beluga whales.

“We want to create a permanent sanctuary for captive orcas and beluga whales who are living in concrete tanks.  There are permanent sanctuaries for all kinds of wild land animals and none yet for dolphins and whales (cetaceans)… on a broader level, the sanctuary will be a model for change in our relationship with cetaceans from one of exploitation to one of restitution. I hope that in addition to providing a better life for a few whales we will represent and catalyze a cultural shift that will lead to the end of keeping these animals captive for our entertainment and a move towards a more humble and respectful relationship with them in the future.”

Learn more about Dr. Marino’s work and follow The Whale Sanctuary Project on Facebook.


Dr. Sylvia Earle/S.E.A. – Mission Blue 

Dr. Sylvia A. Earle, founder of the Sylvia Earle Alliance (S.E.A.)/Mission Blue and Deep Ocean Exploration and Research (D.O.E.R.) is an oceanographer, explorer, author, and lecturer. Her contributions to the fields of scientific research and conservation have had an huge impact on our understanding of complex ocean processes and marine ecosystems. Through her work, Dr. Earle is inspiring global awareness and support for a worldwide network of marine protected areas – known as ‘Hope Spots.’

“In my lifetime, I’ve witnessed so much loss of biodiversity and a human population that has grown from around 2.5 billion to almost 8 billion. From the surface, the ocean seems to be in pretty good shape but once we get below the surface, we readily see the impacts of warming waters, abandoned fishing gear, discarded plastics, ship noise, and more. We also know that nature is resilient, if we stop actively damaging it.”

Learn more about Dr. Earle’s work and follow Mission Blue on Instagram and Facebook.