Brenda Sanders

Brenda Sanders

“I’m so glad that I’m such a stubborn person and nobody can tell me what to do…. If I had listened, I never would have seen how much people want this change.” ~ Brenda Sanders

Growing up in the Baltimore housing projects, Brenda Sanders didn’t know what real food was. With no local grocery store nearby, her single mother instead bought food from a converted school bus.

“I feel weird even calling it food,” she admits. “It was the most processed, most unhealthy, salty, sugary, fatty animal products that you could think of— the cheapest crap. That was what was being trucked in and dumped into our community, because that’s all that we were worth. So I just grew up thinking that’s what food was.”

In the Penn-North neighborhood, Sanders and friends transformed a vacant lot into a thriving community garden. It served as a safe haven for birds and other wildlife, and provided vegetables for residents until it was closed (after two seasons) by the city for development. Photo by: Jo-Anne McArthur / #UnboundProject / We Animals Media.

Years later, living in the low-income neighborhood of Penn-North, where the closest grocery store was two bus rides away, she stumbled across an eye-opening community meeting: University students were presenting a recent study that had compared the health outcomes of two neighborhoods in Baltimore—an affluent white community and a low-income black community. The study revealed a 20-year difference in life expectancy, but surprisingly the main factor was not stress, nor income, but diet.

Sanders had been vegan for ten years and realized that she had knowledge to share about healthy eating.

“I felt like I could make a difference. It was audacious!”

She emptied her savings account, bought an assortment of cooking equipment, and started Better Health, Better Life. She knocked on the doors of churches and community centers, and anywhere that would have her.

She was met with disbelief and told time and again that these communities did not care about their health, and they would not eat vegan food. But if Sanders is anything, she is determined.

“I’m so glad that I’m such a stubborn person and nobody can tell me what to do!,” she says now, laughing. “If I had listened, I never would have seen how much people want this change.”

She ran cooking demonstrations and shared all she had learned about the health benefits of a vegan diet, sometimes to one person, sometimes a hundred. Wherever she went, people were eager to learn, and parents wanted better choices for their children. They left armed with recipes and printouts.

In Penn-North, Sanders and some friends set about transforming a vacant lot into a community garden. It was a labour of love. They moved mattresses, bed frames, and old tires, and Sanders contracted tetanus in the process. Soon local children became curious, and came out to help weed and build garden beds. They planted kale and collard greens, cucumbers and tomatoes. As the lot transformed, wildlife came to the garden—bluebirds, cardinals, praying mantis, and squirrels—animals that the kids had never seen before. The elders followed and soon it was a thriving community.

Unbeknownst to them, however, the lot had been tagged for development. City officials began harassing the community, citing obscure regulations, and after two seasons, the garden was closed.

Sanders knows it was political.

“These cities have a plan for bringing in higher income folks and doing the whole urban development thing, and building this project that brings the community of low-income people together around a shared vision disrupts that, and they will find ways to deter you.”

But Sanders would not be deterred. It was time to go bigger.

She reached out to fellow vegan and restaurateur, Naijha Wright-Brown of The Land of Kush, and together they dreamed up a free vegan festival that would connect people interested in veganism to vendors, speakers, and educational resources.

Over 1,200 people came to the first Vegan Soulfest in 2014.

“It was way more people than were supposed to be in that building!” she confides. By 2019, the event attracted over 14,000 attendees. “It just took on this momentum— it was like a freight train.”

Sanders was helping bring healthy eating choices to Baltimore’s black community, but she still saw veganism as a health issue, not an animal one. Then one day while shopping for shoes, she noticed they were made from kangaroo leather, and something clicked.

She began searching online and discovered an animal rights movement she hadn’t known existed, especially in Baltimore. Bolstered by this newfound network, she moved from knocking on doors to establishing a dedicated vegan community center called Thrive Baltimore. Here, she could run regular classes and expand her offerings to include a four-week vegan education program, film screenings, guest chef cooking demos, and cooking competitions.

People kept coming back, they brought their friends, and it just kept growing—she estimates they’ve reached tens of thousands.

“The events at Thrive got so big, we were busting out of the seams,” she says, then smiles. “Baltimore is different now because of the work we were able to do out of Thrive.”

The more she worked, the more she realized it wasn’t just about health.

“The mission was so much bigger, and the issues were so much more expansive than these health disparities,” she says. “Now we’re talking about climate, and about animal abuse, and about environmental racism.”

In answer, she founded the Afro-Vegan Society, a project rooted at the intersection of human health, animal rights, and social justice. Their annual Veguary program, held during the month of February to encourage people to try vegan living, has helped thousands transition to a vegan lifestyle.

Baltimore was better informed than ever about the benefits of veganism, but access to vegan foods there remained a problem: with access. Vegan foods either weren’t available in the community, or they were too expensive.

Sanders describes The Greener Kitchen as a work of magic.

“It was the wackiest idea, out of all the things that I set out to do… Affordable, accessible, vegan convenience food doesn’t exist, and I thought ‘well, it should.’”

With her characteristic can-do attitude, she gathered a crew of chefs and producers to create a line of vegan foods that were just that.

 

While making healthy, real food that is as cheap as foods filled with chemicals hasn’t been easy, she has proved it is possible. The line of plant-based meats, sauces, and cheeses, all quick and easy to prepare at home, are made in-house to create employment opportunities. The key is keeping it local. Although they could grow the business and stock products at supermarkets, Sanders knows this would price people out: “Then it’ll be only for people who can afford to shop at Whole Foods, and people in the hood won’t have access to it again.”

Both Thrive Baltimore and The Greener Kitchen were forced to close during the pandemic. Not one to have her plate empty though, Sanders used the time to launch the Food & Justice podcast for the Defund Big Meat campaign.

“What I want to do with this show,” she explains, “is to expose the filthy underbelly of our food system and for people to learn everything they didn’t know so that we can start to make more informed choices and choices that are in our best interest.”

“My next goal is to reach millions,” Sanders says before breaking into a smile.

And if anyone is capable of it, she is.

Written by Anna Mackiewicz
Photos by Jo-Anne McArthur

Erin Wing

Erin Wing

“The mother cows turned to look at me and I could feel that they were asking me for help. You may not speak the same language, but you can understand when they’re asking you for something. They started to vocalize and I interpreted it as an act of mourning.”

At just 25, Erin Wing went undercover and spent the next two years working at chicken, dairy, and salmon farms documenting the institutionalized abuse of animals in these industries.

She was attracted to the work because of a deep connection she felt with animals who were her companions through childhood experiences of household violence, and it was this history that convinced her she was right for the role. But even she wasn’t prepared for all that would follow.

“I definitely went in bright-eyed and bushy-tailed,” laughs Wing. “I thought: I will do one investigation that will change everyone’s perspective, and everyone will be vegan within a year.”

Now the Deputy Director of Investigations at Animal Outlook, Wing relinquished her anonymity to speak out about what she saw on several American farms, and her testimony is confronting.

Foremost in her stories is the constant presence of violence.

“Those environments are meant to take away all the better parts of yourself, all the parts that feel compassion, that feel happiness, that feel kindness, because you can’t really feel much of anything,” she says. Workers must become desensitized in order to survive.

At a salmon farm in Maine – the first-ever investigation of a salmon factory farm in America – she remembers looking into a bucket where a salmon was slowly suffocating to death. Noticing her discomfort, a co-worker tried to reassure her: “It used to bum me out, the way we kill these animals – but then you get used to it.”

It was through stolen moments with the animals – like lingering in the back area of a milking facility to show the cows a moment of affection – that Wing managed to stay connected to her humanity. When you see the animals for who they are, she says, “it’s hard to ignore that better part of yourself that says, ‘is what I’m doing right?’”

Despite the personal toll, Wing is quick to re-centre the animals. “It is all about them,” she insists.

“I describe this job as existing in solidarity with them, seeing their experiences first-hand, and coming away with the animals’ testimony.”

When asked about the worst things she has seen, Wing doesn’t hesitate – there are countless examples. She describes an injured cow being dragged and hoisted 20 feet into the air by her hips and sprayed in the face with a high-pressure hose.

In her last investigation, at Dick Van Dam Dairy, a factory farm in Southern California, the violence was visceral and constant with workers beating the cows every single day. “I was being affected in a way that I wasn’t able to control,” she remembers. “The degree of violence was pulling me back into memories, situations that I hadn’t been in since I was young. And I realized this was very dangerous for me mentally.”

She knew that her remaining time as an investigator was limited.

“I describe it as maintaining this dam inside of myself, and after every investigation there was one crack in the dam, and then another. There was no way I could keep going and keep up the facade of just being another worker. I knew that once that dam broke I would be at risk of losing a part of myself that I was afraid I would never be able to get back: that ability to connect to other animals in a way that is meaningful.”

Wing believes that the public seeing this footage will be surprised not only by the abuse, but also to discover what animals who are farmed are really like – which is precisely why footage captured undercover is such an important resource.

“We hope to change public perception of animals, and hopefully people see them as being worthy of our protection, and that their suffering does matter,” says Wing.

She recounts one night shift at the dairy farm, finding two newborn calves dead in the dirt.

“The mother cows turned to look at me and I could feel that they were asking me for help. You may not speak the same language, but you can understand when they’re asking you for something. They started to vocalize and I interpreted it as an act of mourning.”

This is one reason that the animal agriculture industry operates under such secrecy, says Wing. “They don’t want people to see that these animals are sentient, that they have family units, that they can show affection, that they are intelligent in many different unique ways.”

Sometimes footage is compelling evidence bolstering legal action against offending facilities. From the four investigations that Wing undertook, one chicken farm was closed, and the owner banned from working with animals for a year. The other three facilities are still operating.

While working in the field felt like she was shouldering the immense responsibility of the work alone, retiring from investigations has allowed Wing to feel part of a greater movement working together toward a better world for animals. “It’s what I always wanted to do with my life ever since I was a little girl.”

Looking to the future, she is excited about Animal Outlook’s new Farm Transitions program, which will help farmers transition from farming animals to farming plants.

“It’s an alternative that is offered to farmers that shows that you don’t have to participate in these animals’ suffering, you don’t need to desensitize yourself, there is another way and a better way.”

Erin Wing, Deputy Director of Investigations at the animal advocacy NGO Animal Outlook, spends time with Lola at Wildwood Farm Sanctuary & Preserve.

Erin Wing, Deputy Director of Investigations at the animal advocacy NGO Animal Outlook, spends time with Lola at Wildwood Farm Sanctuary & Preserve. Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur / #unboundproject / We Animals Media

Wing doesn’t think she could ever go back to a life outside of animal advocacy after all that she has seen. And despite the horror, she still has hope: “I see the future as being very bright.”

A big thank you to Wildwood Farm Sanctuary & Preserve for hosting Unbound’s photo shoot with Erin Wing.

Written by Anna Mackiewicz
Photos by Jo-Anne McArthur

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.