Daniela Romero Waldhorn

Daniela Romero Waldhorn

“There is the belief that activists’ needs are secondary to the movement….. We have a collective problem, and we need an entire movement overhaul.”

“I was at home, looking out the window and saw that someone had left a box in the middle of the street,” says Daniela Romero Waldhorn when asked if it was possible to pinpoint where her animal activism began. “Immediately, cars drove by and crushed it completely. Then I realised what was in that box. That person had abandoned around five baby kittens to be run over.” Romero Waldhorn was just seven years old at the time.

Watching the dogs and cats taking their chances on the Chilean streets, knowing they were desperate for food and affection, had always broken her heart, but it was this deliberate act of cruelty that changed her. She made a personal promise to do whatever she could to help animals and began right away by feeding the strays in her neighbourhood. As a child, there was little more she could do, but this was just the beginning.

Barcelona, Spain, 30th July 2021. Environmental portrait of researcher and lecturer Daniela Romero Waldhorn. Photo by Selene Magnolia / #unboundproject / We Animals Media.

A chance meeting with a vegan during her college years inspired her to become vegetarian, but also to conduct her own research into animal agriculture.

“Until then, I was not really aware of how much suffering was behind my foods.”

But with knowledge came action, and over the next few months, Romero Waldhorn gradually became vegan.

In 2004, she co-created a network of street activists, and organised her first protest against the use of animals in circuses, specifically the elephant Ramba and the other animals used by the Los Tachuelas circus in Santiago. Romero Waldhorn remembers her early years in grassroots activism with fondness. “We were a bunch of strangers, at first, who shared the dream of building a more just and compassionate world for all. That is simply beautiful. I learned a lot from their experience, their courage, and the power we can have together to transform the world.”

And yet something was troubling her. “Shouting out in protest was, somehow, liberating but I always had doubts about whether that was the best thing I, or we, collectively could do.

Unfortunately, at that time, I didn’t have access to reliable information to make better decisions.”

While her childhood pledge to help animals was born of a visceral reaction to a traumatic incident, it has been her cool-headed commitment to evidence-based activism that has guided Romero Waldhorn since. In founding a local branch of AnimaNaturalis, she was able to learn about effective campaigning from more experienced activists. Together they campaigned successfully to free more than 100 monkeys used for experimentation by the Catholic University of Chile. Later Romero Waldhorn went on to work as an undercover investigator, documenting and revealing to the world how animals are tortured in festivals and how chickens are slaughtered for their meat.

Witnessing severe suffering inevitably exacts an emotional and psychological toll, yet enduring pressure and judgment from others within the animal rights movement has also proven difficult.

“Once, I was publicly sanctioned by another activist for going to the beach. She told me it was clear that I did not care enough for animals and should have been leafleting instead.”

This personal attack was not an isolated case. Over the years, Romero Waldhorn has experienced racist, sexist, and xenophobic discrimination from within the movement. Her work has also made her – and her family – the target of dangerous threats from powerful forces outside the movement. “While the persecution that some social activists face in Chile (and other Latin American countries) is not a common experience, it exists.”

After 17 years of working in the movement, she began to experience burnout. Rather than abandon her work as an activist, she used that difficult period to examine why she and others succumb to activism exhaustion. She points to the culture of martyrdom that leads activists to impose unrealistic expectations on themselves while organisations push supporters and staff to constantly demonstrate their commitment.

“There is the belief that activists’ needs are secondary to the movement, and everything and everyone can be sacrificed for the sake of animals–notably, everyone who is not a cis-white man. We have a collective problem, and we need an entire movement overhaul.”

It’s possible that such a journey, seeing and experiencing all that she has, might have driven Romero Waldhorn onto a different path, but she says she remains “impact-focused and hungry for justice.” Today, she works as a researcher at Rethink Priorities, a think tank “dedicated to figuring out how to make the world a better place” where she investigates the potential for helping prawns and shrimps. It’s a strategic decision as it is estimated that these animals are killed in larger numbers for human consumption than any other. At the same time, she is studying for a PhD in social psychology to help inform a more evidence-based strategy for animal advocacy.

Activist, researcher, and lecturer Daniela Romero Waldhorn. Photo by Selene Magnolia / #unboundproject / We Animals Media.

This self-described “crazy cat lady who still believes deeply in human compassion” has found her role and her mission. Her twin strategy–helping the largest number of animals, while identifying the root causes of speciesism and potential ways to overcome it–is already an enormous contribution to the movement. And yet, perhaps, there is something else.

Romero Waldhorn has found her peace. She makes time to dance cumbia, walk in wild places, spend time with loved ones, and, yes, go to the beach. Her example of how we can each remain effective and committed while protecting ourselves from burnout might just be her greatest gift of all.

Interview and story by Kate Fowler. Photos by Selene Magnolia.

Gwenna Hunter

Gwenna Hunter

“When I came to the knowledge that animals were conscious, with the same level of awareness as us, it kinda shattered my whole reality… Now I’m a vegan, an animal and human rights activist. ”

Gwenna Hunter

About six years ago, Gwenna Hunter found her calling as an activist. At that time, she was living in Los Angeles and working as a recruiter for IT personnel, some of whom were being employed by military contractors around the globe. Hunter remembers her moment of clarity, initially communicated to her in a dream: “I was like, ‘I don’t think I’m contributing to the world. I might be on the wrong team here,’” she says. “I was just about me: traveling, buying shoes, and living what I thought was a fulfilling life.” While she had always been acutely aware of her own spiritual journey and persistent search for meaning, she didn’t expect her change of direction to be so dramatic. “When I came to the knowledge that animals were conscious, with the same level of awareness as us, it kinda shattered my whole reality,” she says.  She also credits the particularly eye-opening experience of watching Erin Janus’ five-minute “Dairy is Scary” video with pushing her to eliminate animal products from her life.

“Now I’m a vegan, an animal and human rights activist. I’m out here coordinating events. You could have never told me this would be my life,” she says, laughing.

Hunter finds herself at the intersection of two liberation movements in the United States, and specifically Los Angeles: the liberation and empowerment of Black lives, and helping others to include all sentient creatures within their circle of empathy, primarily through the elimination of animal products from their diets.

Hunter’s work is intersectional, and she speaks to a broad range of people and communities across LA, especially within the city’s Black and brown neighborhoods. As the vegan food aid coordinator and project lead for the LA chapter of Vegan Outreach, she helps distribute fresh meals and groceries throughout greater Los Angeles. She also works directly with a host of local organizations including Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, Black Women for Wellness, Black Women Farmers of LA and LGBT Center South to extend Vegan Outreach’s distribution network of plant-based meals and groceries. She does additional outreach and education through the LA chapter of The Animal Save Movement, called Los Angeles Health Save in collaboration with a social justice organization called Downtown Crenshaw. She has even started two groups – Vegans for Black Lives Matter (2020) and Vegans of LA (2015) – to foster continuing dialogue. (Both groups have existed entirely online since the beginning of the pandemic.)

Hunter’s primary goal through this work is to help more people discover veganism, particularly those in underserved communities. By steering clear of shame tactics and instead introducing someone to a way of eating (and thinking) that considers both their stomach and their heart, she employs the same empathy that initially drew her to this work.

“In regard to animal suffering, I always try to get people to feel something,” she says. “So if you know what it’s like to suffer, and you can stand in that place, at that moment, you don’t want anyone else to feel that either. I’ve never met anyone that doesn’t know what it feels like to suffer, in some form.”

She uses this approach to help others make empathetic connections across race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status and — in the case of veganism — species. “When someone is in that place of tenderness and thinking about their own suffering, I might inform them that a cow is pregnant for nine months, just like a human woman. And that when we take her male child for veal, that’s her son.” She consciously uses terms like “son” and “daughter” to describe animals and their relationships, to help people make connections to their own lives. “I don’t do any shaming; I did that once when I first became vegan, and it didn’t end well,” she says with a laugh.

“I came into this because of love and compassion, that’s how I want other people to experience it.”

Gwenna Hunter tries to capture images and video of the cow holding area that are waiting for slaughter at a beef packing plant in Pico Rivera. Photo by Nikki Ritcher / #unboundproject / We Animals Media.

Hunter is likewise careful not to conflate animals’ emotional lives with those of humans, instead finding their common ground by applying her intuitive logic that non-human animals experience emotions like distress, pain, contentment and excitement. Why, then, would we choose not to believe that fundamental aspects of the meat and dairy industries cause them to suffer? She says she might explain to someone how artificially inseminating a female cow and taking her calf is robbing her most natural, deeply-felt instincts, and that a mother will often cry for her missing young for weeks. Why wouldn’t we believe that that mother is in distress?

“Lately I’ve started calling animals our brothers and sisters,” Hunter says. “We’ve been programmed from an early age to eat our brothers and sisters. It’s insane, and it’s no different from the blueprint we’ve used for enslaving other humans: ‘Oh, they don’t feel pain’; ‘they’re not fully human.’ It’s textbook exploitation, and we’ve just gotta be stronger and smarter. We’ve gotta help wake each other up.”

Her work aims to connect dots without creating false equivalencies, and to provide support by showing people alternatives. “I learned the hard way to never approach these conversations from the animal rights point-of-view,” she says. “If you’re not vegan yet, it’s gonna sound very weird to you to hear about animal rights— especially in the Black community, where maybe you got harassed by the police yesterday.” She says that when she talks about animal issues, she often doesn’t use the words themselves. “I talk about animals from the perspective of the blueprint for oppression — the blueprint of what slavery looks like, and how this is the same blueprint being used all over the world to exploit different marginalized groups, people and species.” Hunter also concedes that animal concerns simply may not be everyone’s window into veganism, particularly in the Black community, where more localized, personal issues like health, diet and chronic disease are often of more immediate concern. She continually works to include the ecological argument for veganism in her ongoing outreach, and believes she’s at her most effective when she can combine these different components.

Gwenna Hunter, founder of Vegans of LA, a group “celebrating urban vegan pop culture.” She is also a coordinator of community engagement and events for Greater Los Angeles at Vegan Outreach. Photo by Nikki Ritcher / #unboundproject / We Animals Media.

These days, Hunter finds inspiration everywhere, not least from the fact that African Americans are the fastest growing vegan demographic in the United States (in 2016, the Pew Research Center found that 8% of African-American adults identified as vegan, compared with 3% of American adults overall). In addition to being deeply involved in the social justice uprisings of the past year, she says the pandemic has given her a deeper awareness of the need to maintain her own mental health, and has become more proactive about her own well-being. “I know people who are stimulated by drama, but I need to be in a place of joy,” she says of her work, which can be emotionally and physically grueling.

“Even though I know the darkness of this horror movie — what we’re really trying to do here is get people to stop eating dead bodies — when I can find a way to do this joyfully, I can go for a long time and put out good work.”

She’s humble, resourceful and knows how to play to her strengths. “I’m no scholar and I’m terrible at memorizing statistics, but I feel like I’m an expert at being a person,” she says with a laugh. “I’m pretty good when it comes to love and compassion. So I can’t go wrong when I talk about those things.”

Photos by Nikki Ritcher. Interview and story by Evan Shamoon.

Anita Krajnc

Anita Krajnc

Bringing the world together to bear witness

Anita Krajnc looks through the fence to animals being unloaded at the slaughterhouse. Canada, 2015.

Anita Krajnc. Canada, 2015.

To get Anita Krajnc to talk about herself can be a challenge. The Toronto-based activist and founder of the now-global Animal Save Movement (formally called The Save Movement), would much prefer to quote Tolstoy, Gandhi, or Mark and Paul Engler, than talk of her own achievements in animal advocacy. She’s no martyr, just modest, and much more focused on the ethics and fundamentals of animal rights, and the inner working of society and social justice movements. And when it comes to the creation of the Animal Save Movement, which now spans about 900 chapters, branching beyond Animal Save into Climate Save and Health Save factions, Krajnc, no surprise, gives much of the credit to her dog.

Long before creating the first Save chapter, Toronto Pig Save, Krajnc says it was during her time as an undergraduate at the University of Toronto (U of T) in the early nineties, when she first became involved in animal activism. “I saw this poster for The Animals Film,” she says, a 1981 documentary about the use of animals by humans. She watched it with about twenty other people in a basement library at U of T, she says “and I couldn’t believe it. I had nightmares for three days. Then I became a vegetarian, and then an activist.” She soon became president of Students for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and collected data about the number of animals being used at U of T, “which was about fifty thousand vertebrates, a lot of animals,” she says, to provide to media and the ombudsperson. “That was one of the first campaigns I worked on.”

In the following years, Krajnc earned a master’s degree in political science and environmental studies, and a PhD in politics. She got involved in environmental activism alongside her sister – a long-time animal and environmental activist – earning her first arrest in 1993 at Clayoquot Sound, BC, during the “War in the Woods” anti-logging protest, then again in 1997, working with Greenpeace.

Krajnc then began working in academia, including at Queens University in 2006, where she eventually went vegan after watching the 2000 documentary The Witness, and started investigating the veal industry. “I actually didn’t know the veal industry was connected to dairy,” she says.

She then organized screenings at Queens, of the 2004 documentary Peaceable Kingdom, about farmers who refused to kill their animals, and she incorporated animal rights into each course she taught. “Every course! So in Intro to Canadian Politics, for example, I would have a week on social movements and a case study was the animal rights movement.”

At that point she says animal rights had permeated everything she did.

“Like most of us, once we start learning about the issue, it becomes a core. It’s what we really want to do. We have other jobs, but what we really want to do, to talk about, is animal rights.”

This all-encompassing passion is what led Krajnc down the path that would land her, in 2006, face to face with the pigs who would change everything.

“Before bearing witness I was an activist, but it never occurred to me to go up to the slaughterhouse and look at the pigs,” she says. Though she could actually see the former Quality Meat Packers slaughterhouse on Lakeshore, from the streetcar on Bathurst, she says she never went to check it out. “It just never occurred to me to walk there,” she says. “But in 2010, when we adopted Mr. Bean, the dog, [whom is now named co-founder of the Animal Save Movement], I would walk him every morning there, and that’s when we saw the trucks.” Krajnc says she finds it interesting that the origin story of the Animal Save Movement begins with an animal. “One hundred percent if I had not adopted Mr. Bean, I wouldn’t have done it [created the group].” And what Mr. Bean led her to that day, were pigs, looking at her, she says, “out of the portholes, and I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe how beautiful the pigs were, how scared they were, and how unjust it was.”

She calls the moment an epiphany. “I had had a prejudice, or misconception,” she says.

“I thought all pigs were the same, but they aren’t, once you come close to them and look at them. And that’s true for any animal; they’re all individuals. And one day I saw seven or eight trucks and I said, ‘That’s it, we’re gonna start a group.’”

Inspired by the altruistic work of Tolstoy and Ghandi, whom she was studying at the time, Krajnc says she felt compelled to take action. “I thought, I’m just an ordinary person, but if they took the time out and organized in their own communities, then I must.”

And what Krajnc felt she must do – after a few months of figuring out their strategy, doing fundraisers and art shows and investigations– was to bear witness. She quotes Tolstoy:

“’When the suffering of another creature causes you to feel pain, do not submit to the initial desire to flee from the suffering one, but on the contrary, come closer, as close as you can to he who suffers, and try to help.’ That’s where we got the definition of bearing witness. You have a choice: you can flee, or you can come close and try to help.”

Krajnc says bearing witness of animals on transport trucks headed into slaughter is “an aha moment, it really changes you.” And once she experienced it herself, she knew it was something the rest of the world had to see. “Everyone needs to be face to face, to touch the animal,” she says. “Everyone needs to do this. Because if they see this they wouldn’t participate in evil.”

Krajnc brought perhaps the most attention to the growing Animal Save Movement in 2015, when she was arrested for providing water to a thirsty pig on a hot truck. What would later be dubbed #PigTrial made international headlines, sparking debates and commentary never considered before. The charges were dismissed in 2017, in the precedent-setting case that would set the tone for subsequent dismissed cases against animal activists in Canada and the United States.

The name Toronto Pig Save originally came out of a conversation between Krajnc and her best friend, as they sought something inviting, something others would want to join. “It’s such a great name, so positive,” she says, ‘Save,’ it’s such a beautiful word.” And it turned out, she says, to be a good name “to adapt for all different cities.” And adapt they did, to now not only including about 770 different chapters around the world focusing on a variety of animal species, but further branching into Climate Save and Health Save movements.

For Krajnc, however, this is still not enough.

“We bear such a burden knowing what is happening with these billions of animals –trillions of animals with fish– every year, and then on top of that we have this looming climate crisis.”

Today, Krajnc believes Greta Thunberg is the most important person on earth, and she is working with climate activist group Extinction Rebellion, engaging in acts of civil disobedience.

And thus, the seasoned activist, academic and philosopher continues to witness, to disrupt, and to inspire others to change — for animals, people, and the planet.

 

Photos by Jo-Anne McArthur. Interview and story by Jessica Scott-Reid.

Jessica Scott-Reid is a Canadian journalist and animal advocate. Her work appears regularly in the Globe and Mail, New York Daily News, Toronto Star, Maclean’s Magazine and others.

 

Narrated by Anita Krajnc, this short film from We Animals Media tells the story of bearing witness and animal advocacy at slaughterhouses in Toronto during a 24-hour vigil in 2015, wherein amidst the horror, a small miracle took place.

Carol J. Adams

Carol J. Adams

A pioneer of animal advocacy & trailblazer in women’s rights

Writer Carol J. Adams at her desk. USA, 2015.

​From her study near Dallas, Texas, tucked within stacks of notes, files, and various translated editions of her books, author and activist, Carol J. Adams, talks of a time when her work was not so well-received. Between faint barks from rescue-dogs Inky and Holly, Adams speaks of how her now-famous book, The Sexual Politics of Meat, was widely ignored upon first publication, and how “80% of the reviews were negative,” she says. “I mean really, feminist vegetarian theory,” she jokes, “what does that mean?” Of course Adams, and much of the rest of the world, couldn’t know then just how much her work would come to mean, in both the women’s and animal rights movements.

And today, Adams is being celebrated for the 30th anniversary of The Sexual Politics of Meat, as a pioneer of animal advocacy, and a trailblazer in women’s rights.

Long before Adams was a well-known author, she was a child of the fifties and sixties, one of three sisters, living in a small village in western New York State, along with some dogs, cats, a horse and a pony. In her tween years, Adams says she and her friends were very involved with their equestrian companions. “During that time there was so much pressure [for girls] to conform, and we suddenly had a group of girls who were all riding ponies and horses,” she says. “It was very physical engagement,” during a time when female athletics were not so supported. And on hot summer days, Adams says she and her friends would lay on their animals’ backs beneath the shade of a willow tree, “and we would just talk,” she says. “I think it was such a deep experience.”

Though raised a feminist and nurtured to be an activist, Adams points to one distinct incident that started her down the path of merging movements. It happened after she returned home from her first year at Yale Divinity School in the 1970’s, in what she describes as an unsuccessful search for her life’s purpose. “I was unpacking, and there was a knock at the door. It was someone I had never met before, and he said ‘someone has just shot your pony.’” Barefoot, Adams ran through an apple orchard to reach her pony, Jimmy. “We could hear gunshots in the distance,” she says. “It turns out there were two teenagers target practicing in the woods,” who she believes accidentally killed Jimmy.

Adams calls the incident traumatic, but says it was that night when her world truly shifted. Her father suggested she go to a local grocer to have hamburger meat prepared. “We went and got the hamburger made, then we came home and cooked the hamburger. And when I went to bite into the hamburger, I stopped and thought: what am I doing? This is a dead cow. And Jimmy’s lying dead in the pasture, yet I’m going to eat a dead cow? So is it only animals I don’t know that I would eat? So aren’t I a hypocrite?” At that moment, Adams says she put the hamburger down, and knew she had to become a vegetarian.

Through her continuing years in academia, studying feminist theory in the 1970’s, Adams lived among other feminists who were vegetarians, and soon she says, started seeing connections between the two schools of thought. “I thought ‘Wow, look at all these connections. There are all these feminists who were vegetarian; and look at these novels, look at Margaret Atwood, Marge Piercy; look at these theories, books about patriarchy and violence,” she says. She then put it all together:

“There is a connection between patriarchy and eating animals, and feminism and vegetarianism.”

In that instance of realization, she says, while walking down Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, Adams nearly levitated off the ground.

After penning an essay on the topic, which was later published, with much fanfare, in the Lesbian Reader anthology, it was then suggested to Adams that she turn it into a book. She then spent time interviewing, connecting and writing, but after completing her first draft, was not satisfied. “Something was lacking,” she says. Though the connection was established, she had yet to come up with a theory. “I said to myself, ‘Carol, you’re really only going to have one chance at making this claim.’” So she withdrew the draft. Then once again, she went home.

Adams joined her mother working in various grassroots advocacy endeavours, fighting racism and housing discrimination, starting a hotline for battered women, a soup kitchen and a second-hand store, all while continually trying to write the book. “And what is so clear,” she says, “is that all that activism helped me be a better writer,” in particular, she says, “to recognize overlapping oppressions.”

But it wasn’t until Adams then read the book, Bearing the Word: Language and Female Experience in Nineteenth-Century Women’s Writing, by Margaret Homans, that she was finally led to the theory she was seeking. “She introduces this literary concept of the ‘absent referent,’ and I thought, well that’s what animals are, they are absent referents in meat eating. That’s what happened when Jimmy was killed. The cow was no longer an absent referent to me. I didn’t understand that. But I experienced it.” And the next morning, Adams woke up and realized, “and that’s what women are too, in a patriarchal culture, the absent referent.”

Adams was then ready to write her final draft of what would become The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist Vegetarian Critical Theory, which would later be translated into nine different languages, and is today considered more relevant than ever. Adams has also since published dozens of other highly regarded books, including Burger, Protest Kitchen, Neither Man Nor Beast, The Pornography of Meat, Prayers for Animals, and others.

As for the evolution of The Sexual Politics of Meat over time, Adams says, the book is now an entity all of its own.

“The book was within me, and now the book is not within me. For thirty years it’s been out in the world doing its work. And every once in a while it’s like the book writes back to me in the form of a human being who has read it and been touched by it. But the book is something separate from me now.”

“However that book works to help people move along in consciousness,” she says. “I want it to continue to do that, until it is not needed.” And when asked what a world no longer in need of her book might look like for women, Adams replies: “There would never be a need for a ‘Me Too’ moment again. Patriarchy would be eradicated.” And for the animals: “Western, racist, patriarchal culture and ethics create the environment for seeing other beings as disposable, usable, edible. So then if we eradicate that racist, patriarchal, western mindset, we will have eradicated the instrumentalization of other animals.”

Photos by Jo-Anne McArthur. Interview and story by Jessica Scott-Reid.

Jessica Scott-Reid is a Canadian journalist and animal advocate. Her work appears regularly in the Globe and Mail, New York Daily News, Toronto Star, Maclean’s Magazine and others.

Africa Network For Animal Welfare

Africa Network For Animal Welfare

Africa Network For Animal Welfare

Working with communities and governments across Africa to promote humane treatment of all animals.


 

Photographs by Jo-Anne McArthur.
Interview and text by Corinne Benedict.

Africa Network For Animal Welfare


 

Photographs by Jo-Anne McArthur.
Interview and text by Corinne Benedict.

The sun is still high in the sky. It’s not even 1 p.m., but already, this foot patrol has found and removed 29 snares from the red-dirt grounds of Kenya’s Soysambu Conservancy. 

Snare Removal Work in Soysambu Conservancy northwest of Nairobi. Kenya, 2016.

The Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW), regularly scours this 190 square kilometre ranch, along with other conservation areas where snares are common. To outsiders, it can seem like searching for a needle in a haystack, but Helen Jerotich, Catherine Chumo, Eunice Robai and the rest of their small group are pros. 

ANAW team member holding snares. Kenya, 2016.

ANAW team member holding snares. Kenya, 2016.

“The neighbouring communities are the ones who come and put the snares,” explains Jerotich, who removes the makeshift wire traps so routinely that today she’s doing it in office attire: a button-down shirt and nice earrings.

“They sneak in and use snares to get meat. It’s more for commercial. Buffalo or zebras are killed and then transported to neighbouring butchers.”

Gazelles, giraffes, and even lions are also common here.

Helen Jerotich searching for snares.

The sheer number of snares that are uncovered, even when they’re empty, can be heartbreaking.
Far worse is when ANAW finds an animal that has been injured or killed, which they often do. Wounded animals are usually darted and sedated. A veterinarian then determines whether the victim will heal or needs to be euthanized. 
ANAW’s Sebastian Mwanza recalls one of the worst cases he’s seen on the job – a zebra who’d been snared and badly hurt. Her wounds weren’t survivable, so the team prepared to euthanize her. As they did, her herd stood at a distance and watched.

One zebra, a baby, stood closer, waiting for what Mwanza assumed was her mother to get up. 

“That was very bad,” he says. “Very, very, very bad.”

Snare-removal at the Soysambu Conservancy.

ANAW team members search for snares.

Giraffes at the Soysambu Conservancy.

ANAW team member Eunice Robai.

The only good snare, of course, is the one never set. This is why ANAW’s de-snaring efforts make up only a small part of the organization’s work. Founded in 2006 and based in Kenya, ANAW collaborates with communities, governments and a range of partners across Africa to promote the humane treatment of all animals, from wildlife to farmed, working, and companion animals. 

ANAW’s education and awareness-raising efforts include animal welfare clubs in local schools, a regular magazine, Animal Welfare, and campaigns against bush meat. The organization has also achieved important policy and legal victories, hosts local and international conferences, and runs vaccination and veterinary care clinics. 

Helen Jerotich holding a snare.

It’s hard work in a country where the vast majority of people haven’t been brought up to value animals’ lives, viewing them as here merely for human use, says Chumo, who is ANAW’s information officer. Also a journalist and writer, she started at ANAW years ago as a volunteer and loves the job. Her father was a conservationist who instilled in her a love of animals and the environment.
Markings from where snares had been previously attached to the tree.

For most Kenyans, though, “animals come last,” Chumo laments.

She and the rest of the ANAW team dream of a day when their efforts to change minds mean they’ll no longer have to patrol for snares. 

Until then, they’ll continue, one foot in front of the other. 

Learn more and support ANAW here. 

Gail Eisnitz

Gail Eisnitz

“I couldn’t do this job if I didn’t have hope.”

If you want to understand what it’s really like behind the closed doors of America’s factory farms and slaughterhouses, ask Gail Eisnitz.

She can tell you about the sounds—overwhelmingly loud, a mix of whirring automation and animals’ pained shrieks. She can tell you how it smells, and about the colours, and about how fast everything goes. Now more than ever, she’ll explain, the kill line stops for nothing. Not for an injured worker. Not for possible meat contamination. Not for an animal too scared or weak to move forward on its own. Not even for one who hasn’t effectively been rendered unconscious before the cutting or boiling begins.

She can tell you how it feels to stand right next to the stun operator—so close that you’re spattered with brain as cows fall. She can tell you about the fear, which she says is instantly recognizable, no matter the species.

For decades, as the public has largely turned away from the worst of what we inflict on animals used for food, Eisnitz has chosen to look. Among America’s most dedicated animal rights investigators, for years, she acknowledges, she immersed herself so deeply that her work was an obsession. While she is best known for her 1997 book Slaughterhouse (updated edition, 2006), which exposed horrific violations of federal law inside United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)-inspected facilities, her achievements extend much further.

In the late 90s, as chief investigator for the California-based Humane Farming Association (HFA), Eisnitz documented widespread use of illegal, deadly steroids by the U.S. veal industry, leading to convictions and national television coverage. In 2000, after obtaining videotaped evidence and affidavits from workers, she exposed the routine skinning and dismemberment of hundreds of thousands of conscious cattle by the world’s largest meat packer. Eisnitz was the driving force behind a highly read frontpage 2001 Washington Post article that detailed slaughterhouse atrocities across the country, which led to Congress’s infusion of tens of millions of dollars into the USDA’s budget for humane slaughter enforcement. She played a key role in stopping construction in 2003 in South Dakota of what would have been the world’s third largest pig factory—a case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court. In addition to appearing in The New York Times and on Good Morning America, among many other news outlets, her work was the subject of the HBO documentary Death on a Factory Farm. Today, she continues as an investigator with HFA.

“It takes repeated pounding away at the meat industry to effectuate any change—repeated blows,” says Eisnitz, who is thoughtful, soft-spoken and lives in North Carolina with her cat, Abel.

“I always tell myself that if you keep pounding away, change will come.”


Colleagues say that relentlessness, no matter the obstacle or cost, reflects Eisnitz’s courage and her commitment to finding truth.

“She has gone after the stuff of nightmares, and kept at it,” says Patty Finch, former executive director of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries. She calls Eisnitz’s investigations into U.S. slaughterhouses “one of the most impressive bodies of work by any animal activist.”

“Doing that work for so long comes at a great personal cost to her. I know that as her friend,” Finch says. “But Gail never stops.”

Eisnitz first felt compelled to help animals as a child growing up in New Jersey. She remembers watching a program on public television around age 12 that showed two orphaned polar bear cubs looking up at the film crew in a helicopter overhead. Their mother had just been shot. “The expressions on their faces were so helpless. It was seared in my brain,” Eisnitz recalls. A few years later, in high school, she wrote a research paper on endangered species and couldn’t believe the speed at which animals were being wiped away. “After that I was definitely hooked on saving animals,” she says.

She earned a degree in natural resource conservation and began writing about and illustrating threatened and endangered species for various local publications. In 1983, she took a job as a writer and lobbyist in Washington, D.C., for the Animal Welfare Institute and Society for Animal Protective Legislation. Her next job was as a writer and editor for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

But something was missing.

“You can only write about things for so long that you haven’t seen for yourself.”

“I wanted to work in investigations so desperately, but it was such a small field at the time,” Eisnitz says.

She got her chance in 1988 when she became one of HSUS’s two national field investigators. Soon she was working to expose puppy mills, auctions of badly abused horses, cockfighting, the use of “live lure” rabbits in greyhound racing, and cruelty in factory farming. Sometimes she put cases together by conducting in-depth interviews with whistleblowers or other insiders who she persuaded to sign affidavits. Other times, she got close to perpetrators and gathered evidence while posing as Carol Taylor, her undercover persona. Her first slaughterhouse investigation started with a tip from a USDA employee assigned to a Florida facility where cows routinely were being skinned alive. “He’d complained to everyone he could think of and no one was doing anything,” Eisnitz recalls.

It was a roadblock that would stymie Eisnitz again and again as she delved deeper into slaughterhouses. She says getting inside and finding workers willing to talk often wasn’t all that difficult; significantly harder was getting people in positions to help to take action, including the media, law enforcement officials and USDA regulators. Many times she convinced network news programs to run stories using evidence she’d gathered, only to have them back out at the last minute saying the material was too graphic. With law enforcement, “They’d often say we fabricated our evidence. They’d take the side of the factory farm or the slaughterhouse.” Even HSUS wasn’t interested in supporting slaughterhouse investigations or making use of her findings, Eisnitz says.

“I was definitely obsessed with getting these cases put together. I had spent so much time documenting these atrocities.”

In 1992, Eisnitz left HSUS to become chief investigator for the Humane Farming Association. It was there that her colleague, HFA founder Bradley Miller, encouraged her to write a book.

In all, she put almost a decade of work into Slaughterhouse, a first-person account of her efforts as an investigator, including while she underwent treatment for breast cancer. In addition to detailing horrendous cruelty to animals—animals routinely beaten, scalded and dismembered while fully conscious, live animals dragged around by meat hooks, animals arriving for slaughter frozen nearly solid after being transported in sub-zero temperatures—the book also explores other consequences of slaughterhouses’ lightning-fast line speeds, including meat contamination and mental and physical fallout for workers.

“I encountered people who became sadistic from working in slaughterhouses, and they took out their frustrations on the animals,” Eisnitz says, noting that many who she interviewed were relieved to tell her about what they’d done and seen. “I encountered people who became alcoholics and became abusive to their spouses.”

The book gave Eisnitz a platform to call attention to slaughterhouse violations, which she did in interviews that aired on more than 1,000 radio stations. In 2004, she was awarded the Albert Schweitzer Medal for excellence in animal welfare by the Animal Welfare Institute.

After Slaughterhouse, Eisnitz threw herself into the world of pig farming, finding a whole new set of horrors. When she finally slowed down, about ten years ago, she began to understand the extent to which documenting trauma eventually becomes trauma of one’s own.

“I was very troubled. It wasn’t pretty. I just tried to shut it out and not deal with it, which is not good, because it comes out in other ways.” For Eisnitz, that included trauma-induced illness that manifested itself in visual processing problems that she struggled to find treatment for.

“I wish I could say something wise,” she says about how she eventually healed. “I think it was just time and distance.”

One of the biggest lessons she’s learned from her decades of activism is that self-care matters.

“You can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself first.”

While her pace may have leveled, today Eisnitz is as dedicated to helping animals as ever. She is focused now on reforming the USDA’s Livestock Indemnity Program, which reimburses farmers and ranchers for animals who die during extreme weather, even when farmers make no effort to protect them. She’s also currently working to shut down a large illegal slaughter operation.

As for the sanctioned slaughterhouses she spent so many years investigating, she knows some of the atrocities she documented continue.

“The infusion of millions of dollars we secured from Congress for humane slaughter enforcement has generated much more regulatory attention to the issue,” she says. “However, I did a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request pretty recently and it showed that animals are still being shackled, hoisted and bled while fully conscious.”

The meat industry continues to push for ever-higher limits on line speeds, Eisnitz notes, and in the case of pigs, no cap on line speeds. Driving the increases, she explains, are industry consolidation—many small and medium-sized slaughterhouses have closed in recent years—and growing demand for meat in developing countries. Lax USDA regulatory enforcement adds fuel to the fire.

“The bottom line is the meat industry can’t seem to kill animals fast enough.”

At the same time, she knows her work and the work of other investigators and activists has made a difference, from hard-won media exposure, convictions and legislative improvements to the thousands of people who’ve written to her since Slaughterhouse was published to say they’ve given up animal products.

And she knows more victories for animals will come, if she just keeps pounding away.

“I couldn’t do this job if I didn’t have hope.”

 

Photos by Kelly Guerin. Interview by Jo-Anne McArthur. Story by Corinne Benedict.