“There is a huge amount of information about the ways in which animals express themselves, speak to each other, mourn losses, fall in love, do all of these things that we tend to think of as solely human…”
A philosopher, prolific writer, artist, and singer-songwriter, Eva Meijer seems to have her fingers in every pie imaginable. When I catch her, she has just returned home to the Netherlands from Poland where, she tells me with surprisingly little fanfare, she may have become the first person on Polish television to advocate for better care for animals.
She is both forthright and self-effacing, describing her role simply as “to say what needs to be said” to promote a different way of thinking about and relating to non-human animals. “I’m not afraid to use words like ‘language’ or ‘culture’ [in relation to animals],” she explains.
Growing up with animals, Meijer felt a special connection with them early on, becoming vegetarian when she was eleven. She began writing songs and poems at fourteen and studied singing and art at the Royal Conservatoire and Royal Academy of the Arts, before pursuing philosophy.
Whether academic or artistic, for Meijer each form is simply a new language through which she can give meaning to different experiences. “I’m lucky that I have many ways of ‘singing the world,’” she muses, reciting French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty.
“Philosophy is a lot about being critical of existing hierarchies and violence, but also about showing the world differently,” she explains, “so in that sense I think it’s not so different from art because you can make people look at things that they take for granted and reconsider it.”
“Bird Cottage”, one of 14 books written by Eva Meijer. She researches, writes, paints, photographs and makes music around the themes of animal and human language, politics and communication. She has written 14 books which have been translated into over 20 languages. North Holland, Netherlands. 2022. Sabina Diethelm / #unboundproject / We Animals Media
“There is a huge amount of information about the ways in which animals express themselves, speak to each other, mourn losses, fall in love, do all of these things that we tend to think of as solely human,” Meijer explains.
“It changes everything, because our societies are built around the idea that humans are the only rational animals, the only creators of meaning, the only cultural animals, social animals . . . [and] the other animals have been excluded from so much of that.”
Her post-doctoral research at the University of Amsterdam takes these ideas a step further. Since many animals have clear ideas about how they want to live, Meijer argues that their capacity to make decisions about that life and to maintain it should be respected and protected.
“If you have a perspective on life and it matters to you, then it should matter democratically too,” she argues.
Humans, for our part, need to engage in conversation with other animals as active participants in their own existence. This means listening to what they have to tell us about their own experience, about the kind of future they want, and what relationship—if any—they want to have with us. The recognition of animal agency, believes Meijer, “is one of the most important tasks of humanity and justice.”
Whilst this might sound idealistic or outright strange to some, Meijer emphasizes that there are already places where this co-creation is happening, particularly outside of Western social constructs.
“There are indigenous communities that have different relations with non-human animals and see themselves positioned differently with regard to them, and already accept a lot more of their agency,” she explains.
She gives the example of a community in Indonesia that hunts together with crocodiles, representing a kind of understanding around co-existence and resource sharing. In an urban environment, this might look like decolonizing landscapes, reducing the number of roads and infrastructural developments, and relinquishing land back to other species.
In developing different stories about humans and animals and how we can live together, says Meijer, “the presence of actual animals is something that matters a lot.” She currently shares her home with two dogs, Romanian strays Olli and Doris, mischievous ex-laboratory mice, and three rescued guinea pigs.
Olli in particular, she tells me, is “great to think with about these questions, because he’s been living on the streets for five years . . . It was never a question of me dominating him, he’s his own person. Even if I would want to possess him in some sense, it’s simply impossible.”
Meijer gives frequent public talks, where she meets many people who are hungry for a different relationship with animals.
“People feel that there’s something wrong with the way we treat animals, but at the same time they’re very accustomed to it, and when you speak to them about it, then it helps them to articulate that it’s not normal,” explains Meijer. “This is why I like speaking about language, because it always has this element of wonder in it.”
Despite the violence our societies enact on animals, she also holds a lot of hope in the power of activism.
“We can participate in a struggle for change, and this will make a difference,” she insists. “Even living differently is a form of activism, so my whole existence feels very activist.”
When she moved a few years ago to a rural part of the Netherlands, Meijer noticed that many frogs and toads undertaking a centuries-old migration to food sources were being hit by cars while attempting to cross busy roads. In response, she began a “frog and toad group” through which locals assist the frogs and toads to travel safely from gardens to larger ponds.
This kind of localized activism can be powerful. In the two years the group has existed the narrative in the town about frogs and toads has shifted from one of apathy to one of care.
“These are all small-scale experiments to become more attentive, more aware of the fact that we share this planet with other animals,” says Meijer.
“I honestly feel that we are not here for ourselves but that the whole meaning of life is to be a good person for others and to make a change in the world for them, and when you can do that, that’s a gift, and also humbling.”
Meijer’s most recent novel,Zee Nu, was published in March 2022 by Uitgeverij Cossee.
Written by Anna Mackiewicz Photography by Sabina Diethelm
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.
Anita Krajnc holding a sign during a Toronto Pig Save vigil. Canada, 2013.
Actor Joaquin Phoenix joins Los Angeles Animal Save activists at a vigil. USA, 2019.
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.”
Anita Krajnc during Veggie Pride Parade in Toronto. Canada, 2015.
Anita Krajnc and fellow activists during Veggie Pride Parade in Toronto. Canada, 2015.
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.
Anita Krajnc photographs chickens during a Toronto Chicken Save vigil. Canada, 2013.
Actor Joaquin Phoenix joins Anita Krajnc and Animal Save Movement activists in Toronto for a tour of the Be Fair Be Vegan subway ad campaign. Canada, 2019.
Catskill Farm Sanctuary founder Kathy Stevens bearing witness with Toronto Pig Save. Canada 2013.
Slaughterhouse employees force Anita Krajnc away from the gates. Canada, 2015.
“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.
A pig in a crowded truck. Canada, 2011.
“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.’”
Pigs in a transport truck en route to slaughter. Los Angeles, USA, 2019.
Anita Krajnc with Esther on Esther’s first day at Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary. Canada, 2014.
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.”
Los Angeles Animal Save activists giving water to pigs en route to the slaughterhouse. USA, 2019.
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.”
Anita Krajnc with supporters, after the court case against her for giving water to thirsty pigs in transport. Canada, 2015.
Anita Krajnc, after the court case against her for giving water to thirsty pigs in transport. Canada, 2015.
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.
Thirsty pig on transport truck is given water by Melbourne Pig Save activist. Australia, 2017.
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.
Anita Krajnc with a rescued cow at Farm Sanctuary. USA, 2013.
Burlington Pig Save vigil. Canada, 2018.
Pig Save photographs and posters are hung on a chain link fence visible from the street. Canada 2013.
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.
‘INVISIBLE’ follows two undercover investigators, ‘Emily’ and ‘Sarah’ (their names have been changed to protect their identities), on a pig farm investigation in Europe, offering the viewer an unprecedented glimpse into a world that is deliberately and painstakingly covert.
In a ‘double-life’ kept secret from their day jobs and family lives, Emily and Sarah choose to visit and document the stark and often brutal conditions of farms and slaughterhouses to bring attention to the suffering inherent in animal exploitation.
As darkness falls and the investigation unfolds, Emily and Sarah reveal what drives them to leave their loved ones in the night, the emotional impact of documenting animal cruelty first-hand, and how their friendship allows them to continue carrying out such traumatic work in spite of the psychological cost.
Finally, the evidence gathered and the investigation complete, they leave without a trace – invisible.
Directed by Chris Shoebridge
What inspired Chris to tell this story?
“In 2009 I saw undercover slaughter footage for the first time, and it changed the course of my life. This profound shift happened only because an investigator – an anonymous activist who I will never know nor ever be able to thank – risked their safety and freedom to expose the reality of our relationship with animals. Many of us owe a similar debt to undercover investigators, but how often do we think about what they risk, and what they sacrifice? Do we even know what it takes?
While I believe we must be mindful to centre the animals in our activism, I believe it is also important to celebrate the work of those whose passion and bravery drive our mission forward. Not just to honour those people but also, hopefully, to inspire such passion and bravery in others.
While Emily and Sarah are just two of the invisible women who make our movement possible, this film is a broader ‘thank you’ to every undercover investigator who has taken risks to help animals, and to every woman who has never received the recognition she deserves yet without whom our movement simply could not exist.”
Open Your Eyes and See the History All Around You: The Importance of Knowing Our Activist History
It is no exaggeration to say that Hilda Kean set me on the path I am on today. Well, to be more specific, one of her books did–it would be several years until I would actually meet Hilda Kean in person! When I was a graduate student in the early 2000s my research was situated in environmental studies but, at that time, the idea of studying and thinking critically about animals was still quite separate from the scholarship being done in environmental studies. I found this somewhat strange and a little frustrating, but then I came across Hilda Kean’s Animal Rights: Political and Social Change in Britain Since 1800. This was the first time that I had read the work of a writer who had taken human-animal relationships seriously as a subject of cultural and historical research. Her influence has been enormous, not just on my own work, but on the fields of animal studies and human-animal history.
For this interview, I arranged to meet Hilda Kean a few summers ago at a vegan cafe in Brighton, UK. When she arrived, she told me that she had almost missed her train because she had awoken to discover a fox in her house that morning! “I don’t see why some people are frightened of foxes,” she calmly said as she recounted the details of what had transpired that morning.
The fox Kean found in her house that morning.
Hearing Kean talk about her encounter with this fox reminded me so much of her writing. In both cases her narrative is framed by a compassionate yet critical inquiry. Her work is grounded by a real concern for thinking about the actual lived experiences of individual animals and she resists historical understandings of human-animal relationships that are informed by clichés or symbolism.
For instance, in one of her recent books, The Great Cat and Dog Massacre: The Real Story of World War Two’s Unknown Tragedy, Kean went to great lengths to learn as many individual stories as she could after the 400,000 cats and dogs in Britain that were killed by their owners at the outbreak of the Second World War. In telling these stories she moves beyond the standard tropes typical in narratives about both this war and of human-animal (and animal-human) bonds. Her meticulous research is grounded in actual events and testimonies and, as such, complicates the narratives we like to tell ourselves about our historical relationships with our companion animals. This is an uncomfortable history and Kean does not shy away from telling it.
Likewise, Animal Rights is a book that looks at the complicated history of animal advocacy in Britain. Kean’s motivation for writing Animal Rights grew out of a sense of frustration about the lack of awareness of activism in previous historical periods.
“It is important to acknowledge that in Britain campaigns for animal rights and animal welfare go back at least to the late 18th and early 19th century,” she stresses. “So, if you like you can say you don’t agree with these ideas, but you can not say that these ideas came from nowhere.”
“These things did happen and they were important.”
Kean underscores how important it is for activists of today to know that “these ideas have not just come out of thin air.” Anti-vivisection, in particular, has a long and complex history in places like Britain, and it was women who were often on the front lines of these fights. Recognizing the work of these reformers from earlier historical periods is important, Kean feels, not only to give credit where credit is due, but also to allow us to take a broader historical perspective on animal advocacy. This can help reframe some of our current struggles to change the world for animals. Kean acknowledges that as we look to this history and realize that some of the fights we are fighting today were also being fought by previous generations of activists it can be “somewhat depressing” at first glance. But Kean stresses that knowing this history also “places things in a broader context of time” to allow us to see how the “ideas and campaigns have been worked through, modified, and emphasized in different ways. They have had some successes over a period of time.”
As a historian, Kean feels it is important to take the full messy, complex narratives of animal advocacy into account. Looking to the past only as a source of “inspirational stories…implies that there were only successes.” There have been, of course, changes for the better. Kean points to the status of companion animals as an example of this, noting “that their lives are better now than they were say in the early 1800s or even in the early 1900s.” With farmed animals, however, she is concerned that things may be “much worse than they were 100 years ago, that moving animals away from fields to inside” has caused even greater concerns for activists.
While Kean is pleased to see so many people working on animal studies topics within academia in recent years, she also sometimes finds it frustrating that this academic work can often be incredibly “esoteric” and seemingly removed from actual animals. For Kean, animal studies is much more than an “academic exercise” and she finds it “quite shocking” that there are some working in this field who “apparently have no interest in living animals.”
Kean also stresses the importance of historians getting up from their desks.
“I don’t think history is all about somebody sitting in a library and writing notes and getting it published in the most prestigious peer-reviewed journal. It is also important to actually look at what is going on in the world.”
Kean embodies this perspective in her own work. For example, during the time she was writing Animal Rights she remembers reading comments in a newspaper that ridiculed animal rights activists who had been protesting the selling of live lobsters. She recalls that the comments were along the lines of “Where do these mad people come from? Fancy doing this about lobsters!” As she was reading about this protest and the public response to it, she couldn’t help but think about the 1829 pamphlet she had found during the course of her research. This pamphlet was “published by what was then the SPCA. It was a campaign about lobsters and the cruel way that lobsters were boiled alive.” As she read the newspaper coverage of the protest in the late 1990s the connections between the 19th century protest and the 20th century protest were obvious to her. “When I’m reading something like that in the newspaper, I’m relating that in my head to other things I’m doing. And it makes me think ‘I have to do something.’ I don’t mean that I have to write to the newspaper necessarily, I mean, I will do that, but it is more around thinking about how to argue the importance of knowing the history of animal rights activism.”
While Kean is passionate about the history of the animal advocacy movement, she is also firmly rooted in the present moment, and keeps a sharp eye out for ways in which human-animal histories remain part of our current environments. “I just see things in the environment that catch my interest.
“I sometimes notice things others don’t because I think most people run around with their eyes shut.”
Walking, looking, and noticing details such as statues or monuments featuring cats, dogs, horses, or other animals are an important part of Kean’s research methods, and her impressive list of published writing on human-animal histories is a testament to how astute she is at this practice. She also spends a lot of time talking to people, asking questions, and thinks critically about how animals and humans would have interacted in previous spaces.
Understanding this kind of context is at the heart of the work that Kean does. For instance, she discusses the Old Brown Dog memorial, a highly controversial monument dedicated to a dog who was killed in a vivisection laboratory in 1903. During the early 20th century this memorial statue became a touchstone for ongoing debates about animal experimentation until the decision was made to remove it from the Latchmere gardens completely. In 1985 a replacement statue was placed in nearby Battersea Park, but, as Kean points out, the new statue was within the park and this was significant. The placement of the original statue was highly political. As Kean notes, it was “in the middle of a model housing estate for workers. This was a socialist area at the time. So, the location of the statue very much brought across the politics of it, the alignment of ordinary people and animals.” This historical connection is not immediately apparent with the new memorial statue having been placed there just before the demise of the socialist Greater London Council (GLC). This is the kind of attention to detail that informs all of Kean’s work.
“We need to consider these things in their social and cultural contexts.”
When I asked Kean about the kind of advice she would give other writers and scholars who want to make a difference for animals, she replied that “it is really just thinking about what you want to do, and if you want to do things that privilege the position of animals, you just do it.” I couldn’t agree more.
Thank you, Hilda, for all you have done for animals and for the field of animal history.
Images courtesy of Hilda Kean, Rosa Harvest and Jo-Anne McArthur. Interview and story by Keri Cronin.
“Working together makes us, and our impact, stronger.”
Last month, the Unbound Project partnered with Encompass to highlight the work of women of colour within the animal advocacy movement.
Encompass is a non-profit organization committed to building a more effective animal protection movement by fostering racial diversity and inclusivity.
With Encompass’ support, Unbound’s platforms were used to help amplify the voices of women of colour working in animal advocacy, and further the discussion around the topic of racial diversity, equity, and inclusion.
A big thank you to Encompass and all of the amazing women who shared their advice and insights with us. Read on to get inspired by their wonderful stories!
Founder and Executive Director of Encompass
Aryenish Birdie has worked in various social justice movements, including those striving for racial equity, queer rights, and reproductive freedom. Since 2017, she’s been fully focused on building the foundations of nonprofit organization Encompass.
Encompass empowers farmed animal organizations to operationalize racial diversity, equity, and inclusion to further our collective mission of animal protection. It also empowers advocates of colour by cultivating leadership potential and providing a space for individuals to enter and thrive within the movement.
Birdie founded Encompass after witnessing firsthand the urgent need for a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive animal protection movement.
“As a queer, light-skinned woman born in the Midwest from immigrant parents, I’ve struggled with identity and place my whole life. I never feel totally at home anywhere, so I’m always searching to belong. Working to develop Encompass has been personally satisfying because it’s an organization I myself need, but more importantly, it feels wonderful to build something for the animal movement that supports other people of colour.”
Former Managing Director at Better Eating International / Managing Director at Encompass
Michelle Rojas-Soto is the former Managing Director of Better Eating International, an organization using customized digital media to deliver progressive vegan education on a massive scale. She is a founding member of Gender Equity in Animal Rights (GEAR). Rojas-Soto just recently joined Encompass as Managing Director. Her work is focused on the interconnectedness of issues and manifests her commitment to fighting prejudice, hate, and apathy on all fronts.
She shared with us her insights on how we can work together to make activism spaces more open and inclusive:
“Using language from Tamika Butler, activists who want to support women of colour and gender non-conforming people of colour should shift from being actors to allies, and from being allies to accomplices. Tacitly supporting women of colour and gender non-conforming people of colour is not enough. Instead, we must actively engage with women of colour and gender non-conforming people of colour in their journey, share and even transfer resources to them if we are to achieve meaningful transformation and justice. Essentially, what I am advocating for here is love, the action that requires us to extend ourselves for the benefit of someone’s growth.”
Here are some of Rojas-Soto’s specific suggestions on ways we can do this:
•Connect with women of colour and gender non-conforming people of colour doing work in animal rights, ask questions, find out what they need, volunteer, and help them secure additional resources.
•Become a vocal advocate for women of colour and gender non-conforming people of colour in forums with other activists who know less than you about the subject.
Through a personal journey to take charge of her own health, which started almost five years ago, Anahata launched The Soulful Veganista, which aims to support people in finding the healer within themselves and to decolonize their lives through a conscious lifestyle. Anahata does this through a variety of mediums including writing and social media, holistic lifestyle coaching, and hosting local events.
“When I first went vegan, my goal was to spread awareness about wellness, holistic living, and veganism in the Black community. Those are still my missions but my advocacy slightly changed after I got into social justice because it’s something we don’t always incorporate in every movement. Now I advocate considering (hopefully) everyone’s level of ability, accessibility, and needs.”
Anahata’s suggestions for building a more inclusive movement:
“The best thing activists can do is to use their platform to amplify the voices of women of colour. Listen to us, respect our stances, learn more about our struggles, share and credit our work, and don’t police us about our delivery as if our words are more violent than the oppression that plagues us and other marginalized folks.”
Billie “Bee” Bryan
Billie “Bee” Bryan on the power of shared values.
Billie Bryan, affectionately known as “Bee,” is an eco-conscious graphic designer, web designer, artist, musician, activist and vegan. She is also a pansexual, polyamorous, transgender woman advocating for the representation and visibility of her LGBTQIA+ community. When “Bee” is not organising queer meetups and hosting workshops, she’s working from home or on the go as ‘Bee The Designer’, providing design and marketing services to small businesses with big ideas!
“Use what you’ve got to make a difference. I decided to put my greatest skills to use in the best way I knew how and to fill a need that few others were able to. That’s how I contribute. Through all of the work I do, both as part of my own non-profit and as a service provider to others championing a similar message, I hope to help open people’s eyes to rampant inequality affecting human and non-human animals alike.”
Born and raised in the Cayman Islands, eco-conscious creative professional Billie “Bee” Bryan is working to radically reshape the prevalent conservative mindset of her country and create a safe, social environment for LGBTQIA+ people across the Caribbean and Latin America through the work of Colours Cayman, the nation’s first LGBTQIA+ non-profit organization that she founded in 2018.
“I consider animal advocacy to be something of a gateway drug to the recognition of a myriad other socio-political issues. And with so many other social movements breaking ground and continuing to gain momentum, people are beginning to connect the dots. The fact that we’re now considering issues of race, gender and diversity when discussing animal advocacy speaks to that.
There’s a significant amount of overlap and I feel that our commonalities will lend strength to all our efforts. When people with a common interest band together to achieve a common goal, your gender, your nationality, your age or your background is virtually irrelevant; they will fight with you, side by side, as equals. And very few have shown as much empathy and compassion as the activists that I’ve had the pleasure of working with.”
Having worked with or volunteered for animal advocacy groups from around the world, ‘Bee The Designer’s’ clients consist largely of like-minded eco-conscious or vegan non-profits and solopreneurs. “Bee” aims to align her values with those she caters to and amplify their efforts with the help of her creative genius and marketing know-how.
Former International Director of Corporate Outreach at Animal Equality
Jaya Bhumitra has nearly 20 years of campaigns and public affairs experience in both the private and non-profit sectors, including a decade in animal advocacy.
Recently, she served as the International Director of Corporate Outreach for Animal Equality, an Animal Charity Evaluators Top Charity. She serves on the advisory council of Encompass, and on the governing board for the Los Angeles chapter of New Leaders Council, the premier leadership training program for young progressives.
In the two-and-a-half years since launching the corporate outreach department for Animal Equality, Bhumitra hired, trained, and led new teams in Mexico, Brazil, India, Italy, Spain, Germany, the UK, and the U.S. to achieve 115 animal welfare policies from the world’s largest food companies, meaningfully reducing the suffering of approximately 40 million animals raised and killed for food each year.
Bhumitra’s suggestions on how we can work together to create more open and inclusive activism spaces:
“One of the most important ways activists can support women of colour – and non-binary folks of colour – in the animal protection movement is by elevating their voices. Rather than posting your own thoughts on social media, share a blog or status by a woman or non-binary person of colour who may have a more acute social commentary to provide, but who may not have as wide a platform from which to be heard.
This doesn’t mean only reposting when we have something to say about our gender or racial identities. This means making space for all of our good ideas and to acknowledge our professional expertise, resharing our content whether we’re describing our varied philosophical and practical approaches to activism or opinions on animal-protection- and vegan-related news.
Likewise, it’s crucial to fund the organizations and advocacy efforts of women and non-binary folks of colour who bear more emotional labor and are stretched in more directions than white-led organizations. If we want to see activism spaces become more open and inclusive, we need to make it possible for those initiatives by women and non-binary folks of colour to thrive.”
Culture and Engagement Specialist at the Good Food Institute
Inspired by the possibilities for growth and innovation in the plant-based foods market, Anastasia brings her skills and passion to The Good Food Institute where she supports the creation of a respectful, fair, diverse, and high-performance culture that enables employees to contribute their very best to the organization.
“Before 2015, I admittedly knew very little about industrial animal agriculture and its impact on the environment, food security, global health, and animal welfare. Four years ago, I just happened to pick up and read Slaughterhouse by Gail Eisnitz; that book turned my world upside down. I spent many hours after work and on the weekends binge-reading everything I could about animal agriculture, thinking to myself, ‘how is it that I am only now learning about all of this?!’ The more I learned, the more difficult it became to focus on my tech recruiting job knowing what was going on all around me.”
Orth graduated with honours from the University of California at Berkeley. After beginning her career in sales, Orth was a recruiter for startups in Silicon Valley where she witnessed first-hand the power of technology to transform and disrupt long-established industries and practices.
“In my pursuit of a career transition, I discovered The Good Food Institute and was immediately inspired by the organization’s multi-faceted approach to using markets and innovation to create a more sustainable, healthy, and just global food system from the inside out.”
Orth’s advice to other women looking to make an impact in the movement:
“Many studies show that women are only likely to apply to jobs if they feel they meet 100% of the qualifications, whereas men will apply to jobs if they feel they meet 60% of the qualifications. I’d encourage anyone who wants to get professionally involved in activism to just GO FOR IT. Acknowledge your learning capacity. Don’t think that you have to know everything before stepping in. I didn’t know much before entering this space—I just knew I wanted to be a part of it. We can learn just about anything, but what’s most important is having the drive and desire—a growth mindset, if you will. If this is truly your heart’s passion, then get after it, sisters! You WILL learn.”
Open Wing Alliance Events Coordinate at the Humane League
Romina Giel is the Open Wing Alliance Events Coordinator at The Humane League, an organization that exists to end the abuse of animals raised for food. Giel’s personal mission aligns with The Humane League’s mission; end the abuse of animals raised for food.
“Since joining The Humane League’s Open Wing Alliance, which works to end the use of battery cages globally, I’ve deepened my appreciation for collaboration. Working with them and knowing that we all have one common goal, is incredibly fulfilling.”
Giel’s advice to other women looking to make an impact in the movement:
“Get involved! Reflect on the skills you have and how you can apply them to activism. Organisations in the movement have volunteer opportunities in every department. Don’t ever doubt yourself or assume you won’t make a difference because you absolutely will! And if you’re not ready to commit to an organisation, showing up to local protests or signing up to receive online actions, makes a huge difference too.”
Founder of Stray Dog Capital
Lisa Feria is the CEO of Stray Dog Capital, a venture capital firm that invests in early-stage, mission-driven companies that aim to take animals out of the supply chain using innovative products and services. With over 26 investments, Stray Dog Capital is one of the leading early-stage investors in the plant-based market.
With the drive of Lisa Feria behind it, Stray Dog Capital works to accelerate a massive shift away from animal agriculture by helping amazing entrepreneurs deliver incredible food that doesn’t require people to radically change the way they eat!
Feria’s advice to other women looking to make an impact in the movement:
“Don’t be afraid to be visible and open with your thoughts, ideas and brand. Find great mentors and leverage them for introductions and influence. Finally, don’t stop learning and leveling your skills up.”