Pei-Feng Su

Pei-Feng Su

“When you untie the knots, you have to do it bit by bit.”

Pei-Feng Su. All photographs by Jo-Anne McArthur (except where indicated).

P ei-Feng Su gets a call from a donor who presents her with an opportunity: the donor wants to fund her organization to rescue a truck full of dogs bound for slaughter. She says no.

“It’s a choice. We live with the choice.”

Su is the Executive Director and co-founder of ACT Asia, an organization dedicated to humane education in Asia. Since it was founded, the organization has taught more than 65,000 students and trained over 1000 teachers. They’re a small group with limited funding, but they punch above their weight, in part because of their laser focus. Donors want to fund rescuing dogs from meat trucks, and it’s gratifying work in the short term, but finding funding for what comes next – sheltering and caring for the animals – would quickly take up all of ACT Asia’s time and resources.

Because her group’s focus is in education, people say to her, “Oh you just chose the easy job. You don’t have the courage to fight.” She used to agree with them.

Humane education is groundbreaking. It should be taught like English, like math.

But if anything, focusing on education is the bravest choice that Su has ever made. Turning away from relieving the suffering of animals right in front of her for the sake of preventing the suffering of a greater number of animals in the future takes a huge amount of courage.

“We’re just firefighting,” she says of many of the campaigns that exist today. She acknowledges the importance of the animal movement’s current campaigns – for stronger legislation, corporate shifts, and moving people to plant-based diets – but, she argues, we need a holistic approach, and educating young people has been woefully neglected by the animal movement.

“Humane education is groundbreaking,” Su says. “It should be taught like English, like math.”

Su wasn’t drawn into the animal movement by any particular feeling of love towards other species, but because she recognized it as a social justice issue like any other. Before working on behalf of animals, she was an advocate for victims of domestic violence and women seeking access to abortion.

In 1992, when Su first started fighting for animals, she would go to meetings in parliament and speak to the media. But, with no PhD, no science degree, and no background in the issues, she quickly felt intimidated, especially as a woman.

In compassionate work, there are always lots of women, but even when I was working in the west, the men earned more.

So, she left the country to learn practical skills, interning with several animal rights organizations in the US.

“I wanted to learn how they survived,” Su says of women in the movement. “And I was empowered.

“In compassionate work, there are always lots of women,” but they don’t always receive respect, she goes on. “Even when I was working in the west, the men earned more.” Su almost took an organization to court because she knew that a man hired after her, and with the same experience, was being paid more.

On gender equality, she says looking back on her 25 years of experience, “It’s better, but it’s not there yet.”

When you untie the knots, you have to do it bit by bit.

Ten years ago, Su conceived the idea for an education-focused organization and, unknowingly, became pregnant at the same time. “I always say I have two kids,” she laughs. Twins, born and raised together.

Su credits her daughter with making her the activist she is today. “I think if I didn’t have my daughter I would have already left the movement. I really think she saved me.”

She works hard to prove that she can be a good mother and a good activist and, with the support of her husband, she’s taken motherhood in stride. “I sent my last email to everyone when I was on the way to the hospital.”

Her daughter has taught her the importance of a normal, balanced life, Su says. “When I became an activist, for the first five years, I had no friends, because I could not bear to go out with them. I think everybody goes through it.”

And now, “I feel like I’m a balanced person,” she says. “My daughter’s life taught me it’s important to have friends. It’s important to have normal friends!” She bursts into laughter at this, but there’s truth in her words.

Raising a child has also reinforced her conviction in what she does. “She’s my best teacher,” Su says of her daughter, Risa. “She really helped me to understand and to see the world as kids do. That’s why I’m so passionate about education,” she says, reflecting on the power of teaching a young child. “They are what you make them.”

Su is playing the long game. “When you untie the knots, you have to do it bit by bit.” When she first started, Su thought ACT Asia might end up teaching humane education in a few schools. Today, they have six years’ worth of curriculum being taught in 130 schools, with more being rolled out all the time.

“We’re not going to break that circle if they grow up seeing abuse. We have more kids in schools now saying, ‘I don’t want to see the circus, mom, because I think that’s wrong.’”

ACT Asia’s work has made them one of the most impactful groups in Asia and a global force in humane education, with several offices now open around the world. Su hasn’t chosen an easy route, but she’s already had a lasting impact for animals.

Learn more and support ACT Asia.
Photos by Jo-Anne McArthur. Interview and text by Sayara Thurston.

The 2017 Unbound Project Grant Recipients

The 2017 Unbound Project Grant Recipients

All photos by Jo-Anne McArthur/Unbound Project except where indicated.

In 2017, the Unbound Project invited some of our featured women to apply for our first-ever round of grants to support projects aimed at helping farmed animals around the world. We awarded grants to women doing remarkable work to make real change for animals. We gave away a total of $100,000, with 10 grants of $10,000 each going towards funding innovative projects in eight countries.

Read the stories of the projects we’re funding and the women leading them below.

Note that any future Unbound Project Grants will also be awarded to applicants who are invited to submit funding proposals. We are not accepting unsolicited applications at this time. 

2017 Unbound Project Grant Recipients

Pam Ahern

Pam Ahern – Australia

Ahern is the founder of Edgar’s Mission, a sanctuary for rescued farm animals and one of Australia’s most important voices in farm animal protection. The sanctuary is home to hundreds of animals and also runs animal protection and vegan advocacy campaigns and events on-site and around the country. Ahern’s 2017 Unbound Project Grant will go towards funding a cross-country speaking tour in Australia where she will share the story of starting a sanctuary farm sanctuary and dedicating her life to animal

Check back in 2018 for Ahern’s full Unbound profile.


Piia Anttonen – Finland

Piia Anttonen

Piia Anttonen

Anttonen runs Tuulispää Animal Sanctuary in Finland, a sanctuary she founded in 2012 after pledging to always help the animals most in need, the elderly, the sick, the abused, and the neglected. Anttonen’s 2017 Unbound Project Grant will go towards stepping up her sanctuary’s vegan advocacy with the creation of an on-site education centre to host plant-based cooking classes, film screenings, speakers, school visits, and community events.

Read Anttonen’s full Unbound profile here.


Allison Argo

Allison Argo – USA

Argo became a filmmaker almost by accident as she sought a way to speak for those who could not tell their own stories. “I look for those who are struggling – for survival or freedom or simply for dignity and respect,” she says. Argo’s latest film, documentary The Last Pig tells the story of a pig farmer who, after a change of heart, sent his remaining animals to sanctuaries and moved to plant-based farming. Argo’s 2017 Unbound Project Grant will be used to promote the film.

Read Argo’s full Unbound profile here.


Karyn Boswell – Canada

Karyn Boswell

Boswell founded and runs Penny Lane Farm Sanctuary in Canada. Almost an accidental activist, she started the sanctuary after moving to a rural area and being shocked by the treatment of horses sold (generally for horsemeat) at auctions. Today Penny Lane is an important voice for horses and other farmed animals in Canada. Boswell’s 2017 Unbound Project Grant will go towards the construction of a visitor barn and educational space at the sanctuary’s new location, allowing visitors and school children to learn about the sanctuary’s animal residents and the industries that abuse countless animals just like them each year.

Read Boswell’s full Unbound profile here.

Juliana Casteñeda-Turner. Photo by Julie O’Neill.

Juliana Casteñeda-Turner – Colombia

Casteñeda-Turner is the founding director of Juliana’s Animal Sanctuary, which she officially opened in 2008. The sanctuary is now home to more than 80 rescued animals—most of them farm animals—and also runs education and vegan outreach programs. Casteñeda-Turner’s 2017 Unbound Project grant will go towards expanding the sanctuary’s educational outreach and providing free vegan resources to schools in Colombia.

Read Casteñeda-Turner’s full Unbound profile here.


Josie Du Toit – South Africa

Josie Du Toit

Du Toit is Co-Director of the Vervet Monkey Foundation in South Africa. Born and raised in England, Du Toit’s early love for animals led her to volunteer and work full time at the African sanctuary she’s now called home for more than ten years. Under Du Toit’s leadership, the vervet sanctuary has also developed a vegan outreach program, and the 2017 Unbound Project Grant will be used to build an on-site kitchen to host vegan cooking classes for volunteers, community members, and chefs from local schools.

Read Du Toit’s full Unbound profile here.


Dobrosława Gogłoza

Dobrosława Gogłoza – Poland

Gogłoza is the co-founder of Otwarte Klatki (branded as Open Cages internationally), the Polish organization driving change for animals in Eastern Europe. Gogłoza’s group focuses its energy on campaigns and projects that will have the maximum impact for animals. Her 2017 Unbound Project Grant will go towards a high-impact plant-based advocacy campaign in Estonia.

Read Gogłoza’s full Unbound profile here.

Camille Labchuk – Canada

Camille Labchuk

Labchuk is Executive Director of Animal Justice, Canada’s only legal advocacy organization for animals. A lifelong activist, Labchuk made the decision to become a lawyer in order to fight for greater legal and political protections for animals. Since its foundation, Animal Justice has quickly become one of the leading national voices for animals in Canada. Labchuk and Animal Justice will use the 2017 Unbound Project Grant to increase their federal political outreach and bring media attention to the need for federal protections for farm animals.

Read Labchuk’s full Unbound profile here.


Smaragda Louw with members of the Ban Animal Trading team

Smaragda Louw – South Africa

Louw co-founded Ban Animal Trading (BAT) in 2013 and the group has quickly made a name for itself in animal protection in South Africa. Louw’s group has a broad focus and a relentless drive to keep conducting new investigations, launching new campaigns, and generally keep animal issues in the public eye. Louw and BAT will use their 2017 Unbound Project Grant to fund investigative work on farms through 2018.

Read Louw’s full Unbound profile here.


Hazel Zhang – China

Hazel Zhang. Photo by Kelly Guerin.

When Zhang watched a documentary about the brutal treatment of farm animals, she knew she had to take action. She started VegPlanet, a website that shares news and resources about living a vegan lifestyle –– one of the first of its kind in China. Today, Zhang’s site has hundreds of thousands of followers and a growing team of full-time staff.  She and her team will use the 2017 Unbound Project Grant to host a series of simultaneous vegan events, promoting them online and in the media to increase public awareness of the benefits of plant-based diets.

Watch Hazel’s Unbound video profile here.


Text by Sayara Thurston. All featured photos by Jo-Anne McArthur/Unbound Project except where indicated.

Hazel Zhang

Hazel Zhang

Meet the wonderful Hazel Zhang! After learning about the suffering of farmed animals in the documentary “Farm to Fridge,” Hazel became vegan. Shocked that there wasn’t much content on the subject of cruelty-free living in Chinese, Hazel started a blog called VegPlanet where she started translating foreign-language articles.

Hazel glows with a warmth and welcoming smile. As Unbound team member Kelly Guerin was setting up for their early morning interview, Hazel took the time to walk around the converted apartment office space to talk to each of her 17 staff personally while her rescue dog Baibai ran underfoot. Hazel said that she had never really had the chance to get to know an animal personally until she found Baibai in a village.

Becoming vegan, launching a blog, and raising a dog in Beijing had its challenges, but today Hazel carries herself with the confidence of a true activist, rooted in her commitment to end animal suffering and help promote the compassionate lifestyle that changed her life.

Today, Hazel’s blog VegPlanet employs a full-time staff and publishes daily original content aimed at promoting veganism in China as a conscious, positive, and happy lifestyle to a following of nearly 300,000 subscribers.