leafletingIn my years as an animal activist, one of the most fundamental lessons I’ve learned is the importance of sharing accurate information. Nothing hurts the credibility of an animal advocate quite like imparting a fact that is woefully out of date or, worse yet, just plain wrong.

For example, I once tabled with an activist who told someone that chicken meat commonly comes from hens who no longer produce enough eggs to make them profitable in the egg industry. Um, no. While a “spent” hen may have ended up on the dinner plate at Old MacDonald’s Farm many decades ago, that’s not the case with today’s factory farms: raising chickens for eggs and raising chickens for meat are two separate industries. (Moreover, a hen who has been forced to lay at least six eggs a week for human consumption while cramped in a tiny wire cage for two years is so depleted she has little flesh left on her battered body.)

Although you might think I’m being picky—after all, it’s the main message that counts, not the details, right?—I believe we can actually damage our integrity by sharing misinformation, even if it’s unintentional.

Getting the most recent, reliable information into the hands of activists is one reason I wrote Bleating Hearts: The Hidden World of Animal Suffering, which covers a wide variety of animal oppression issues, from captivity and fashion to sports and vivisection. Indeed, I spent a full year just on the vivisection chapter because the movement so badly needs up-to-date details on this complex issue.

Among the facts the book examines:

  • Despite the popular belief, leather is not a byproduct of the meat industry, it is a co-product—it subsidizes factory farming.
  • 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the US—30 million pounds a year—are fed to perfectly healthy animals.
  • In captivity, orcas only survive, on average, another 13 years after being taken, yet wild male orcas can live 60 years and female orcas may reach 90 or more.
  • Animals in circuses spend 91 to 99 percent of their time confined in cages, carriers, or other enclosures.
  • An average of 24 horses die on US racetracks every week.
  • The infant-mortality rate for elephants in zoos is nearly triple what it is in the wild.
  • 92 percent of drugs that prove safe and therapeutically effective in animals fail in clinical trials using humans. Of the 8 percent of drugs that do pass clinical trials, more than half are found to have toxic or fatal effects that were not predicted by animal experiments.

I am not suggesting that speaking persuasively on behalf of animals requires us to have a ton of facts committed to memory, but there’s no question we should know the essentials and understand the issue we’re campaigning against. So before you get out there and table, or leaflet, or even write a letter to an editor, please educate yourself on the facts you’ll be presenting to the public. You are a voice for the animals, so speak with authority.

Last year, two Los Angeles-based animal activists—Tyler Lang and Kevin Olliff—were indicted under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) for allegedly releasing 2,000 mink and foxes from fur farms. They previously faced state charges of “possession of burglary tools” after a traffic stop in August 2013 in which police allegedly found wire cutters and other similar items in their vehicle. Tyler and Kevin both pleaded guilty to the state charges and served jail sentences.


Next week, the court will hear arguments on their attorneys’ motion to dismiss the federal charge based on the constitutionality of the AETA. They argue that the AETA is unconstitutional because it makes no distinction between loss caused by criminal acts and loss caused by boycotts and other constitutionally-protected activity, and that, in any event, punishing non-violent activity as “terrorism” is an unconstitutional denial of due process. This will be a landmark court battle for both activists and the US Constitution—and especially historic because it is the first time a judge will be ruling on the portion of the AETA that makes it a crime to cause a loss of property/profit. Arguments will be heard at 10am on February 19, 2015, at 219 South Dearborn Street, Chicago Illinois. All supporters wearing court-appropriate attire are encouraged to attend.

Tyler and Kevin each face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Beginning February 12, activists supporting Tyler and Kevin will be participating in a Global Week of Action Against the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. It will be seven days of talks, workshops, film screenings, protests, etc., to educate the public about federal laws that specifically target animal advocates whose work attempts to stop a person or company from profiting from the use of nonhuman animals.

Passed by Congress and signed into law in 2006, the AETA amended and expanded the Animal Enterprise Protection Act (AEPA). The act makes “damaging or interfering with the operations of an animal enterprise” or “intentionally plac[ing] a person in fear of death or serious bodily injury” federal crimes of terrorism. Needless to say, this Act could have ramifications for every animal activist in the United States; in standing up for Tyler and Kevin, we are standing up for our rights to speak out for animals everywhere.

Please send Kevin a letter of support:
(Note: Kevin Johnson is his legal name.)

MCC Chicago
Metropolitan Correctional Center
71 West Van Buren Street
Chicago, IL 60605

Tyler Lang was released from state custody in November 2013. He is currently out on bond awaiting trial on the federal charges.

For more details on the Global Week of Action Against the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, please check out the Facebook page. Also please visit the Kevin and Tyler support page.


Photo by Maria Villano

Photo by Maria Villano

I vividly recall my first meeting with Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. It was 10 years ago, and I interviewed her for Satya magazine. We both live in the Bay Area, so we met for lunch at a vegan restaurant not far from her home in Oakland. What I remember most is how busy Colleen was: screening Meet Your Meat to passersby on a sidewalk in nearby Berkeley, giving talks, writing about animals, teaching vegan cooking classes, promotiong a DVD she had recently created, and working a “day” job. Soon after, she launched a popular podcast called “Food for Thought,” which is still going strong. She also started an animal activist support group, and she invited me to participate. About five or six of us would get together every few weeks at Colleen’s house, and we’d bare our collective anguish over what we were learning about animal exploitation. It was therapeutic and educational, and when I came to write Striking at the Roots a couple years later, I made sure to devote a chapter to activist burnout and how to avoid it.

Fast forward a decade, and Colleen is now busier than ever. Gone is that day job, but she’s written a series of bestselling books, the latest of which is a completely new edition of The 30-Day Vegan Challenge, which she describes as a one-stop, comprehensive guide to making the vegan transition healthfully, confidently, and deliciously with over 100 nutritious plant-based recipes and meal ideas.” This is a truly beautiful book, filled with resources, advice, and the encouragement new vegans need as they embrace this compassionate ethic.

Being that this is January—a month in which many people around the world are taking veganism for a test drive—I thought this would be a great time to ask Colleen about her new book, her activism, avoiding burnout, and more.

What forms of animal activism do you feel stand the best chance of getting our movement’s message across to people?

I honestly think there is a need and room for all forms of activism. I do think that telling the stories of individual animals has a huge impact on public consciousness, and of course I think a lot of those stories can come from animal sanctuaries, which are really vital for saving lives of individual animals, but certainly sanctuaries is not the solution. They are just a stopgap. What we need to do is change systems, and that will happen in a number of ways: We need to change laws so animals are protected. We need to disrupt certain industries so that compassionate, cruelty-free products—food, personal care, clothing, medication, etc.—are widely available to the public or so that vivisection is no longer the norm. We need to close down animal-based circuses and zoos. We need to protect habitat for wild animals. We need to mainstream veganism and compassion.

So I think there are so many different ways to go about it and I think activists themselves will be the most effective when they’re doing things they are good at and enjoy.

What’s your favorite recipe for showing a die-hard meat-eater how delicious and satisfying a plant-based diet can be?

I’m all about making sure the food someone eats is as familiar to them as possible and as flavorful as possible. I talk a lot about how fat and salt create the satisfaction and familiarity people are used to. So I make a lot of dishes for non-vegans that are just made with ingredients they would make for themselves anyway and not call “vegan.” When they see that the food is delicious and in keeping with how they already eat, it has a huge impact on them. They realize they can do it themselves at home or order it in restaurants. And I definitely gravitate toward “comfort food” and stews like the Vegetable Pot Pie and The Smoky White Bean Chowder, both of which are in The 30-Day Vegan Challenge (New Edition). The Chowder recipe is at http://www.joyfulvegan.com/shop/the-30-day-vegan-challenge-new-edition)

OK, so you write, you teach, you have a podcast, you give talks, you have a vegan tour of Italy later this year—and more. Do you have a favorite way of sharing the vegan message?

I really enjoy all the mediums I work in, but I guess I would say I really love talking to people directly, so I do love the public lectures so much. I love the Q&A that follows the talks, I love the interaction with people, and I love moving people just through simple, compassionate dialogue.

Would you say that someone who is already vegan can also get something out of The 30-Day Vegan Challenge?

Photo by Maria Villano

Photo by Maria Villano

Absolutely! The amount of information in this book makes it a resource guide for everyone who’s already vegan or becoming vegan. I could just change the title and the chapter titles, and it’s THE ULTIMATE RESOURCE GUIDE FOR BEING A HEALTHY JOYFUL VEGAN. That’s really what it is. It’s also got more than 40 wonderful, brand-new recipes that don’t exist in any of my other books. And as far as vegans using it as an advocacy tool, it really is the book every vegan can give to anyone who asks any of the questions we get about being vegan.

You are so incredibly busy. What do you do to keep from getting burned out?

I think it’s so important to be part of a community for a number of reasons, and one of those reasons is that we keep each other in check and we create reasonable barometers for each other because it’s really easy to work so hard or do so much that we are not taking care of ourselves. And even though it’s cliché, the truth is we are less effective when we’re working in such a state that depletes us rather than feeds us. I know that I need people who love me to say, “You need to stop now; you need to go for a walk,” because I don’t know what’s reasonable. I suffer from the guilt that so many activists suffer from: that if I stop, I’m letting down the animals. But the truth is I do feel refreshed when I step away and do something that revives me. As far as staying hopeful, I believe that what we focus on is what we create and I choose to dwell in the hope that I do see all around me, in advances taking place, in people making changes. That’s what I choose to dwell on.

At any given moment we can choose to dwell on the hope or we can choose to dwell on the despair, and not only are we going to feel one or the other, but I believe that’s also what we will put out into the world. So we have to be gentle with ourselves and sometimes not expose ourselves to the things that make us sad or angry. Sometimes we need to have some cognitive dissonance and sometimes we just need to have a good cry. So I think between those things (community, dwelling on hope/being part of the solution, being gentle with ourselves, having a good cry when we feel it) is how I avoid getting burned out. Plus, I just have faith in the power of compassion and the good that is in people.

Can you give us a hint about your future plans? Any more books or other media coming?

I’m so committed to getting The 30-Day Vegan Challenge in as many hands as possible, so right now I’m really focused on making it mainstream. The entire package—the 30-Day Vegan Challenge as a concept—is very powerful and effective, and I really want to give it the attention it deserves. There’s the online program, and now there’s the new book. I’d love to record it as an audio book, I’d love to make it available to people all around the world in different languages, etc. But I also know that I really want to do television or rather short-form videos. I have a few television shows that I’m working on, so that’s really next in terms of big projects: one of them involves animals and one of them involves guiding people to becoming vegan. Both of these shows will enable me to inspire people and interact with animals. Doesn’t get better than that.

Follow Colleen on Twitter: @JoyfulVegan

Two thousand and fourteen was a year filled with much sad news for animals: beyond the billions of animals who died in slaughterhouses, there were horses run to death on race tracks, dolphins led to their demise in the bloody cove of Taiji, animals killed in zoos, and thousands of water buffalo slaughtered in a single mass sacrifice, for example. So let’s celebrate some of the many positive changes animal advocates were able to help enact this year. Here are 12 in chronological order.

1. Canada bans gestation crates for pregnant pigs (March)

When Canada’s animal ag industry announced in March that its new Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs would include a ban on GestationCratecontinuously confining pregnant sows in gestation crates, it was big news. These cages confine sows so tightly the animals can’t even turn around, and they are standard practice on pig farms throughout North America. The new guidelines from the National Farm Animal Care Council require all new or renovated facilities after July 1, 2014, to house pigs in groups rather than cruel gestation crates.

“This is a watershed moment for farm animals in Canada and throughout North America,” said Sayara Thurston, campaign manager with Humane Society International/Canada. “It signals the beginning of the end of archaic, extreme confinement systems that consumers simply don’t support and which other countries have long-since banned. There is still much advancement needed to improve the welfare of pigs raised on Canadian farms, but this Code of Practice is a monumental first step.”

2. International Court of Justice rules that Japan must halt whaling in the Southern Ocean (March)

The ICJ’s 16-judge panel ruled 12 votes to four in favor of Australia’s argument that Japan’s whaling program was not in fact designed and carried out for scientific purposes. The court ruled that Japan must revoke current whaling permits and refrain from issuing any more.

Almost as stunning as this decision was Japan’s announcement that it would abide by it. Stunning, but not definitive, since Japan’s whaling industry recently declared it would flout the decision and unveiled plans to resume Southern Ocean whaling in 2015. Looks like Sea Shepherd is due for another busy season in the Antarctic.

3. China Southern Airlines stops shipping primates to labs (March)

CSA was the only major commercial airline based in China that was still shipping primates to laboratories for use in cruel experiments. But after a relentless campaign by animal advocates around the world—including protests in Bangkok, Chicago, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, and Tokyo—Chen Qiuhua, senior cargo manager for the airline, finally stated that CSA will “stop transporting live primates for laboratory experiments on all flights of China Southern Airlines, effective from March 21, 2014.”

This leaves Air France as the only major airline in the world still willing to ship monkeys to labs. You can ask them to stop here.

4. Los Angeles City Council bans the use of bullhooks on elephants in circuses (April)

Bullhook being used on an elephant. Photo by PETA

Bullhook being used on an elephant. Photo by PETA

L.A. did more than vote unanimously to ban bullhooks—terribly cruel devices that resemble a fireplace poker. The law, which goes into effect in January 2017, also bans using pitchforks, baseball bats, ax handles, and other prods designed to inflict pain on elephants in circuses and other shows. “The treatment of elephants in traveling circuses is one of the crueler practices, and it’s time for us to stand up for them,” said Paul Koretz, the City Council member who sponsored the ban. He predicted that once Los Angeles outlawed circus elephants, other communities would follow. “At some point, this will be universally banned throughout the country,” he said. (He may be right, as you’ll see later in our list.)

5. World Trade Organization upholds the ban on seal fur (May)

When the WTO rejected an appeal by Canada and Norway to overturn the European Union’s four-year-old ban on seal fur, meat, and oil, it set a precedent that animal welfare can trump the right to trade. Thousands of seal pups are killed during the “hunting” season, often being shot and then clubbed to death. Indeed, more than 2 million seals have been killed in Canada since 2002, making the country’s commercial seal slaughter the largest killing of marine mammals on Earth. Because most Canadians oppose commercial sealing, the sealing industry relies almost exclusively on export markets to sell its products.

The decision by the WTO’s appellate body, which is final, found that complaints by Norway and Canada that their seal trade was being affected were outweighed by the EU’s objective of protecting seal welfare through the ban.

6. India becomes the best country in the world for nonhuman animals (May‒December)

Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration. But so much positive news for animals came of out India this year that I am just going to lump it all under one heading here. First off, in May, the country announced it was banning testing for cosmetic products and their ingredients on animals. This was followed by news in August that India banned animal dissection in universities, replacing it with digital alternatives. Then, in October, we learned that India had also banned the import of cosmetics tested on animals, making it the first animal-tested-cosmetics-free zone in South Asia. And in December, an Indian court declared that Raju, the “crying elephant” who was chained and abused for 50 years, could not be returned to his tormenters; he would remain in a sanctuary. Oh, and if you’d like to live in a meatless city, pack your bags for Palitana, India, recently declared to be a 100-percent vegetarian zone.

Let’s not forget this is the country that also banned dolphin shows in 2013, declaring dolphins and whales to be nonhuman persons.

7. Brazil bans most animal testing for cosmetics (June)

After anti-vivisection campaigners applauded the Brazilian state of São Paulo for banning the use of animals in cosmetics testing, Brazil’s federal government took note. A few months later, the country joined the European Union, India, Norway, and Israel in declaring a nationwide ban on the practice.

8. U.S. federal appeals court reinstates law on animal torture videos (June)

Ruling so-called “crush” videos that graphically depict animal cruelty are not a protected form of speech, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed a 2013 ruling by the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Texas, which had held that animal crush videos are not obscene and that the Act violated defendants’ First Amendment rights. In 2012, defendants Ashley Nicole Richards and Brent Justice were arrested in Houston and charged with violating the Act for producing and selling obscene videos of Richards torturing dogs, cats, and other animals for the sexual gratification of viewers.

The court concluded that “Congress has a significant interest in preventing the secondary effects of animal crush videos, which promote and require violence and criminal activity,” and that the ban is justified because these videos contain “wanton torture and killing that, as demonstrated by federal and state animal-cruelty laws, society has deemed worthy of criminal sanction.”

9. Southwest Airlines ends partnership with SeaWorld (July)

SouthwestBoth companies said the timing was coincidental, but animal advocates knew better. When Southwest announced it was terminating its 26-year marketing relationship with the king of orca exploiters, the move was clearly motivated by pressure from activists around the world who have urged the airline to end their partnership, saying the carrier was supporting animal cruelty. Call it the Blackfish effect.

Officially, Southwest and SeaWorld parted ways due to “shifting priorities.” But after a quarter century of mutual marketing (Southwest planes were emblazoned with orca and penguin images, while SeaWorld promoted the airlines in its parks), it is clear that Southwest hearing from its customers and the general public made all the difference.

10. Thailand passes its first animal welfare law (November)

It’s hard to believe we still live in a world where not every country has animal welfare laws, but that world got a little bit smaller this year as Thailand passed its first legislation covering companion animals as well as farmed animals, working animals, wild animals in captivity, and animals under human care. Police have been given the power to enter homes and businesses to investigate claims of animal abuse and neglect, and violators can be fined up to THB 40,000 (US$1,200) and/or up to two years in jail. The law has been criticized as being too broad and far from perfect, but then, can’t the same be said for the animal welfare laws of every country? Let’s celebrate this as a major step forward and praise the Thai government for acknowledging that animals have the right to legal protection.

11. U.S. military ordered to halt the use of live animals in medical training programs (November)

The U.S. military has long been one of the biggest abusers of animals, inflicting death and painful injuries on more than 300,000 dogs, cats, goats, pigs, mice, fish, sheep, birds, rabbits, rats, and nonhuman primates every year. One of their most controversial uses of animals has been for medical training programs—from the poisoning of monkeys to study the effects of chemical warfare agents to shooting goats with high-powered weapons in “wounds labs” so military medical personnel could practice treating them. As of January 1, 2015, live animals will be replaced with substitutes such as realistic human dummies and high-tech alternatives.

The Department of Defense ordered an end to the use of live animals thanks to campaigning from PETA and other vocal animal advocates. With the decision to change its policy, the U.S. joins 22 of 28 other NATO member nations that have already abolished the use of animals for training.

12. Oakland, Calif., bans bullhooks used on elephants (December)

What I love about this victory—and the similar one in Los Angeles earlier in the year—is that it not only means bullhooks will be illegal for use on “circus” elephants in the city, but that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which uses these implements of torture and lobbied against both bans, will be crossing Los Angeles and Oakland off its tour list after the bans take effect in 2017. Outlawing bullhooks in these two cities has encouraged lawmakers in other municipalities, including Austin, to consider bans. After the Los Angeles ban, the Rhode Island House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution urging circuses and other traveling animal shows to eliminate the use of bullhooks and other “harmful training practices” that cause elephants pain.

And if those 12 stories didn’t impress or inspire you, here are a baker’s dozen more from the year worth noting:

SeaWorld shares tank (all year)

Appeals court refuses to hear a challenge to foie gras ban in California (January)

California state legislator proposes a ban on the captivity of killer whales for entertainment (March)

Chicago passes law banning sales of commercially bred dogs, cats, and rabbits (March)

Vietnam will no longer permit the use of Draize rabbit eye tests for cosmetic products (May)

Salt Lake City bans horse-drawn carriages (November)

New Zealand rules out animal testing for cosmetics (November)

NYC considers bill to end horse-drawn carriage industry (December)

100th Spanish town bans bullfights (December)

Bans on circuses with animals continue to spread across Australia (December)

SeaWorld CEO resigns (December)

Mexican government votes to ban the use of animals in circus performances (December)

The Netherlands bans the use of animals in circuses (December)

Here’s to another year of victories for animals! Maybe we’ll even see a federal ban on animal testing on cosmetics in the U.S.


There is no holiday more focused on killing the members of a single species than Thanksgiving. Each November, more than 45 million turkeys end up onMark_meets_the_turkeys dinner plates in the US. Turkeys raised and killed for food are drugged to grow so large inside windowless factory farms that they are crippled by their own weight; indeed, they can no longer even reproduce naturally. Moreover, to prevent the birds from harming one another in the confined spaces of a factory farm, farmers clip their upper beaks in a painful procedure that makes it difficult for the turkeys to eat.

Fortunately, more and more people are giving thanks by making compassion the centerpiece of their table and opting for a cruelty-free holiday. From Tofurky Feasts and Field Roast products to a bounty of delicious plant-based recipes found in an ever-growing selection of vegan cookbooks, there’s no need to kill anyone this Thanksgiving.

Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur/Farm Sanctuary

Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur/Farm Sanctuary

One activity that has become especially popular is to visit a sanctuary for farmed animals and feed the turkeys. These so-called “ThanksLiving” events give us the opportunity to interact with these remarkable animals and treat them to pumpkin pie, cornbread, cranberries, and other goodies. I’ll never forget the first time I got to meet turkeys at Animal Place; they are so gentle and curious and enjoy being talked to and petted. Check out this excellent sanctuary guide from Vegan.com to find an event near you. (Tip: If you’re an animal activist, visiting or volunteering at an animal sanctuary and connecting with the animals is incredibly important.)

And if, like me, you love cooking up a feast, visit some of these sites for easy recipes and information on vegan eating:







Post Punk Kitchen



So enjoy a delicious, vegan Thanksgiving. After all, holidays are about family and friends—not death.

You might not know her name, but you probably know her work: vivid, haunting photographs that capture the exploitation of animals for food, fashion, experimentation, entertainment, WeAnimalsand more. Actually, the odds that you don’t know Jo-Anne McArthur’s name have gotten a lot less likely recently, with last year’s release of the documentary The Ghost in Our Machine (directed by Liz Marshall), in which she figures as the human subject, and the publication this year of the award-winning We Animals (Lantern Books), a collection of Jo-Anne’s photographs and the stories behind them.

A decade ago, Jo-Anne interned at Farm Sanctuary, so it’s no surprise she has a soft spot for the rescued animals there. Indeed, Jo’s lens is often also focused on animals who are no longer oppressed, though she’s documented animal abuse in more than 40 countries, frequently undercover. (And as I’ve mentioned here before, one of her photos is featured on the cover of Bleating Hearts.)

I asked the Toronto resident to offer some insights into her work and advice for other activists.

What inspired you to use your lens to help animals?

I’ve always been inspired by the change that photojournalists can help create. Their lenses are a door pried open into worlds, situations and conflicts that we wouldn’t otherwise see. Advice from my friend Larry Towell, a world-renowned photographer, helped put me on the right track. He told me to focus my work on what I knew best, and what I loved. And what I love is helping animals. I started the We Animals project over a decade ago and it has since become a large archive of animal rights issues and cruelty issues from around the globe. Stepping back, though, and looking at what we can all do to help animals – is to find what you love doing, what you’re good at doing, and employ those skills to make the world a better place for animals. There are so many ways that we can all help animals. Do it in the way that you know how to do it best. You can fundraise, write, campaign, make art, hold and host events, support other organizations, volunteer, speak out, leaflet, teach, cook, etc. If you’re doing what you enjoy doing and what you’re good at, your activism will last longer and be more effective.

Why do you believe photos are such a powerful activist tool?

Jo-Anne’s work includes photographing vigils led by Toronto Pig Save, which bears witness to the suffering of pigs en route to slaughter.

Jo-Anne’s work includes photographing vigils led by Toronto Pig Save, which bears witness to the suffering of pigs en route to slaughter. Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur

Photos are windows into what’s hidden, and when it comes to animals industries, from fur farming to “food animal” farming to bear bile farming, all of these things happen behind closed doors. Those who run these industries know that people may not want to support the cruelty that goes on there, if they knew, so it’s important to have good documentation of what these facilities are like, so that consumers can learn, and make more compassionate decisions. As we all know, images can instantly draw attention to an issue in a way that text can’t. They can make people feel instantly, be it empathy or revulsion or anger or happiness. Images are a key part of the animal rights movement.

What software, sites, etc., do you recommend activists use to share their work?

There are many sites and routes for publishing images. It’s easier than ever now, of course, because of social media. But to keep people’s attention, keep them coming back to your work, the work must be constant or at least consistent. Creating an audience will get people sharing your work on a regular basis as well. Tight, ruthless editing is key, and getting editing help (by editors or photographers whom you respect, for example) is important in your learning process as well.

It’s also helpful to reach beyond the choir. Your friends and animal-loving folk are going to like your work, but reach farther, so that people who need to know about animal issues can see the work. Send your images to local publications on a regular basis, offer to do a column or supply images regularly, so that you can broaden your reach and your audience.

What advice do you have for activists who are just starting off with photography and want to use it to advocate for animals?

Documenting the work of Sea Shepherd. Photo by Fiona McCuaig

Documenting the work of Sea Shepherd. Photo by Fiona McCuaig

Just start now. As Goethe famously wrote, “Begin it now.” You don’t need to be a traveler, and you don’t need to own expensive photo gear. Start close to home. Unfortunately, animal cruelty is all around us. It’s at the local meat markets. It’s at the pet stores, where exotic animals and dogs from puppy mills are sold for profit. It’s at the local zoo, or circus, or rodeo, or fishing hole. There is much to document. Just go out and document it, and share those images via social media, local media and wherever you can. Get creative about getting your photos out there. It’s important to take really great photos, too. People turn away from cruelty; no one wants to see it, so it’s important that the images are engaging, which will draw people in, make them wonder, make them ask questions. Don’t just take photos, but, tell a story. If you are a traveler, a great way to document animal issues is to volunteer for organizations who are helping animals. Be it at an oil spill, where groups are helping save lives, or at sanctuaries that are constantly bringing animals into their care. You can document their work, and so not only do they benefit from your donated photography, but it helps promote their work, and expose the issues at hand. I’ve done this for many groups, from Farm Sanctuary to Sea Shepherd, for groups helping birds at the Gulf oil spill to groups helping end the bushmeat trade across Africa. Whatever you want to or can photograph, begin it now. The animals need you.

You see a lot of terribly distressing things in your work for animals. What do you do to keep from burning out?

Mama cow with newborn calf at dairy farm. Soon they will be separated so humans can steal mama's milk. Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur

Mama cow with newborn calf at dairy farm. Soon they will be separated so humans can steal mama’s milk. Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur

This is what so many activists struggle with. My best advice is to nurture your joy. I know that it can be hard to do that when there are billions of animals suffering at every moment. How can we be happy when this is going on? The animal rights movement has seen too many people jump in and then burn out only a few years later, because the issues are so distressing, and people aren’t taking care of themselves. Yes, there is a global emergency for animals. All the more reason to pace yourself so that you can help animals for as long as you possibly can. Whatever you need to do to look after yourself, don’t neglect doing that. Whether you need community or silence, being active of being meditative, or all of the above, look after yourself so that you have the energy to continue the fight.

It’s hard to do this. I know this! I’ve almost burned out a few times, and have needed therapy, and tools, to help myself not focus exclusively on the suffering of animals, and stay focused on creating change. A really great book that has helped me deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the onset of depression in the face of so much cruelty has been Aftershock by pattrice jones. It’s a great and useful read for activists of all kinds, who struggle with finding balance, self-care, and living in a world where most people don’t understand your point of view. Please go out and get yourself that book!

You can follow Jo-Anne on Twitter @WeAnimals. Visit her website at WeAnimals.org.

Vegetarian and Vegan Youth—or VegYouth for short—is high school group created last summer by Chloe Falkenheim. The group is an international network of more than 50 student club leaders—and growing—that provides inspiration and support needed to ensure that their activism is successful. “We are the place for like-minded student activists to have regular discussions,” says Chloe, “and we provide mentoring opportunities, activism guides, a student activist of the month with a $250 prize, and a connection to the broader movement.” I asked Chloe to explain why VegYouth is unique, what motivates her activism, and what inspired her.

You went vegan at 13. What inspired you to make this change at such a young age–and what kind of support did you get?

1937430_749951995057630_5485090348623836842_nMy story dates back to when I was three years old. I had just finished watching the movie Chicken Run and came to the shocking revelation that chicken indeed does come from chickens. And then when I was six years old, I read Charlotte’s Web and decided to never eat pork again, and became vegetarian when I was nine.

I became vegan at age 13 after learning about a vegan celebrity, but became passionate after looking into the eyes of animals in my first factory farm video and learning about the interconnection between animal rights, environmental, health, and social justice causes. I realized that literally the best thing we can do to prevent suffering overall is to create a much more vegan society.

I was incredibly fortunate that my parents supported, though sometimes reluctantly, my choices, as so many youth are held back from living compassionately due to lack of parental support. I created VegYouth to help youth overcome any lack of support and help them change their diets.

Like many teens, though I fit in mostly, I was teased by my friends for being vegan. I also never met another vegan for the first two years. This led me to recognize and really appreciate the importance of community in staying vegan, and I was determined to create a community for veg teens.

What forms of activism do you enjoy most?

School clubs are my favorite form of activism.

Imagine if every non-vegan was exposed to a positive vegan message every single day, was given an opportunity to try vegan food every single month, had access to delicious vegan options whenever they dined out, and was surrounded by a friendly community which provided them all the support they need to change their lifestyle.

This is a reality I achieved with my high school club, persuading my school cafeteria to add vegan options, running awareness raising campaigns that reached every student, adding plant-based nutrition to our schools health curriculum, starting a vegan mentoring program, and more. This is a reality we could achieve with veg school clubs on every high school and college.

Student groups are so effective because schools are where students spend their day, and because peer-to-peer activism between students is most effective. Students have a voice in their schools, while outside activists don’t.

Was it difficult to start VegYouth Alliance?

Starting a high school club was one of the most difficult things I did, and I found no support or resources to help me out. I made mistakes and did not have any guidance to implement my projects, and often felt discouraged by lack of positive feedback and the slow speed it took to make changes at my school. But I learned a lot from my mistakes, wanted to pass on my trial-and-error learning, and hungered to connect with other groups to share ideas, tips, success, questions, and community with other club leaders.

I also realized that what I did with my club would not make a dent unless it was replicated everywhere. If only a few students learned about why to go veg, that wouldn’t make a huge difference. But if students at schools everywhere in the world took action, that would make a huge shift. I wanted to spark that societal shift! Therefore, I created the VegYouth Alliance.

What can we expect from VegYouth as you begin another year of outreach?

chloeExpect to see more youth engaged in the movement, changing their diets, talking to their family and peers about these issues, and beginning activism! We’ll be recruiting more school clubs to join the VegYouth Alliance from states across the U.S. and in countries around the world. And we’ll be expanding our online community to provide support to young vegetarians and vegans. We’ll also be improving our programs based on feedback from youth, adding more articles and guides to our website, speaking at vegfests to expand our outreach, and becoming an official non-profit.

How can people get involved and support VegYouth?

Donate in honor of our one-year anniversary. We also have a bunch of ideas for simple ways you could raise funds for VegYouth, like a bake sale, rummage sale, or with race pledges.

Join us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and if you’re a veg youth, join our Facebook group.

Intern with us!

What do you do to de-stress from a day of activism?

I run regularly, and I’m doing cross country next year!

I love people and hanging out with friends, and I love listening to music and watching movies. I’m obsessed with the musical Wicked. I also play the flute.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog (well, of the blogs I infrequently post here, anyway), you know that I’ve written a couple times about the power of online activism – notably here and here. While there are other forms of advocacy I prefer, I don’t think there’s any question that online petitions have become an influential force in the movement. We need look no further than SeaWorld for evidence.

Yesterday’s news that Southwest Airlines is ending its quarter-century relationship with SeaWorld came as a surprise to no one who has noted SA_SeaWorldthe growing popularity – and power – of petitions hosted on social-change platforms like Care2 and Change.org. Southwest’s marketing partnership irked many of its customers, leading some to boycott the airline altogether. One such customer was Robin Merritt, who launched a petition on Change.org calling on Southwest executives and its board of directors to dump SeaWorld. “Southwest Airlines has a choice,” read the petition. “Will it support the animal cruelty at SeaWorld or make a compassionate choice to end this partnership of cruelty?” More than 32,000 people signed the petition with a simple click, and the air carrier finally made the compassionate choice.

“I started my petition on Change.org because Blackfish got so many people talking about how these orcas are confined to tiny tanks, and then 32,000 people joined me,” said Robin. “I’m so ecstatic. This just goes to show that companies do really value customers’ opinions, and I thank Southwest for listening to us and making this decision.”

This was just the latest in a string of anti-SeaWorld victories animal advocates have been celebrating in recent months, and let’s be honest, we owe a lot of thanks to Blackfish – that heart-wrenching 2013 documentary that is turning the tide against animal captivity. The film has not only raised public awareness about the plight of confined and exploited marine mammals, but it’s inspired scores of everyday animal lovers to launch online petitions against SeaWorld and other businesses that keep animals. And we’re experiencing a sea change.

Last year, says Pulin Modi, senior campaigner at Change.org, people launched successful petitions asking Willie Nelson, Barenaked Ladies, Heart, and other musical acts to cancel scheduled SeaWorld performances. “I think they were successful because the petitions were generally started by fans who were very sincere in their disappointment, and the artists realized it probably wasn’t worth risking their reputation for one show, and the right timing with people buzzing about Blackish on social media.”

When it comes to online petitions, strategy is more important than the number of signatures. “You can have one million people asking Congress to shut down all the factory farms, but that’s not winnable at the moment and not terribly interesting,” says Pulin. “But if you can get people to get behind a specific campaign to pressure an influential company to make a change, that’s more likely to win, appeal to media, and show the power of consumers.” One example he offers is Daelyn Fortney, whose  Change.org petition urging Starbucks to stop using a food coloring made from crushed bugs got fewer than 7,000 signatures. “But the media coverage was pretty widespread and led to a relatively quick decision from Starbucks to switch to a non-animal-based coloring.”

So what makes one petition more successful than another? “There are free tips and guides for everyone right on Change.org,” says Pulin. “The main advice I have is to tell an authentic, compelling story where your ask is realistic, the timeline is clear, and you are clear why someone signing your petition can actually make a difference. For animal campaigns, a compelling photo is especially important. Then share it on your social networks, notify reporters, and constantly – but politely – try to engage with the decision-maker to make sure they see it as a way you’re bringing concerns to them rather than approaching it antagonistically.”

Oh, and after your victory, don’t forget to do what Robin Merritt will do this weekend: celebrate!


Kim Stallwood is not only a longtime animal activist and a terrific chef, he is, in my opinion, one of the wisest voices in the movement. His campaigning experience includes working with the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, Compassion in World Farming, PETA, and the RSPCA. He also co-founded the Animals and Society Institute in 2005 and is their European director. In addition, Kim was the executive editor of The Animals’ Agenda (1993–2002), and he is the editor of Speaking Out for Animals and A Primer on Animal Rights.

GROWLNow, finally, comes Kim’s first book. Growl: Life Lessons, Hard Truths, and Bold Strategies from an Animal Advocate was just published by Lantern Books. Kim took some time out to answer some of my burning questions.

Growl is such a terrific read, and you have been an activist for many years, I have to wonder, why did it take so long to write your first book?

The simple truth is that I couldn’t have written it until now. I had to accrue from a lifetime of working for animals a deeper understanding of what caring profoundly about them truly meant. I needed to learn that, although we humans are capable of unimaginable malice towards other living beings, we can also be astonishingly kind. It was necessary to gain a comprehension of animal rights—and through that wisdom discover not only the transformative potential of kindness towards animals but how we need to apply that kindness to ourselves—to realise that although animal rights is, of course, about our relationship with nonhuman creatures, it’s also about locating meaning in our lives and finding out who we truly are.

I don’t think I’m giving anything away by saying the premise of Growl hinges on what you call four key values, which must animate our commitment to animal rights. Can you elaborate on this a bit?

I came to the conclusion over a period of time that at the centre of any effort towards implementing social justice—whether for human or nonhuman animals-there are four key values:

Compassion: our motivation for helping animals

Truth: our ethical relations with animals

Nonviolence: our value in the relations we have with animals

Justice: our commitment to all animals

Not only are these principles more powerful in combination than singularly, but they’re ones that most of us have already accepted for other members of our species (although perhaps only recently, and still only partially). These values, therefore, possess a certain strategic value, since they form a quartet that people who may not share our dedication to reducing animal suffering can understand. Growl explores these values in detail.

One of the successes you discuss is the anti-fur campaigning in the 1980s and how your protests and the protests of several others brought a once substantial industry to a halt in the UK. What lessons can activists in other countries take from your campaigns and apply to their own anti-fur activism?

The UK anti-fur campaign was over a prolonged period of time and involved many individuals and organisations and different tactics. Generally, the campaign was successful because it positioned fur as an indefensible and inexcusable product. The secret to its success was the combined strategy of public education and public policy. This approach is the one that I advocate for all animal rights campaigns. Presently, we tend to focus more on public education (lifestyle choice) than public policy. The reality is that if we want laws for animals we have to get involved with the political process.

You once worked in a chicken slaughterhouse. How does that experience inform your activism today?

Kim Stallwood and Shelly

Kim Stallwood and Shelly

When I was a full-time student, I worked one summer in a nearby chicken slaughterhouse, and since it paid well, would only last 10 weeks, and I wanted to buy my first used car, it looked like an attractive option. I cooked and ate chickens without thinking about them, so why not work where they were slaughtered?

I spent 10 weeks that summer on the post-slaughter section of the production line, and I could never bring myself to watch the birds as they were killed. I also couldn’t buy the oven-ready chickens that were offered for sale at a reduced rate as an employee benefit every Friday afternoon. Nonetheless, I continued to eat chicken bought elsewhere—naively believing that, because my plant wasn’t where they were killed, I wasn’t directly responsible for their death.

I was only one of several students who spent the summer of 1973 working inside a chicken slaughterhouse. Because I’ve lost touch with all my workmates I’ve no idea if our shared experience impacted them in the same way that it did me. I recall them as working-class folks and wives of soldiers living nearby in the military barracks. I doubt very much they had the same freedom as I did to walk away from something they’d rather not be doing. For many, working in a slaughterhouse may have been the only employment available in that region and/or for those with few skills or little education—particularly as Britain was undergoing economic retrenchment at the time.

This situation is as true today as it was 40 years ago. Slaughterhouses sometimes provide the only work options in small towns or rural areas around the United States and other parts of the world—particularly for the poor and financially insecure, women and racial minorities among them. Annual job turnover can sometimes be higher than a hundred percent. Sectors of the U.S. animal industrial complex have broken laws by employing undocumented migrant workers who, because they fear deportation, have little recourse to protesting poorly compensated labour and a dangerous working environment.

Any genuine exercise of compassion here would require not only the acknowledgement of the mistreatment of the animals, but also a recognition that the workers inside—whatever their individual feelings regarding animals might be—are also being exploited by a system that dehumanises as well as kills sentient beings.

So, yes, the slaughterhouse experience transformed my sense of social justice and commitment to social justice practice to recognise not only the chickens but also the working-class folks who worked there.

How do you think animal activism has changed since the 1980s?

In some respects, it hasn’t changed, and that’s the problem. Animal rights is still very much framed as an optional lifestyle choice. How we become animal advocates frames how we seek to influence others. If we can change through a moral shock, then so can you. Sadly, not everyone is going to respond favourably to the moral shock of animal cruelty and exploitation. That’s why we need public policy and legislation with tough enforcement. Presently, we focus more on cruelty-free lifestyle choice than anything else. Now, this campaigning work has to continue and, indeed, by and large, it has done so for the four decades that I’ve been involved. But we need to broaden our understanding of where power lies in society as it’s not just with the individual but with the institutions that constitute society. This is why public policy development is so important. The biggest difference in tactics between now and the 1980s is the Internet and all that it has made possible. How I wished we’d had social media much earlier!

What activism advice would 2014 Kim give to 1984 Kim?

In Growl I imagine an exchange between Kim the Chef and Kim the Vegelical-the name I call ‘evangelising vegans,’ of which I am one, although a bit more tempered as I get older. So, my advice would be to the 1984 Kim is to read Growl, as this is the book I wished I could’ve read when I became involved with animal rights. Within Growl’s pages aren’t solutions to every problem; however, it does, I hope, contain wisdom and insight that only experience can bring. Of course, you can lead a young animal activist to Growl but you can’t make them read it. Sometimes, human nature is such that all we can do is learn through our experiences when they cannot be taught for whatever reason.


You can learn more about Kim and his work at http://www.kimstallwood.com. Follow him on Twitter: @grumpyvegan


Back in April, I attended a small animal rights conference at Golden Gate University in San Francisco. Organized by activist Andrea Gung, the Conference on Animal Welfare in Mainland China and Taiwan featured topics ranging from the farming of bears for bile to China’s ever-growing fur industry. But what I was most eager to learn about were new efforts to halt the annual dog meat festival in YuLin, Guang Xi, a city in southern China. Andrea, a vegan and founder of Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project, addressed this issue, as her group began campaigning to end the festival last October.

dog meat festivalIt’s a mischaracterization to say everyone in China eats dogs, but there’s no denying the popularity of the YuLin Dog Meat Festival, where tens of thousands of canines arrive on filthy, overcrowded trucks, significantly increasing the risk that they carry rabies and other contagious diseases. YuLin officials maintain that the dogs are raised by local farmers, which is a ridiculous claim: many of these dogs are still wearing collars as they are removed from the tiny cages, and others are clothed in the outfits their guardians dressed them in the day they were stolen. Every dog is then slaughtered for human consumption, often right on the street in front of children. This year’s festival is slated for June 21.

I asked Andrea to explain a bit about the festival and her group’s efforts to shut it down.

When and why did the festival start?

In YuLin, local people have had this tradition for years, but it was a very small scale. Since 2009, some local merchants decided to make it a bigger event to attract out-of-town tourists to make more money.

Where do the dogs used for the festival come from?

They are from all over China, but most of the dogs are from adjacent provinces (less transportation cost). About 10,000 to 50,000 dogs are killed during the festival. There are no official records to verify how many are killed.

Are you seeing an increase in animal activism in China?

Yes, especially in the last 5 or 6 years. Here are two of the reasons:
1) Social networking. Because of the spread of social networking and video/photo sharing among young people, awareness of animal cruelty issues has increased dramatically, and the animal rights movement is growing. Photos from past festivals have sparked outrage in mainland China.

2) Many young adults who grew up in China under the one-child policy had pets as their companions, and today they feel more compassion toward animals and have less toleration for animal cruelty than the previous generations.

Besides the festival, what does your work for animals include?

At this time, all our work and resources are for stopping this festival. After the festival, we are going to work on the dog and cat meat trade in GuzngZhou, which has more dog meat consumption. It’s just more spread out and has gone underground, not like YuLin, where it’s out in the public and open. We are also going to start our neutering and micro-chip campaigns. We believe we have to start from the top to stop the dog-stealing business. We will also help the Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan — one of the guest speakers at the conference — to reach out to Taiwanese-American communities about the animal welfare for the farm animals and lab animals issues in Taiwan.

Andrea Gung, founder and executive director of Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project

Andrea Gung, founder and executive director of Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project

What can compassionate people do to help end the festival?

Spread the word and tell people about this cruel festival. Share our campaign on Facebook and tweet about it.

Use any connections in China or the U.S. that can help with our campaign, such as the FDA, which can put pressure on the FDA in China to stop this festival on the grounds of health concerns. Dogs are killed in a filthy back alley, and the meat is not inspected; some of the dogs are poisoned. Write to or call the U.S. ambassador and diplomatic offices in China. Call Chinese embassies in the U.S. Donate to our campaign so we can hire more local people to do the ground work, which includes calling the YuLin local officers daily to ask for the inspection records of the meat, to make sure the restaurants have the legal license to sell dog meat, to show proof of the legal ownership of the dogs in the cages. Also, to fund more ads — billboards or radio — to educate local YuLin people that the dogs they eat are stolen and poisoned.

Please visit the Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project site for more information. You can also “like” their Facebook page

Oh, and, no, I don’t believe dogs are more deserving of our protection than other animals killed for food. I just wanted to highlight Andrea’s hard work.


Welcome to the official blog for Striking at the Roots by Mark Hawthorne, your source for interviews, profiles, and advice for more effective animal activism.

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