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An Interview with Jay Shooster of NYC United for Animals

By Lauren Choplin


On Oct. 27 at the NYU School of Law, the Nonhuman Rights Project will join hundreds of other animal advocates for NYC United for Animals‘ first-ever forum! NYC United for Animals is a platform for new and established advocates to collaborate and maximize our efforts for animals. If you’re in the area, we encourage you to join us for what promises to be an exciting and empowering event.

I recently spoke to Jay Shooster—one of the founders of NYC United for Animals and the NhRP’s Social Media Manager before he left for law school in 2013—about what the coalition hopes to achieve. Jay is now a Research Fellow at the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at the NYU School of Law and Associate Editor at Just Security.

LC: How did this coalition come about?

There are so many activists out there craving a more unified and organized movement for animals. Some friends and I decided that we really just needed to take the lead on making it happen. And now we are!

LC: In your view, what about our present moment makes it ideal for this sort of event?

JS: We are on the verge of a historic political moment for animals. We are seeing marches of tens of thousands of activists in major cities across the world. Leading presidential candidates are addressing animal rights issues in their platforms for the first time. The titans of the animal exploitation industry are suffering decisive defeats at the hands of animal advocates over and over again.

But much more importantly, the present moment is ideal because it has to be. The chimpanzee trapped behind bars in a barren laboratory cannot afford for us to wait any longer to unite. The mother cow crying for her kidnapped calf can’t afford for us wait until next year to get organized. The fish struggling for her last breath on the deck of a fishing boat cannot afford for us to wait. Ending these horrors just one day sooner means saving the lives of millions or even billions of individuals. Now is the time to join forces and end these atrocities once and for all.

LC: What aspect of the forum are you most looking forward to? How do you envision attendees feeling afterwards?

JS: I have had several unforgettable epiphanies in the past few years where I just cried tears of joy thinking to myself “oh my god, we’re really changing the world.” That’s what I’m most looking forward to (although I’m going to try and hold back the tears).

More than anything, I believe people are going to feel a real sense of meaning, like they are part of something so much bigger than themselves—not just a community, but a genuinely noble community playing a pivotal role in a historic movement for justice.

LC: I have to ask you to share what you’ve been doing since you worked with the NhRP—in part because I already know the answer is interesting! How would you describe the trajectory of your work since 2013 and its relationship to the NhRP’s core mission?

JS: Thanks! Since I left the NhRP, I’ve oriented my time around developing a better understanding of and network in the broader political and social ecosystem that exists around the NhRP’s core work. As the NhRP understands very well, the courts don’t exist in a vacuum, and if we want to achieve meaningful justice for animals, it will take a deep understanding of and relationships in other political institutions, social movements, and organizations engaging in a whole range of advocacy tactics. My work with the Department of Justice, Direct Action Everywhere, the NAACP LDF, and now at Just Security have all been essential to my ongoing role as a friend and advisor to the NhRP.

Thanks, Jay! To learn more about the forum and/or RSVP, visit the Facebook event page. We hope to see you there!

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