While at the Animal Rights 2017 National Conference this past weekend, I met hundreds of amazing advocates and learned about several groups who are working to make this world a better place for nonhuman animals. To say it was inspiring would be an understatement!
The exhibit hall, where I spent most of my time, illustrated both the sheer number of issues nonhuman animals face because of humans—and, just as importantly, all the ways humans are trying to help them. The hall is where different groups, including nonprofit organizations and companies, set up booths to talk about what they’re doing and why. While I certainly applaud the work being done by nearly everyone there, three organizations that had a presence at the conference really stood out to me: Encompass, Condition One, and Animal Charity Evaluators.
Why did they stand out? Because, alongside more conventional animal advocacy organizations that are directly fighting animal cruelty, they’re working to make all animal advocacy organizations more effective and more diverse, with better tools at their disposal. Here’s how:
You’ve probably never heard of Encompass—reason being, they’re brand new—but it’s already easy to see just how much potential they have to change the world. Their mission is simple: “[to foster] greater racial diversity, equity, and inclusion while empowering advocates of color.” Their vision is clear: “A thriving animal protection movement that operates at its fullest potential because it reflects the racial diversity of the United States while its organizations and advocates embrace a culture of inclusion and equity.”
Founded by Aryenish Birdie after she saw firsthand the need to make our movement more diverse and inclusive, Encompass’s advisory council consists of animal advocates who’ve already brought to the table an impressive variety of achievements and insights. They’re now using their skills and experiences to address head-on the lack of racial diversity and inclusion in the animal rights movement. As I know from working on dozens of grassroots campaigns across the US, this long overlooked issue has caused our movement to be ineffective among communities of color and made countless people of color feel unwelcome as equal partners in the fight to help nonhuman animals. As Encompass points out, in less than 30 years, the majority of the US population will be people of color, and Encompass aims to make sure that every single person who cares about winning rights for nonhuman animals is welcomed and, most importantly, respected.
And the need to be inclusive of and attentive to diverse voices extends beyond the US as well. I agree wholeheartedly with Animal Equality’s Jaya Bhumitra who writes, in a blog post for Encompass, that “our goal as animal advocates extending our reach abroad is not to dominate. Rather, it’s to prevent the domination of animals who are themselves subjugated.” That’s one reason our international legal working groups won’t necessarily take the same approach to securing nonhuman animals’ fundamental rights as we have in the US. Rather than impose our approach on them, we want members of these groups to decide for themselves, based on their own assessment of relevant legal and cultural factors, what kind of approach makes the most sense.
— Unbound (@unboundproject) August 5, 2017
I have no doubt that Encompass, under Aryenish’s leadership, will be responsible for exponentially increasing the effectiveness of the animal rights movement and creating real and lasting progress for the years to come—all while helping humans, too.
Virtual reality is one of the most important tools animal advocates now have. Never before have we been able to truly experience the world from the perspective of a nonhuman animal. The leader in the VR industry, Condition One (C1) has partnered with organizations such as Farm Sanctuary, Animal Equality, and Direct Action Everywhere to “produce powerful immersive experiences that shed light on animal suffering.” I’m grateful their booth was right next to ours, not just because of the work they do but because the three women who were running it are three of the most compassionate, impressive people I’ve ever met!
Before this past weekend, I had never experienced VR as an advocacy tool. In the exhibit hall, I put on a VR headset and was whisked away to encounter bison on the Great Plains, stand alongside a grizzly bear foraging for food, fly with a million beautiful Monarch butterflies, among other moving and powerful experiences. Besides being just plain cool, this tool is effective because it helps people better understand what nonhuman animals need to thrive and what it means to destroy or take them away from their natural habitats. Some of C1’s pieces transport you to the frontlines of animal suffering, into egg-laying factory farms where hens spend their entire lives in tiny cages, an LA Animal Save vigil, and a pig farrowing crate facility where you take part in the rescue of a dying piglet. I’ve personally seen these VR experiences move people to tears because it gives us, humans, some ability to understand and feel what it must be like to live in the hellish conditions that billions of nonhuman animals endure every day in factory farms, research facilities, and circuses.
Founded in 2010 by Danfung Dennis, an Academy Award-nominated documentary filmmaker, C1 will and is playing a significant role in bringing about historic victories for nonhuman animals in the years to come. I greatly enjoyed meeting their crew at AR and look forward to working with them to bring a VR experience of our clients to you!
Animal Charity Evaluators
Investing in compassion is a noble and important thing to do. Without funds, an organization like mine can’t change the course of history for nonhuman animals. But where to give your hard-earned money isn’t always obvious. In steps Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE), whose mission is to “[aid] compassionate givers, professionals, and volunteers in making informed decisions about how to help animals as effectively as possible.” With more than 30,000 animal charities in the US, the evidence- and analysis-based insights they provide to donors and organizations alike are invaluable.
Not least of all because of the extensive, meticulous research that goes into ACE’s reviews, the NhRP is proud to have been recognized as an ACE Standout Charity for our work to secure legal personhood and rights for nonhuman animals. It signals to our donors that we take seriously their financial support and strive to use their gifts with the highest, most practically effective impact in mind.
ACE’s mission is simple but the work involved is complex and critical for ensuring that funds are given to animal charities that are most likely to have a positive, concrete impact on the lives of nonhuman animals.
Want to help animals? We can help you make the biggest difference for them. pic.twitter.com/4xMEKYgNbC
— ACE (@AnimalCharityEv) October 13, 2016