Unny’s participation in animal advocacy

I am looking forward to attending the Animal Rights National Conference this week!

At around this time last year, it became clear that I didn’t have the clarity I needed to start a new animal advocacy organization. And I have not taken an ongoing leadership position in the movement since leaving Compassionate Action for Animals in 2016. I want to let my fellow advocates that I will see at the conference know what I have been up to! And anybody else who is interested. I can’t cover it all, but here’s a few of the things:

Wellness Day Schedule

Wellness Day

  • What I have done: Last year at the conference I attended the mediation session the the day before the conference. I was inspired to plan my own wellness day for animal advocates which I hosted in March of 2018.
  • Reflections: Since I wrote a recap of the event, I also attended a very similar retreat in May and led a discussion about sustainable activism there. The retreat was also inspiring and I may work on a retreat in the future. The host, Nina, will hold another retreat for advocates August 3-5. I will attend the meditation again at this year’s Animal Rights conference, and I encourage you to join me. I am considering planning future wellness events.

Brita, rooster friend, and I at Rooster Redemption. Photo by Lauren Thrift.

Visiting farm animal sanctuaries

  • What I have done: I have visited three new farm animal sanctuaries in the last year. I spoke briefly at a fundraiser for Spring Farm Sanctuary, talking about my investigations at factory farms long ago. Years after those investigations, I realized that the most important reason for doing them was to be able to tell the animals’ stories. However, what was lacking in my stories were names of specific farm animals and their lives and struggles. And this is why I am passionate about farm animal sanctuaries: they give the opportunity for people to meet and get to know individual farm animals, see and experience their personalities, and appreciate that they are all valuable individuals. I organized an independent trip with a few friends to SoulSpace Sanctuary, and most recently I went to the grand opening of Farmaste and Rooster Redemption.
  • Reflections: I am glad that there are now several farm animal sanctuaries near Minneapolis. I hope they can engage many people.

Gender inequity in the movement

  • What I have done: Earlier this year, there was a lot of exposure about sexual harassment in the animal protection movement. Many of us including myself have known about this (in a broad sense, but not specifics) for some time. Since I have been thinking about intersectionality more for the last couple of years, I wrote to many people who will be speaking at the animal rights conference to ask if they could talk about gender equity at some point in their talks. Many people responded positively! I also have had several conversations about what more can be done. I have also looked at my own behavior and how it has been sexist, and this has been challenging.
  • Reflections: It is scary to try to be a cis male heterosexual ally, but I think our movement is hurt when everybody is not able to participate fully. Most of the movement is made up of women and femmes, but most of the recognized leadership is male. I hope to continue the conversation about how to challenge sexual harassment in the movement at the conference. Part of the challenge involves recognizing the ways I have personally contributed to this problem, both by my own behaviors and complicity in others, and holding men to a higher standard with compassion and love.

Fundraising for CTUL

  • What I have done: This is my full time job! I raise money, primarily from individuals, for a local worker’s rights group.
  • Reflections: It is a relief to have so much less responsibility! I focus time on networking and developing relationships, which I enjoy. Just like Compassionate Action for Animals, CTUL is community based and most of our supporters are local people who are part of our community. And many I knew before I worked at CTUL. It has been humbling to work with people who I have a lot of respect for. I have seen them show a lot of talent in organizing but more importantly, I have seen them care for people around them. We are an intersectional group but so far that has not included animals and I am not clear on what would be good steps to take there. People have been friendly about the topic. I enjoy working with my coworkers, volunteers, members, and donors, I am involved in making change to challenge oppression, and I continue to learn more about fundraising and making social change.

Other things I have been up to:

  • In 2016 and 2017, I was a camp counselor at YEA Camp, where I worked with teenage animal activists. This was incredibly rewarding and challenging, but I decided not to do it again because it wasn’t quite the right fit. I am still interested in both working with youth and developing activists, and I have been mulling over ideas on how to do this
  • I have been meditating regularly. As I mentioned above, I have become more interested in the connection between meditation, wellness, and activism, and now see cultivating universal compassion by focusing inwards as part of my activist journey.
  • I hosted a book club on This is An Uprising and continually studying social change movements. Currently I am reading The Revolution Will Not Be Funded.
  • I occasionally volunteer at Compassionate Action for Animals events and attend other animal related events such as Anonymous for the Voiceless. I like to continue to be part of the community, learn about what others are doing, and help out!
  • I have regular conversations with fellow activists that I both try to learn from and also provide encouragement to show up as our best and most powerful selves to advocate for animals. I find this incredibly rewarding.

Final reflections

I have found myself in a place that I have seen many other people in before, where they feel committed but participate more at the margins because their role and leadership is unclear. I hope I can follow what I would recommend to people in that situation: keep participating, growing, learning, and take a stronger leadership role when it feels right. I find this to be a hard place to be.

A final question for you: If I had a blog/email list/podcast where I posted once/month or so, would you follow it? Let me know in the comments below or contact me directly. I am interested in writing and talking about more that would help you have the wisdom and tools to be more powerful and loving animal advocates, and I am curious as to what you need.

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