Campaign manager, graphic designer, teacher – these are a few of the limitless possibilities for individuals in search of a career in the animal advocacy field. If one has the required passion, no matter what education they have, they can build a lifelong career in this social justice space. The assortment of jobs demonstrate the variety available in this field. Just like any other department, nonprofit animal organizations also need accountants, researchers, and social media consultants. As evident by this wide variety of careers, any skill set can be used to create a positive impact for factory farmed animals.For those hoping to enter this field in the near future, read on for advice from two successful animal advocates.
“I didn’t grow up knowing that I wanted a career in animal advocacy, but I sort of fell into it and found it extremely rewarding, both in the sense that I am surrounded by people that are focused on ending so much suffering and also the camaraderie with colleagues and volunteers and being around like-minded people,” said Miranda Harrington, a Field Organizer at The Humane League (THL). The Humane League aims to end the abuse of animals raised for food, so Harrington is one of many field organizers working to gather volunteers, who will convene in public to protest the slaughtering of farm animals in the United States and abroad.
Harrington began her career at twenty years old when she became vegan and a few months later applied for an internship with Faunalytics, a nonprofit organization that empowers animal advocates with data that will strengthen the effectiveness towards their goal of reducing animal suffering. A couple years later, she joined a campus organizing program with The Humane League, which led to her gaining a full-time position there. At this remote job, Harrington works with volunteers across multiple states on animal advocacy initiatives, corporate veg advocacy, media outreach, and fostering the growth of a passionate group of individuals into becoming a community.
As her first full-time job relating to animal rights, Harrington said that although she never expected to enjoy such a public-facing career, “it started to grow on [her] and [she] realized how rewarding it is to constantly meet people who want to give their time for free to this issue.” Throughout her time working with THL, Harrington has developed a new perspective on the variety of jobs that relate to animal advocacy. “Now I feel like it’s really common that people with for-profit industry experience at some point find that they want to use those skills for a cause they care about… and they come into the nonprofit space. I’ve seen a lot of growth in nonprofits and people with more traditional experience coming into the organization and making it more professional.”
Harrington’s advice to advocates who hope to enter the animal advocacy field in the future is most importantly to volunteer at organizations that hold similar values and fight for what they are passionate about. She recalled a message that David Coman-Hidy, the former president of The Humane League, often said. Coman-Hidy recommended that students focus on a specific topic in school because the animal protection industry is filled with people who really care about what the organization is fighting for, but they also need professionals who have traditional industry experience in specialized areas.
Once students are out of college, Harrington recommends that they begin their career in the for-profit industry. She would tell a current student to “go into the for-profit or public space before the nonprofit space because a lot of times nonprofits are not as equipped to bring people up in their careers at the same level that for-profit companies can. I’ve seen colleagues go back to school because it can be hard to gain experience for positions that require you to take on more responsibility or have more specific skills.”
“I learned about the need to bring young folks into the alternative protein space and now am illuminating pathways to this field”, said Christina Aguila, a University Innovation Specialist at The Good Food Institute (GFI). GFI is a nonprofit developing the roadmap for a sustainable, secure, and just protein supply. They work to further animal product alternatives, such as plant-based, fermented, and cultivated meat.
While most alternatives are made from plants, cultivated meat is produced directly from animal cells. On the other hand, fermented products are made from a modern technology that allows the creation of standalone protein sources or functional ingredients. But in order to develop this technology, there must be a presence of investors, distributors, and a labor force educated and ready to work on this animal protection technique.
There are four main categories of alternative protein jobs that exist in today’s workforce: academia, industry, government, and nonprofit. Academic jobs include professions such as research and workforce training, while industry jobs require investors who can fund both existing companies and startups. Government-related careers could include research, funding, or policy and regulatory efforts. Nonprofits provide various roles that support the alternative protein industry at large.
According to Aguila, there is a high demand for people with both scientific expertise and an entrepreneurial spirit. “Each segment employs folks with all sets of skills and this is the early days, so there are openings for entry-level scientists and business folks and a lot more,” said Aguila. She often gets asked what school subjects students should focus on in order to end up in a career fighting for alternative protein foods.
To those that ask, Aguila provides a guide for training to work in an emerging field. The first step is to set goals and build a learning plan, then to leverage existing resources, which can be found both within and outside the predetermined discipline. For fields that don’t have many resources available, prospective students can create their own tools. For instance, one can create a thesis guide to help students identify high-impact projects or they can work to implement a new course at their high school or college focused on topics that will guide them to their desired goals. Students should attend workshops and conferences, find mentors to work with and learn from, and learn the history of the sector they hope to enter. Lastly, they should join, or create if it does not already exist, a network specific to the emerging field and continually create a vision for the future of the discipline.
Aguila encourages current and future students to consider following a path to animal advocacy and she believes “it is an exciting time for a career in alternative proteins because [professionals] will learn new things and be on the cutting-edge of technology with a potential for tremendous positive impact across many critical cause areas and [there is] an opportunity to become a leader in [one’s] field and to create a successful career.”
As evident by the two careers demonstrated by Harrington and Aguila, any number of skills can prove useful to animal advocacy groups. Whether one is looking to work in a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization fighting for animal rights, there are many resources available to students and aspiring activists.
Animal Advocacy Careers, AAC, is a nonprofit organization that challenges the career and talent bottlenecks in the farmed animal advocacy movement. This philanthropy institution offers recruitment strategies to existing organizations, management training to future advocacy leaders, and even has a job board and career advice on their website. AAC is one of the few establishments that provide support to animal advocates, but with the advice provided by Harrington and Aguila, the future is looking bright for the subsequent leaders saving animals' lives.