Those of us who care passionately about animals, their rights, and achieving social justice for all often wish we could dedicate ourselves to the cause full-time. Not so long ago, there were very few opportunities so we all worked a day job and gave our free time to animals. Today, however, there are countless ways to use your talents within the animal rights movement, so we can commit ourselves full-time to it and get paid. One question we get asked all the time is how do you get a job in animal rights? So here are some of our best tips and strategies.
1. Skillz To Pay the Billz
The animal rights movement is a professional one, which means just being passionate is unlikely to be enough to secure you your dream job. Of course, passion is essential; the road to animal liberation needs highly committed and passionate people. But it also needs people with skills in their chosen field.
2. Follow Your Heart
There are so many different roles in animal rights — more on that later — so you need to think about what role you would love to take on, and what you would be happy to show up for every day. And it’s not just about what you would like to do; it’s about knowing your strengths and weaknesses, too. This may take a little honest soul-searching but when we match what we are good at with what we love, we can throw ourselves into a role and stay committed to it.
3. Experience Matters
Most job descriptions require some experience. That may include transferable skills from outside the animal rights world but, depending on the role, it may also be highly specific to it. If you know what you want to do but your resumé is a little light on experience, think about how you can get more. Can you get an internship or volunteer somewhere? Can you set up a pilot project or offer your services pro bono to an organization?
4. Know the Issues
Understanding something of animal rights theory and its practical applications is important if you want to work professionally in this field. You don’t need to be a philosophy professor but you do need to know something of the ‘why’ as well as lots of the ‘what’. In other words, you need to understand why animals deserve rights and the ways in which those rights are violated. And if you know something about the movement that exists to protect animals — such as which groups are active, what campaigns they run and how they do that — that will help, too.
5. Learn Your Trade
… and keep learning! Things are always changing and evolving, so there is never a time when we stop reading, listening, analyzing, and learning. Read articles and books, listen to podcasts, attend talks and events, and meet people who already work for animals. Apply a critical lens to what you hear, and be open to learning new things, even if that means letting go of some of the things you thought you knew!
6. Build a Support System
For many people, working for animals is a dream job but it is never an easy one. When you have to face the realities of their suffering every day, it can quickly become overwhelming. The team you join may have good people and practices in place to support you, but it is important to have people around you in your personal life who can empathize and support you, too. We very much include companion animals in this; they are often the best support.
What Kind of Work Could I Do for Animal Rights?
There are many varied roles within the animal rights movement so there are plenty of ways in which we contribute to a better world. Below are some of the more common options, but there are more. You’ll notice how many have intertwining skills, so the more of these skill sets we can gather, the better our chances of being a fantastic animal advocate and getting the job we want.
Campaigners often have an extremely varied role. A campaigner’s job is to bring about a specific change, and that means many tools are needed to achieve it. They may be working on strategy, media, social media, communications, and liaising with decision-makers, celebrities, and influencers. They may be lobbying for change, working with investigators, producing social media films, or arranging demonstrations and events.
Former Head of Campaigns and now GenV’s Director of Communications Kate Fowler says: “Good campaigners are creative, strategic, persistent, and stubborn. Once a campaign goal is identified, it is their job to achieve it, so they must keep coming up with effective strategies that move them closer to that end. A good campaigner is naturally persuasive, needs stamina and determination, and refuses to give up. Campaigners work to close down every loophole, answer every counterargument, build alliances, find solutions, and create unstoppable momentum that leads to change.”
Social Media Manager
“Social media can be a double-edged sword,” says GenV’s Social Media Coordinator, Simon Plazolles-Hayes, “but when used for good, we can reach a massive audience that may have never considered animal rights. That small seed can drive and inspire them to take actions to help animals and make the world a better place.”
Because so many of us have social media channels, we may be tempted to think we are social media experts, but to work in this space professionally, you’ll find that there are a lot of crossover skills with campaigners. Creating great content means having an eye for a compelling story and can unleash some creativity in telling it. You may bring to bear design skills, interview skills, film production skills, and more. GenV’s Jamie Logan’s advice? “Gain relevant knowledge and experience in various areas of work (marketing, filming, editing, and journalism) and then apply each of those valuable skills to advocating for animal rights on social media.”
Media and PR
Getting powerful stories out into the world is an essential part of changing the narrative for animals. It can both motivate individual behavior change and influence public policy. Those who work in media understand what makes a powerful news story, and what would work as a feature, and they then identify which outlets are most likely to cover them. Not only do they need excellent copywriting skills, they also need to be able to develop positive and lasting relationships with journalists, and work under pressure to get information, data, quotes, and images out fast.
GenV’s Paula Gonzalez describes what it takes to excel at this work: “PR and media are a long-term relationship. Treat people with the utmost respect, just like you like to be treated, but also, you never know when you’ll see them again in your professional life. Many journalists are vegan allies and they deserve to know the truth in a kind and compassionate way. When it comes to strategies, it’s better to let something go than to burn your contacts down, which is one the biggest don’ts in our industry. Communication and PR are always more ‘doing’ than ‘saying’, so make sure your organization is doing newsworthy things before you go out there hosting press conferences and losing valuable press opportunities. Keep your work standards as high as your ethical values.”
Filmmaker / Photographer
Every animal group needs strong images and with so much animal advocacy taking place online, making impactful films and taking powerful photos have never been more important. Most people become proficient in one or the other, but if you can hone your skills in both, you maximize your chances of being in hot demand. You may be called upon to film / photograph events, well-known supporters, and even vegan products. You may work in studios, on location, or ‘run-and-gun’, and when the day is over, then comes the editing. It’s not only a creative role, it’s a technical one in terms of the equipment and editing software used.
GenV’s US Video Manager Alessio Schiazza says: “Filmmaking is a collaborative process, so surround yourself with people whose opinions you trust. And remember, it’s not the information itself that changes people’s perspective on things, but how it is presented. Follow your heart and everything will fall into place — it’s inevitable.”
GenV’s Video Editor, Daniel Yañez describes his role: “It is such a pleasant and rewarding feeling to use our best skills to help others. Creating conscious content will help lots of souls including yours (ours). Never give up and keep in mind that if you really do it with passion, the universe will make it up to you.”
From creating assets for websites to designing social media posts, T-shirts, banners, and billboards, talented graphic designers are much sought after in the animal rights world. Often, what they create is the first thing people see of a campaign or an issue, so making something that is visually compelling and appropriate to the subject is essential. Again, it is a technical job requiring an understanding of different software and specifications.
GenV’s designer Rita Parente has this advice for wannabe designers in the animal rights world: “Do your best work every single time. Be rigorous, pay attention to detail and set the standards high, whether you’re designing a billboard in Times Square or an Instagram post for an account with 15 followers. Not one design is unimportant, because there is a much higher chance your work will stop someone in their tracks, make an impact and get your message across through a beautifully designed and thought-out piece. The animals and the planet need people to be stopped in their tracks at every possible chance!”
The written word is a powerful tool in animal advocacy and those who can write great copy are always needed. Copywriters write for a large variety of audiences, and need to tailor their tone, style, and approach accordingly. They may write an open letter that is published in a national newspaper, blogs or articles that inspire people to make a change, or an official letter to a government department putting the case for a new policy. Advice from GenV’s Director of Communications, Kate Fowler, is to really pay attention to words and their impacts. “Great writers are also great readers, so read a lot and do it critically. Notice the effect words have on you, and think about how their impact could have been magnified had different choices been made. Writers also need to be good researchers, and take time to seek out credible arguments and data. But most of all, writers must love writing. So, practice writing for a variety of audiences and write every day. And never ever misplace an apostrophe!”
Digital marketing allows us to reach a broad online audience. In business, this often means finding clients or customers; in the social justice world, it is more about using all the available digital resources to share a powerful message widely and to create the biggest impact. It is both a creative and technical role, which requires many hours of performance analysis to drive improvements.
Says GenV’s Director of Marketing Jeremy Kocian: “Becoming a marketing professional requires constant learning and dedication to the role, as technology and trends are constantly changing — now faster than ever. I knew I wanted to get into the vegan space so at the height of my marketing agency I took a leap and started an unpaid remote internship with a vegan company. Not only did I love it, but I learned so much and it was the foot in the door I needed to translate my marketing experience into a career in the vegan world. #ForTheAnimals.”
Working at a sanctuary (or running your own) is incredibly hard work both physically and emotionally. On its own, sanctuary work tends to fall into the category of ‘animal welfare’ rather than ‘animals rights’ but increasingly sanctuaries are sharing the stories of the animal residents, turning them into ambassadors for animal rights. This means having some media or social media skills could be invaluable, and campaigners are increasingly getting work at sanctuaries and are using the animals’ stories to help drive societal change. Other strengths and skills that are in great demand at sanctuaries include: veterinary qualifications, property maintenance skills, event coordinating, fundraising, and animal care.
If food is your jam, there is a lot you can do to promote animal rights. You may develop delicious vegan recipes online, for which you will also need to be a terrific photographer. You may open a restaurant or cafe, or cater for events. Perhaps you will do cookery demonstrations in schools or launch a cookery workshop for the wider community. Perhaps you will take a grassroots approach and offer amazing samples to people on the street to showcase veganism to the community. GenV’s India Campaign Manager Rithika Ramesh used to run her own vegan bakery. She says “Being a vegan chef is no piece of (vegan) cake. There’s a lot of expectation with vegan food because the first thing most people think about is what they will miss when they become vegan. Fortunately, there are a growing number of culinary courses that teach plant-based cuisine. And as food trends evolve constantly, one can keep up by signing up for virtual vegan culinary courses. You can learn from the top innovators from all over the world and take your skills up a notch. As with any other skill, practice makes perfect and experimenting is key.”
Nothing happens without funds, which makes fundraisers invaluable within organizations. There are many kinds of fundraising from individual giving to attracting and retaining large donors to applying for grants from trusts. Fundraisers may be part of a team that hosts events that donors or potential donors attend, which makes event-planning a useful skill, too. Being on top of the work for which you are fundraising is essential, as is keeping close records, managing databases and staying up to date with data protection requirements. It’s a multifaceted job, that’s for sure. Advice from Steph Rivetti, GenV’s Italian Manager and volunteer fundraiser with Animals Asia: “If you wish to work in fundraising for an animal rights charity, you need to combine your empathy with solid copywriting, project management, prospect mapping, and contact nurturing skills: you will have to inspire a variety of people to open their wallets and donate to support your work!”
Animal rights organizations coordinate many events, from large scale demonstrations to fundraising galas. These require a strategic mind, a close attention to detail and an unflappable nature! Joe Stratton, GenV’s UK Campaign Manager has this advice for anyone hoping to work in this field: “If you can afford to do so, volunteer, volunteer and volunteer, at as many different sizes and shapes of event as possible. This will give you an understanding of what it takes to organize an event yourself, plus building your experience and contact base. I landed my first job in the sector through somebody I met on a volunteering experience.
Nobody thinks they can pull off an event until they do so back yourself completely. Things will always go wrong in event planning and many things may be out of your control, it’s how you deal with it that matters.”
Increasingly important within all sectors is a greater awareness of justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion (JDEI). The animal rights movement is no exception. As we work towards justice for animals, we must remain aware of a wider responsibility towards holistic social justice. That means examining every department in the organization to ensure all processes and output are fair and just. This includes the recruitment process, the language used in communications, the arguments put forward, the images chosen, the partners worked with, and so much more. A JDEI advisor must have a good understanding of social justice issues right across the board, and will be able to synthesize advice and best practice, disseminate it, and create meaningful policies for the organization to follow.
Animal rights organizations need leadership to set strategy and oversee the smooth running of every department. If you’re a great organizer, have a keen eye for detail, can take ultimate responsibility for a team, and love to help others shine, this could be a role for you. Naomi Hallum, GenV’s CEO offers this advice: “A good CEO always ensures they’re using effective advocacy techniques, and that the projects the group pursues are a good use of talent and time. If you’re passionate about what you do, then not only will you be able to achieve your professional goals through hard work, creative ideas, practice, observation, and tenacity, you’ll also find great fulfillment in the journey. And if you’re actively involved in the fight for animal rights, justice and equality, then no matter what your job title is, you’re already a leader!”
Do Whatever You Are Doing Now
Even if you don’t work for an animal rights organization, you can still work for animal rights by being who you are and doing what you do, and speaking up for animals wherever possible. You don’t need to scale your office block with a banner or coordinate a blockade of your workplace’s canteen. There are so many ways to influence your company and colleagues to better protect animals —from having cruelty-free soap in the restrooms to persuading management to hire a wildlife deterrence office instead of a lethal ‘pest’ controller. Whatever your job, there are almost certainly ways to bring animal rights into the workplace.
Where to Find Vegan or Animal Rights Jobs
For those looking for a role in animal rights, Jeremy Kocian’s advice is to set up alerts everywhere for vegan jobs and apply for everything you see as a good fit for your skills. Try Veganjobs.com, Indeed.com, and Google alerts, as well as charity job websites and the websites of animal protection organizations.
You can also volunteer for animal organizations which allows you to meet people in the space, then when something opens up you’ll be the first to know. Plus you can learn so much along the way. Check out Vegan Hacktivists for contract and volunteer positions relating to data and marketing, and Vegan Linguists to do voluntary translations if you’re multilingual.
Self-Care for Full-time Animal Advocates
Working full-time for animal rights is a mixed blessing. Yes, we do get to align our passions with our work, and dedicate all our time to something we truly believe in. But, of course, this can take a heavy toll on our emotional wellbeing. GenV’s France Manager Flavien Bascoul has this advice:
“We are running a marathon not a sprint. Even if many things might now seem trivial to you given the ocean of suffering in which animals are kept, and even if you feel that helping them is desperately urgent and that it should be your life’s mission, keep in mind that most people don’t feel this way and that we should be careful not to lock ourselves in our own echo chamber. We should not lose sight of the importance of remaining well-integrated in our society in order to better understand how people function and, therefore, be more subversive in the long run. Never underestimate the tremendous value of general knowledge. Keep cultivating your curiosity, your compassion, your open-mindedness. Make friends with all kinds of people. Take care of yourself, and do not doubt that humanity is moving forward on that long and winding road towards a better world.”
As more and more people join the animal rights movement, so more and more people are looking to make this their full-time job. That means there are huge numbers of applicants for every position. But there are also an increasing number of jobs available, so don’t be daunted by this. Keep learning, keep gaining knowledge and experience, and keep applying. Good luck!