Continuing Adventures in Animal Advocacy

Justin and Sophie at Farm Sanctuary in LA

I started volunteering for CAA in 2005, a few years after going vegan. I think my motivation was wanting to do more to help animals and also wanting to meet other vegans.

At the time, I was a professional dancer. Over the years on and off, while a dancer, I volunteered with CAA in various capacities, everything from helping out at a yard sale fundraiser to leafleting on the university campus to coordinating volunteers for CAA’s annual animal advocacy conference, Their Lives, Our Voices.

I jumped right in and found a supportive community where my vegan values were shared. I also found a positive outlet for my passion for helping animals.

“Passion” is a rather appealing word. Really, what I was feeling was sadness and rage, thinking about what animals experience on factory farms, as revealed by undercover videos. My passion grew out of my sadness and rage, and CAA gave me the opportunity to put that passion to good use, participating in a grassroots movement to liberate farmed animals.

CAA’s fundamental core values and strategy made sense to me, and I felt confident that CAA’s welcoming approach would achieve the best results in the long-term: getting the biggest number of people to sustain a move toward plant-based eating. That shift would gradually but surely ensure animals would be saved from needless suffering.

In 2014, I was about to retire from full-time dancing. Fortuitously, CAA was at the same time looking to hire their first-ever communications and events coordinator, a full-time position. I applied and got the job. (I had some previous experience in the area of communications and events planning, having written a vegan cookbook and produced my own independent performance work.)

Now my passion for helping animals was my profession. I got to spend my days writing for CAA’s blog, email news, and other communications. I also launched the annual magazine, Twin Cities Veg Living, and led the redesign efforts for a new visual brand identity. I’d like to think we’ve brought our communications up a notch since I came on staff four years ago. I also organized monthly dine-outs and potlucks, giving those in the Twin Cities area a chance to get to know others and explore vegan food options.

With a new strategic plan in place, we’ve been moving into a new phase that reflects the changing needs of the modern world, making our movement more inclusive and effective. I feel confident that this next phase will lead to another threshold, beyond which positive change for the animals will be even more tangible, more visible.

Personally, I’m entering a new phase as well, having been offered the position of associate director at Minnesota Dance Theatre. Having sustained a passion for performance as well as for helping animals, I’ll be taking that job in July, which means the role of communications coordinator will be going to someone else. Applications are due June 30, by the way!

My hope is that someone with enthusiasm and skill beyond my own will step into this role and help take CAA to the next level. I’ve seen how the changing of the guard can bring fresh energy and opportunity for new growth. Laura Matanah became CAA’s new executive director in December of 2016, and with her leadership we’re embracing a new strategic plan and growing in significant ways.

I also notice how our movement is thriving on a local level. With another vegan restaurant opening almost every other day it seems, the availability of vegan food options is increasing at exponential rates. Also, the region has a number of new farm sanctuaries that provide uplifting experiences for visitors who get to meet the rescued animals.

I see all of these new ventures as a great boon for the animal advocacy movement. Each of these advances will inspire and enable people to make more compassionate choices, and each is a component of the whole movement.

I recognize how CAA has been a catalyst for much of this action and continues to be a vital component. The work we do is not about feeling good simply for our own benefit. Our focus is on helping animals, and over the past twenty years, CAA has reached countless individuals with a message of unconditional compassion for those chickens, cows, pigs, fish, and other animals most commonly exploited as part of our food system. Through raising awareness, building community, and nurturing advocates, we’re serving our mission, we’re making this a more peaceful world for all beings.

For that work to continue, CAA needs you. CAA needs you to participate, volunteer, donate, and do what you can to support our mission to help farmed animals. Though I’m moving on from my position as an employee at CAA, I’ll be around offering my support in these ways as much as possible.

And speaking of support, I’d like to offer thanks to everyone who has supported me here at CAA over the past four years: Laura, the board of directors, and all the volunteers. You’ve been amazing! I’ve learned a lot that I’ll take with me, and I’ll keep advocating for animals wherever I go. The adventure continues.


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