May 12, 2020
Guest Laila Kassam, Animal Think Tank
Hosted by Jamie Harris, Sentience Institute
Laila Kassam of Animal Think Tank on popular protest movements, mass arrests, and publicity stunts
“Animal Rebellion is using the arrest strategy strategically to really try and to use it to try and create drama and elicit sympathy and support for the public... I think transformation of activists is also a key part of the mass arrest strategy. But overall a key part of movement building, like creating leaders who are fearless... For the student movement Otpor in Serbia… arrest became a badge of honor. So it actually encouraged people despite the fact that they were taking much bigger risks than we are in the UK in terms of beatings from the police... But you know, at the same time, we don't know if the arrest strategy has pushed some people away that it could have otherwise mobilized.”
Social movements often seek to shift public opinion and mobilize supporters on a large scale. But which tactics achieve these goals most effectively? And how have social movements achieved this in the past?
Dr Laila Kassam is a co-founder of Animal Think Tank and the co-editor of the forthcoming book, Rethinking Food and Agriculture: New Ways Forward.
Topics discussed in the episode:
- “The social movement ecology” and the theoretical framework that Animal Think Tank uses (3:10)
- The importance of public opinion for social change, and the pros and cons of actions that polarize public opinion (16:35)
- The evidence base the Animal Think Tank and This Is An Uprising use, and the weaknesses of using social movement evidence to glean strategic knowledge for the farmed animal movement (20:55)
- Extinction Rebellion and Animal Rebellion — what they’re doing, why, and Animal Think Tank’s lessons from the first actions (25:48)
- Sacrifice, demandingness, and mass arrests as potential motivators and demotivators for activists (33:07)
- Creative actions, stunts, gimmicks and the effects that these have on perceptions of social movements (42:07)
- The value of confrontational tactics like Direct Action Everywhere’s disruption of Bernie Sanders’ rally (49:30)
- Whether veganism or “active and sustained participation” in the movement is more tractable (55:38)
- Animal Think Tank’s current research priorities (1:02:22)
- Other resources that Animal Think Tank recommends reading (1:09:12)
- Rethinking Food and Agriculture — Laila’s co-edited book and the value of expertise in “sustainable agriculture” for the farmed animal movement (1:17:17)
- Laila’s experience with international development work and her concerns with this field (1:25:15)
- The importance of funding constraints for Animal Rebellion and other organisations focusing on building a mass protest movement (1:33:08)
Resources discussed in the episode:
Resources by or about Laila Kassam’s work:
- This Is An Uprising by Paul and Mark Engler
- Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict
- Organisations discussed: Animal Rebellion, Extinction Rebellion, Direct Action Everywhere, The Humane League, Mercy For Animals
- Mr Broccoli on national television after his arrest
- Direct Action Everywhere’s disruption of Bernie Sanders’ rally
- Blog post for Animal Charity EValuators looking at various different sources of data on the number of vegetarians and vegans in the US
- Anyi Institute’s webinars on the how to of momentum-driven organising and decentralised Swarm organising
- Erica Chenowth: Civil Resistance and the “3.5% Rule”
- Other books mentioned: Reimagining Change, No Shortcuts, Rules for Revolutionaries, Swarmwise, How Organisations Develop Activists, Reinventing Organisations
- Anyi Institute’s Funding Social Movements: How Mass Protest Makes An Impact (and shorter summary by Chloe Cockburn of the Open Philanthropy Project)
Resources for using this podcast for a discussion group:
Transcript (Automated, imperfect)
Welcome to the sentience Institute podcast where we interview activists, entrepreneurs, and researchers about the most effective strategies to expand humanity's moral circle with the focus on expanding the circle to farmed animals. I'm Jamie Harris, researcher sentences and animal advocacy careers. Welcome to the eighth episode of the podcast. I was excited to have Laila Kassam on the podcast because animal think tank is an organization that much like Sentience Institute, is engaged with historical social movement evidence to think about the most effective strategies for the animal advocacy movement. They've engaged with some different forms of research which has led to some slightly different conclusions, although we also have a lot of overlap interviews and I think tank has been closely involved with animal rebellion. The new group that started up in the UK in 2019 that seeks to build a mass movement for a plant based food system and Animal rebellion has gained worldwide media attention with its arguably quite confrontational tactics.
Laila is working on a variety of exciting projects beyond animal think tank including co-editing a book due for release this year. So I was keen to chat about all of those topics with her on a website. We have a transcript of this episode as well as timestamps for particular topics. We also have suggested questions or resources that could be used to run an event around this podcast and your local animal advocacy or effective altruism group. Please feel free to get in touch with us if you have questions about this. We'll be happy to help. Lenika. Sam is one of the cofounders of at least three different organizations including animal think tank and organization working to support the building of a broad based anti speciesist movement. She's also the co-editor of the forthcoming book, rethinking food and agriculture new ways forward. Welcome to the podcast Laila.
You're very welcome. So as well as your work for animal think tank, you've been working on publishing the new book that you're co-editing. You're a cofounder of the veterinary vegan network and a cofounder of ethical globe, a directory and community of vegan people, businesses, organizations, and projects that launch in December, 2019. Elsevier's Website for the book. Rethinking food and agriculture. Describes you as having been consulting for the consultative group on international agriculture research and the food and agriculture organization of the United nations since 2009. So that's at least five different projects. What are you focusing on most at the moment and why are you excited about his impact?
Gosh, that sounds like I'm so busy. Um, I'm, well currently I'm focusing full time on animal think tank work and I came back to animal think tank, um, at the beginning of March. So just the last couple of months. And before that I had, I was spending, yeah, pretty much full time for the last, the previous five months on the book, on finishing my chapters on reviewing and editing other author contributions. And the final chapter was sent to the publisher, um, at the end of February. So I'm so, so happy that that's now almost off my plate. Um, veterinary vegan network and ethical globe, uh, side projects, um, that I'm doing with my partner who's a vegan vet. Yeah. So the main thing I'm working on is animal think tank. And you know, why I'm excited about the impact of this is, um, you know, we've got a really bold and audacious goal to build a mass movement for animal justice in the, um, really feel that there is a huge potential to yeah, to, to contribute to transformative change for other animals in the UK.
Great. Okay. Yeah, let's zoom in on animal think-tank first of all. So I don't think tanks, website notes that your mission is to support the building of a broad based anti speciesist movement and that you aim to achieve this by developing the strategic direction, capacity and innovation of the individuals groups and organizations working with animal justice in their diverse ways. So those aims to my mind, have a lot of overlap with our own goals. That sentence shoot, what's animal think tanks plan? How do you aim to develop the strategic direction of the movement?
Well I think it might be helpful to just, um, to give a little bit of background in terms of the conceptual framework that we're using to think about social change and social movement development. And you know, you're right, we do have quite similar goals to the sentience Institute in that we are doing some, uh, some of our own research and withdrawing on research, um, academic and other research and all sorts of other types of knowledge. But we're also focused on building a mass movement. So we're kind of a thing can do tank. But let me just tell you a little bit about the conceptual framework that we're using to think about all of this stuff. And it's something called the social movement ecology framework that was developed by Carlos Saavedra and Paul Engler from the Anyi Institute. And the idea is that when you look at sort of pass, um, social justice movements and pass social change, it involves different types of individuals, groups and organizations using different theories of change.
But working synergistically together and you know, sort of in a kind of dynamic, interdependent sort of way. They've identified five different theories of change, but in three sort of main categories, personal transformation, building alternatives, and changing the dominant institutions that are that shape society. Then when we think about a personal transformation that's changing lives, one person at a time in the animal justice movement, um, we can think about vegan outreach as the most obvious personal transformation, but also anti-oppression training, leadership development. And when we think about building alternatives, that's about, yeah, building different ways of being and doing outside of the status quo with the idea and hope that, you know, successful alternative projects will, will be well people will catch on to them and we can upscale them. And we're talking about things like worker cooperatives, ecovillages and in the animal justice movement we can think about veganic farms and lab grown meat, animal sanctuaries, those sorts of things.
And then we come to changing the dominant institutions that shape society. So corporations and governments. And within this sort of piece of the ecology, they identify three different theories of change. So there's the inside strategy, which is with talking about things like lobbying and party politics. They're really working to change the system from the inside. And then they talk about called structure based organizing or sort of community labor organizing. So things like trade unions. And that's about building a really strong power base of leaders and organizers outside of the system to pressure the system and leverage that power over dominant power holders like CEOs and MPS. And then there's this piece that they call the mass protest piece, which is about, you know, building strong, powerful social mass protest movements that can actually shift public opinion and can really change the game from the outside and create transformative change.
So when we think about this ecology piece, I mean we're really, really persuaded by this. So a big part of the strategic direction and the development of the movement and the contribution that we want to make is to share this framework with others within the ecology and you know, develop a sort of basic shared language about this in the wider movement, you know, for, for us to meet and collaborate and to strategize, identify areas for synergy and for working together. But then there's also another piece which is about seeding organizations and groups in the pieces of the ecology which are currently underrepresented. And one of the areas that we feel is really underrepresented in the, in the ecology in the UK is the mass protest piece. So what animal think tank is doing is basically researching and developing the foundations and DNA of a mass protests, um, organization in the UK.
And then within that mass protest piece, um, you know, we've just started putting together our strategy team and the idea would be that they develop, um, collaboratively with other organizations and groups within the ecology. Um, what gene shops sharp calls the ground strategy. So what's the big vision? Is it legislature, is it legislative change? If it is, what kind of legislative change and what are the strategic milestones, which are going to help us to achieve that grand vision. And a really big part of their sort of strategic work is to develop a meta narrative that really speaks to people's values, um, and existing mental models rather than creating a narrative that doesn't land with people. Um, and so we're, you know, our strategy team is actually called narrative strategy because we're being led by the research that we're doing in terms of the types of stories and narratives that will most likely have the highest likelihood of landing with people in the mainstream.
So those are the types of things that we're looking at. What do you mean by this term? Momentum driven organizing. Okay. So momentum driven organizing is an organizing model which, which synthesizes, um, the best of two, um, major organizing traditions, um, with the aim of building powerful mass movements that can create transformative change in society. Um, and these two traditions, which I've already talked about when talking about the ecology framework are the mass protest tradition and then structure based or community organizing traditions. And so momentum is really a hybrid of these two. Um, and they go, you know, in, in this is an uprising where this model is, is expanded, you know, this, they call this the, you know, the hype, a hybrid model, which enables, you know, building movements that are capable of the radicalism and the momentum and the energy of mass se of the mass protest tradition, but also with the capacity for longterm sustainability from the structure tradition.
You know, there's often, um, mass movements sort of erupt like a flash in the pan and then they disappear just as quickly. So the idea is to be able to build movements that have the energy and momentum, but also have, um, the resilience to last. And the overall aim is to shift public opinion through mobilizing masses of people, momentum-based organizers, and uses something called the cycle of momentum, um, which reflects the idea that Mo movements grow cyclically and the cycle of momentum has got three parts, um, escalation, absorption and increased active, popular support. So when we're talking about escalation, we're talking about escalating nonviolent direct action to help us create a trigger events. Um, and if we can get multiple trigger events, we can, uh, create something called moments of the whirlwind or we can use nonviolent direct action to be prepared to respond when trigger events happen naturally.
And I'm using the jargon of trigger trigger events. Um, for those who don't know, these, these events are all sort of moments when, um, a galvanizing incident like, um, I dunno, a creative action, an expos, a, um, or you know, declaration of war, something big grabs the public's attention. Um, and you know, these events create opportunities for activists to really to rally mass participation and sharply increase public support. And you know, if you can have multiple trigger events, they can turn into something called a moment of the whirlwind, which is what we're really after. And that's when masses of people start taking independent action, um, you know, outside the bounds of an organization. Um, but tied to the movement and its demands. Um, so, and you know, good examples or well known examples of trigger events are the arrest of Rosa Parks,
The self-immolation of, um, the Tunisian fruit seller. Mohammed Bouazizi, which set off the Arab Spring revolts in 2011 and then we're actually in potentially the greatest trigger event, um, in, in our generation. And that's at 19. That's opened up a huge amount of opportunities for activists. Um, T uh, and uh, shifting the conversation around so many things. Okay. So that's the first piece, escalating nonviolent direct action. And then the second piece is absorption. And that's where this sort of structure organizing piece comes in because when you escalate and you get people in of the movement, we don't want them to disappear. We want to be able to absorb them into a strong decentralized structure. And you can do this in a variety of ways. Um, and a favor of momentum organizing is to do that through mass trainings. And then, you know, that eventually leads to increased active, popular support, which is what we need to win.
And then that starts the cycle all over again. And extinction rebellion is a great example of a movement that's using momentum driven organizing really well. And, you know, and by extension, animal rebellion, but you know, Extinction Rebellion you know, they've escalated through massive or disobedience and intentional mass arrests. Um, and this has led to loads of media coverage and sympathy and it's inspired loads of people to join them and they have a decentralized structure that can absorb the momentum that's created by their actions. And yeah, one of the main ways they're absorbing people is through conducting mass trainings, um, in nonviolent direct action. And what I mean, not at the moment, not, not since the lockdown, but before. Um, and at these trainings, you know, people form affinity groups and then they can go on to act autonomously. And so this is the mechanism through which they increase active, popular support and start the cycle all over again.
Yeah. So for context, when we met last year, I'd taken a look through animal think tanks, suggested reading list, and two of your top recommended books to look at were this is an uprising by Paul and Mark Engler and why civil resistance works by Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan. Uh, I've read, I've read both of them and they've both certainly influenced some of my views on effective animal advocacy strategy since that time. But I get the sense from what I've seen of animal think tank that uh, including the movement building training that I attended, that you ran last year in London, that they're even more influential on your own strategic views and they are on mine. So I think it'd be great to talk about some of the specifics of some of those ideas and with that sort of social movement ecology framework that you discussed there.
Yeah, I just, I'm interested about how it applies to the animal advocacy movement with the idea of structure based, for example, structure based organizations within the section that's focusing on changing institutions and legislation, that sort of thing. What does that look like in practice, in the animal advocacy movement? And like what are the, some of some of the concrete examples of groups that it might apply to, because obviously animals can't join up as members of an animal advocacy group in the same way that you might with a, you know, a worker might join a trade union or that sort of thing. So, yeah. What'd you think about that? How does the structure based framework apply to the animal advocacy movement?
Yeah, that's a, that's a really great question. And actually it was interesting because Paul Engler gave a talk at the sort of online now ALC, um, on Saturday talking about movement equality and the structure based organizing element came up. And it really feels like there is a bit of a gap in our ecology in terms of structure based organizing as well. I mean, I think that organizations like, well there's organizations like the league and mercy for animals who do corporate welfare campaigns. And I know the humane league has, you know, they, they, they have it sort of decentralized group of sort of volunteers or at least around, uh, yeah, I think, I don't know exactly the specifics of how they work, but they definitely have, um, groups, um, that do sort of prep pressure campaigns. Um, and I, I would say that something like the humane league would be, would have a sort of a lag in the kind of insider strategy cause they're doing sort of, uh, they're doing advocacy but then also an element of structure based organizing.
But I just also want to say that it's, it's not so much the, the, the sort of organizing tradition or lineage that these organizations come from, which is the most important part. It's actually the theory of change. So if, uh, the theory of generally the theory of change in structure based organizing is that, you know, it's about leveraging power over specific power holders like CEOs or, um, like, like you were doing in corporate campaigns or S or with politicians. Whereas sort of in the mass protest tradition and that theory of change, it's not really about focusing on the so called power holders because the theory of power in that tradition is that the people have the power and it's really about accessing and changing public opinion. So I wouldn't be so hung up on sort of the types and the sort of exactly how these organizations are set up. It's more about the theory of change that they're following. But you know, I take your point about um, animals not being able to be members because these structures, structure organizations are often described as being membership based organizations. There is a gap in the ecology as far as I can see, but there are is being filled slightly with, with groups that are doing sort of pressure campaigning around corporate campaigns and those sorts of things.
Yeah. Let's pick up on the idea of of opinion change being the focus. And I think it's interesting because the book, this is an uprising and the writing is by Mark and Paul Engler does seem to focus a lot on public opinion change suggesting that what's crucial for social change is to have favorable public opinion. So for example, when discussing the gay rights movement in the U S a this is an uprising notes that there were substantial popular and legislative backlash to the legal changes that allowed for civil unions in the late 1990s when support for gay marriage was still in the minority, but only a decade or so later, once the majority supported gay marriage, similar legal change in legislation were widely supported. And so organizations that use the model that they advocate for those sort of momentum driven organizing model seem pretty comfortable with polarizing actions. And so shouldn't organizations be avoiding polarizing audiences and focusing instead on strategies that seem to have an overall positive effect on public opinion?
Okay. So I think that yes, they're focused on, on shifting public opinion towards um, a particular cause. And actually, um, polarization is a mechanism to do that and you know, is about costing an issue in terms of right and wrong. It's about dramatizing issues and it's really about, you know, asking people which side are you on? Asking people to take a stand. So I think, you know, polarization is a mechanism to shift public opinion, but it's really important that we Pope positively polarized and you know, there are, there are sort of, there are some things to think about when we're thinking about polarizing actions. It's much easier to polarize positively if the public already are sort of onsite to a certain extent with your cause. There's also an element of choosing sympathetic people as the kind of actors in the, in, in the actions. So people are going to be much more sympathetic to say, I don't know, a police officer getting arrested than um, uh, some kind of hippie type that is difficult to relate to. Um, and Rosa parks for example, is a, is is an example of a sort of sympathetic person and one of these types of polarizing actions. There's also an element of PR and being really savvy with how you frame your action and being connected to the media. That can also help with positively polarizing. So, I mean I would question whether polarizing is something that's negative for public opinion. Like with all of these tools they have to be used strategically and skillfully.
Okay, sure. So would you accept the, the key there then is the actual, the sort of average attitude, cause I certainly accept that polarization is one mechanism through which you can shift attitudes. If you're doing something that draws a lot of attention, changes lots of minds, you know, some people might push against that, some people might change their minds in sort of in the intended direction. But say, you know, if the, if we have the average opinion on something is like five out of 10, presumably what we care about is whether the average opinion shifts from five to six as opposed to an eight. And the implication is it's okay. Whether if some people actually shift from five down to four as long as the average shift up. Is that in line with your own thinking on this?
Partly, I mean what, what we, um, what we use is something called the spectrum of allies. So really it's like looking at, um, there's a whole range of views about your cause going from active, active support. So there's those of most likely your activists and then you've got passive support and then you've got a whole big sway in the middle who are going to be neutral to your cause. And then you've got passive flea against the cause and then you've got actively against the cause and you're really trying to basically just pull from one end to try and get as many people over to being ultimately to being active supporters. But shifting your neutrals to being passive supporters of your cause. And you know, the idea that polarizing actions can sort of push people away. That is inevitable and in a way that's part of the dynamic of polarization. But I think what's more important is that you're pushing more people towards you than away from you.
Yeah. Sounds like there's some agreement there in terms of the important thing being that the sort of overall change, but also in terms of this idea of mobilizing the neutrals towards being key supporters. I'm interested in the evidence based that this is an uprising draws on cause I think it's got a lot in common as well with the sort of key influences on animal think tank as an organization. So this is an uprising, focuses primarily on a handful of notable social movements. So the U S civil rights movement, the occupy movement, Indian independence movement and the art porn movement in Serbia to overthrow Slobodan Milosevic and very similarly animal think tanks, website notes that we take inspiration from social movements like the Indian independence movement, us civil rights movement, suffrage movement, Ferris of similar movements cited there. Do you worry that this focus on social movements that are so different to the animal advocacy movement means that the apparent strategic lessons from those historical movements are not highly transferable to the farm dental movement?
I think that there is perhaps we're overly confident. I don't know. I think that um, the, the basic premise that what we need to do is shift public opinion and, and build a power to be able to, to, to create structural change is pretty similar in the animal. This is what we feel is needed in the animal justice movement and across other types of social movement. So I think this sort of basic mechanism we feel very persuaded by, but I think that there is an element of, so I would say the strategic elements and the lessons I think are transferrable, but with the caveat that we are also at our learning edge here. Um, and I think every social movement as it goes forward is, is that they're learning it, but also because, um, the marginalized group that were fighting for other animals rather than a human marginalized group.
Um, and I think that that we were sort of, well, we were going to be learning by doing basically where we're taking these lessons. And it's not just from sort of these past social justice movements we're watching as extinction. Rebellion in the UK has grown exponentially using momentum driven organizing, um, over the past, you know, year and a half. Um, there's movements in the, in the U S like sunrise and Cosecha and the dreamers who have all used this organizing, uh, framework and methodology to grow, you know, powerful social movements. So I think the strategic lessons are applicable and I think the sort of the differences and the things that we're going to have to experiment on and learn by doing that well there's only one way to do it, to learn by doing. And that's, I think that's where where we're at right now. Um, an animal think tank.
Yeah, just for context. So I do think that there's a lot that, that the founder can learn from previous social movements. I've written a blog post for sentencing Institute's website about what the farm movement can learn from history. It's just something that I've had to grapple with in discussing that, that sort of methodology and in discussing with other people in the effective altruism and animal advocacy movements about essentially there are so many differences that some of these, some of these case studies just aren't, we actually just can't place very much weight upon that evidence at all. And I, I did do come to the conclusion that we can, especially if some of those movements sort of stack up in terms of having similar implications. I also think that it's very important that we think about what are the factors that might make a movement more or less comparable to the foundational movement and really focus on those movements that do seem most comparable.
So for example, sentenced to, tends to focus on movements that we see as more recent and therefore more comparable but also that focus on what we call ally based movements. So this is kind of supporting essentially there isn't supporting your own group to gain rights or to be better included in the moral circle. It's about supporting another group. So it might be for instance, animals that aren't, you know, it's human advocates speaking on behalf of animals or doing at taking actions to support animals. It could be, you know, in examples from the past, it could be that British people, people in Britain supporting slaves who had very little political power themselves. There's a whole bunch of other examples. Do you have any like immediate reactions to those different sorts of criteria that might affect how comparable a social movement seems to the fondant movement?
Obviously, I think unlike based movements are, you know, something that we need to look at and take very seriously because you know, on the surface that seems very similar to the animal justice movement, but I think that there's so much to learn from all social justice movements. Yeah. I don't know my initial reaction about, you know, having movements that are comparable. I think that there's so much to learn in terms of how to organize, how to shift public opinion that's, that's, that can be relevant from what we might think on the surface is a very different type of social justice movements. I think we're pretty open to learning from wherever we can get our lessons from including learning by doing. I think that's a really important piece that people often don't, don't, um, include in terms of, you know, experimenting and iterating and getting feedback and, and you know, and incorporating that in into what we're doing.
Great. That idea of sort of learning through doing is something we could talk about with reference to animal rebellion, which in many ways in my view is, is kind of like animal think tanks perspective made into an animal advocacy organization, especially because it shares that idea of kind of momentum driven organizing.
I mean, I think in terms of animal rebellion, it was an opportunity that was, that seemed too good to pass up and down. My colleague was very, um, keen to, I mean he's been very keen to, you know, to learn by doing. And so this, you know, and then there was this strategic opportunity with the climate movement that came up. Um, and, and yeah, so in terms of animal rebellion, it's, it's, it's part of, part of it is, is us learning how to do momentum driven organizing, but it's an a movement in its own right as well, taking advantage of a, of a strategic opportunity and a moment, you know, that's, that's needs to be capitalized on in terms of, um, the, the space that extinction rebellion has opened up for talking about issues to do with the climate and ecological.
Cool. So I mean obviously listeners can go and look up the website. So these organizations, if they're unfamiliar with them, but could you just give us sort of one sentence summary of what each of extinction, rebellion and animal rebellion actually are and the extent of your involvement with each of them?
Sure. So instinctual rebellion is now a global environmental movement, which is using nonviolent civil disobedience to demand government action on the climate and ecological emergencies. And it came to prominence first I think it was October, 2018, um, in the UK and it's really grown exponentially since then. And animal rebellion is, well, it's an animal and climate justice movement, which is part of extinction rebellion's movement of movements approach, which is also using similar strategies of nonviolent civil disobedience to demand that the government, um, demand government action towards a plant based food system. In terms of my involvement, well with extinction rebellion, I was involved during their fast rebellion in October, 2018. I got very excited and really felt like I wanted to be involved, um, and to learn. Um, you know, we've been reading and talking and researching so much about all these paths, social justice movements with, you know, thoughts of setting up our own.
But I had no real experience in, in the midst of an actual movement and in the midst of a sort of moment of the whirlwind and it really felt like that. So yeah, I got absorbed into extinction rebellion and spent some time volunteering with them during their first rebellion along with Dan and then with animal rebellion. So yeah, Animal Think Tank, really seeded animal rebellion, um, to try and take advantage of this opportunity. Um, the discussion around the climate, I wasn't a hugely involved. Um, I was concerned with my book and you know, Dan was taking the lead on that. Um, but I support it with, I have supported with trainings, nonviolence and movement building and I was very much involved during the actual rebellion and, um, and in the lead up to in some actions and doing some talks and speeches and various things and helping to organize various actions, um, and also helping to facilitate the debriefs and the learnings. So yeah, but I mean, you know, animal rebellion is very present in, in our thinking and our learning animal think tank. Um, and Dan is still still there. He's been succonded now for nine months, but I think slowly we'll be making his way back to animal think tank, um, over the coming months.
Okay, great. So animal rebellion formed officially in summer 2019 and participated in public disruptions in October, 2019 in order to apply pressure to the government in the UK and other countries to shift towards a plant based food system. You've been talking a lot about kind of learning through doing alongside the more sort of research site that animal think-tank has been engaging in. So what were some of the main sort of surprises or lessons from those initial actions?
There were so many lessons. Um, let me, I think a really important lesson was the idea of um, doing creative vision-based action. So, um, for example, the so called occupation of Smithfield meat market, you know, it wasn't the usual expected sort of occupation confrontation. Um, and you know, with the, an activist might normally do, you know, it was a really vision-based positive nonviolent action that got so much positive media coverage because it was creative, um, and communicated a positive vision of a plant based future and you know, so actions like that w you know, really focused on public persuasion and of actually disrupting the very idea of Smithfield and that it always has to be a place of death and violence. Um, and there was a a times article in particular that said, you know, the market welcomed animal rebellion. So there was lots of positive press around that particular action.
And I think we, we think that it's to do with how creative it was and how we, you know, it wasn't sort of feeding into the sort of familiar tropes about sort of confrontational activists. Um, but it was really about a positive vision of the future. Um, and I think related to that is the lesson and about how our narrative and messaging is actually sort of the engine that drives our strategy and our actions. So the actions were we're all sort of story driven actions, all, you know, down to the action design process, you know, they identified the story, um, that they wanted to present and then design the actions in micro detail around it. So Smithfield, for example, was designed to have this kind of really joyous and happiness happy sort of emotions of, of uh, of a, of a new well that's possible.
And then later in the evening, you know, there was this sort of, there was a candle light vigil, so that sort of really tapped into feelings of grief and despair and the suffering of animals. So there was a story and a sort of an emotional arc and it was really, really, really powerful. Um, so I think, um, this idea of narrative and messaging as really driving strategy, we knew from the theory but was really put into practice and really in terms of the media and also the, the, the reactions from activists and the transformative sort of experience that says that activists were having, um, really helped us to kind of integrate that learning and to realize how powerful it is. I think another big learning was actually, um, around the power of dialogue. Um, you know, um, animal rebellion ended up negotiating with Smithfield, um, for no rest beforehand with our sort of hands up saying, you know, sorry about, you know, that I think there'd been quite a lot of talk about occupying Smithfield for 12 days.
And over the course of that dialogue, um, they really built relationships with Smithfield and, you know, it helped to see each other as humans. And so, you know, I think that was, that was another sort of catalyst for positive change and connection and, you know, during the action, um, you know, but just came up saying, you know what, we, we think that what you're doing is right. And, you know, caring, you know, they care, they care about the planet and the future of the planet for their children. So actually I think that was a real, really important example of sort of principled nonviolence about having dialogue, um, but still being able to do your action and get a positive message out where you can actually reach people, um, on a, on an emotional and a human level. There was a, another lesson that I thought was really interesting about numbers and that was, you know, we, we gave the impression, I think that, you know, people who wanted to come, they, they needed to come and camp. Um, and I think ultimately what this meant was that it really reduced the numbers who actually did come to stay to the sort of hard core activists who were prepared to camp out on the roads, whereas, you know, extinction rebellion and, um, had framed coming and joining has just come for the day or you don't need to come. And I think if we'd, if we'd done that, we would've got more people out. But that's, you know, that's, it's all good learning.
Okay. Yeah, loads of interesting stuff there with the, the idea of the sort of confrontation versus the positive imagery and around the kind of element of sacrifice being a potentially a bit of a turnoff for some potential activists there. But yeah, just for context, animal rebellions, website notes that 1,500 people participated in the October occupation of Smithfield's meat market. Okay. So let's move on to the topic of the, this idea of sacrifice then. And related to that is this idea of arrests, I think because both extinction, rebellion and animal rebellion are quite focused on seeking arrests. What's the logic behind that and what's the perceived benefit of being arrested?
Oh, so, well first I'm not sure that animal rebellion is so focused on mass arrest, but I can come to that in a little bit. My understanding is that Extinction Rebellion has been following a mass arrest strategy basically to help shift public opinion. You know, it's really about getting sympathy and empathy from the public and also to, you know, help to get, um, get into the media through, you know, dramatizing, um, actions. But also that's, that's one thing sort of helping to shift public opinion, but it's also for strategic reasons, you know, to kind of clog up the system and wear out the police so that they can stop arresting people and, and it's just really, yeah. To clog up the system. And I think that, you know, animal rebellion is part of the movement of movements of extinction rebellion. So has to a certain extent, yeah.
Taken on part of that sort of the strategy of arrest. But you know, like I said about Smithfield, you know, there was, there, there was only one arrest actually. It wasn't something where, um, animal rebellion thought that they wanted to have mass arrests. And I think animal rebellion is using the arrest strategy strategically to really try and to use it to try and create drama and elicit sympathy and support for the public. There is another element to being arrested. And I think it's something that can really be transformative for people. Not only those people who are being arrested, but also people who are, who are watching. And you know, if we, you know, it's important in terms of overcoming the fear barrier, which is, you know, what ultimately keeps so many of these systems of violence in place. Um, and when we're thinking about civil disobedience, civil disobedience, we're withdrawing our obedience and our consent from these systems in order to crumble them.
So we've got to get over this fear barrier where we're just like, you know, we're so obedient. So I think transformation of activists is also a key part of the mass rest strategy. But overall a key part of movement building, like creating leaders, leaders who are fearless. But I think, you know, I would also say that I'm not a hundred percent sure that I agree with the singular focus on mass harassing. And I don't think XR has a singular focus. But I think often it can seem like that. And I think, you know, there's, there's a lot of issues around power and privilege and, and you know, people not having the privilege of being able to be arrested with very minimal consequences that, you know, really need to be taken into account. And I think also it's important to say, um, that I think arrests are really very contextual. Like so many of these things, it's important to know why you're doing it and the strategy and the timing are all really important. So yeah, those are some of the sort of the things that I think are important about arrest.
So it's interesting because it is something that I've seen some people be really supportive of it being really important part of the sort of theory of change. And it's definitely something that's mentioned a lot in this is an uprising, uh, as sacrifice being a method for strengthening the sort of resolve of activists and inspiring others. But I've also seen substantial contrary evidence. So when I looked into the U S antiabortion movement, I think I found that direct action tactics and their accompanying rhetoric may be attractive, decide because I may have movement building effects, bringing in new activists or resources at least temporarily, but translations with the law, let's financial costs as well as emotional, practical difficulties for activists, presumably accelerating actors burnout. And there's this great quote from an author called Carol JC Maxwell who noted that activist antiabortion activists in the st Louis direct action community, uh, four of them were arrested and sentenced to between 225 to 314 days in jail.
Each and these long sentences were the first issued for antiabortion settings in st Louis. And they shocked the activists almost two years passed before another group coalesced as obviously fairly anecdotal and specific example. But there's quite a lot of evidence from the antiabortion movement of those direct action protests sort of just dying out as, as, um, the, the sort of wearingness of it dragged on. So, yeah, I, I, I do find that kind of approach potentially concerning, and it's almost about, I mean, obviously with the idea you were talking about before of the whirlwind moments, it seems to me that if those tactics are used, the timing them is crucial.
Oh, absolutely. And I think, you know, I think, like I said, with all of these things, they're so contextual and the timing where you are in the movement cycle, there's so many different things to think about. It's, I mean, it's also, you know, in reference to your example that you've just cited. I mean it's, it's, it's also really dependent on what kind of sacrifice you're talking about. I mean XR are asking for, you know, the people being arrested for blocking the road for example. I mean, that doesn't, it doesn't require, I mean, it doesn't lead to a, uh, a custodial sentence. It's, it's a fine ultimately if you're found guilty. So that's very different to something where, you know, the, the sentence is going to be, you know, really quite damaging to your life. So yeah, it could be so many different things blocking the highway.
Um, it could be hunger strikes, it could be hardships like setting up camp in a forest or fracking sites. I think there's a big range of things that would be qualified. It would qualify as what, what's, you know, sacrifice. And it also really depends on the culture of the society and the group of people you're hoping to mobilize and how you go about doing it. So, you know, for the student movement Otpor and Serbia, you know, they, they were mobilizing students and arrest became a badge of honor. So it actually encouraged people despite, you know, the fact that they were taking much bigger risks than we are in the UK in terms of beatings from the police and with XR. Um, you know, they've used a mass arrest rushy they've managed to grow exponentially. It doesn't seem to be putting, well we don't know how many people it's actually put off.
Um, but it's managed to grow exponentially. And they were very strategic about who they were targeting when they were doing their talks around the country before their first actions. You know, they, they targeted students and retired people, people that they knew would be most likely up for getting arrested. Um, and so many first time activists have joined extinction rebellion and, and been arrested. I mean, it's amazing, but you know, at the same time, we don't know if the arrest strategy, she has pushed some people away that it could have otherwise mobilized. It's definitely pushed people of color and other marginalized groups away. And there's been a lot of criticism about that. But yeah, I think, you know, and then I think about our movement, I'm thinking about DXE and you know, people are facing up to 40, 60 years in prison, but yet people are still going out to do open rescue. Um, so yeah, it's, it's very contextual at the timing's important and yeah, I think we have to take these things, these considerations. You seriously.
Yeah, it's interesting. Uh, those examples of, of people being inspired by, I, I wouldn't want to even suggest that there aren't some people who are inspired by it. I think it comes back to what you think the net effect is. Again, like, like we were talking about with, with public opinion, if you have, you know, if, if you're doing some action means that you get 10 more activists the next day than you otherwise would have done, but 50 activists to put off joining longer term, then to me that's a clear net negative unless the timing is so crucial that you need people right now. But yeah, so again, something to think about. It seems like, it seems like this is something that could be more sort of directly tested with experimental evidence. When we think about, again, social movement evidence, like you say, we don't know how many people have been put off.
We're just looking at correlations of sort of movements and their tactics with success. I feel like that's something that you could do experiments where you provide some participants with information about particular protests using self-sacrifice, others that were similar but without those self-sacrifice stories and just do some surfing afterwards. But um, yeah, another form of evidence that could be brought to bear on that question. So yeah, we talked a bit about the imagery side of things and that being a key learning for animal rebellions, October actions. Yeah. So this is something that I'm really interested in and one thing I think that there's sort of so much I agree with with the approach of animal rebellion that I find really inspiring, like the focus on institutional change and so many of the tactics being used. But one thing that I just find kind of perplexing is, and this is extinction rebellion, especially I guess with this idea of regenerative culture and uh, some of the kind of imagery that comes about with that.
Like if you Google for extinction, rebellion street protests, you get some quite bizarre imagery coming off and like people doing street dances and things I think just must be really off putting for a load of people. And this is something that's kind of been brought up with direct action everywhere, animal rebellion, some of these other groups it's kind of like, yeah, these things draw attention, but they just feel potentially counterproductive. These kind of stunts, gimmicks, that sort of thing. And like I think the notable example with animal rebellion is, is mr broccoli, which who was an activist who managed to get on to national television after his arrest and was interviewed by the notorious piers Morgan in the UK who is a kind of famous anti vegan. And it was a very strange interview to say the least. And we can dive into some of those. But do you think those sorts of stunts and gimmicks are worthwhile for the attention that they bring?
I think stunts and gimmicks have their place for sure. Um, but we also have to be really careful about, yeah. Not putting off the mainstream, which is, which is I think what you're getting at in terms of some of the bizarre stuff that you've seen, uh, of extinction rebellion. But you know, it's part of a movement culture and part of or little part, it's not, you know, ex extinction, but in general it is pretty mainstream actually. Um, as far as I've seen. But I think, you know, the mr broccoli example is a great example of a gimmick or a stunt if you, or a stunt, let's call it a stunt, um, or creative action. Um, that really I think confused and upset a lot of our sort of base or people in the animal justice community, but ultimately reached a mainstream audience that we would never have reached.
Um, and I think it's, it's so interesting because we can look at these things from all sorts of different perspectives and come up with different conclusions. So, you know, so mr broccoli, you know, it wasn't like it was planned, it was part of a veggie veggie swarm. It was a fun little action, a little breather between the sort of heavier actions. Um, and it just so happened that, um, mr broccoli got arrested on the pavement and it was caught on camera and you know, it went viral on Twitter. And so, you know, Piers Morgan was like, I want to interview mr broccoli. And so, and animal rebellion. We're like, well, how about a scientist? Or how about a journalist? Or how about anybody but mr broccoli? And he was like, no, I want to interview mr broccoli. So it really was about taking advantage of an opportunity that just happened to come about through doing something fun, creative action.
And, you know, it was, I'm not going to lie, it was quite cringe-worthy watching it. And I think part of that was that the execution of it wasn't as good as it could be because I don't know, you know, during these times, if someone's sleep deprived, it was happening very, very quickly. Um, and mr broccoli was never planning to go on piers Morgan. Right. But what ended up happening is that mr broccoli, the mr broccoli story, got into every local newspaper and radio station in the UK and they just copied and pasted nine paragraphs from the associated press press release, which was basically straight from the animal rebellion website on why we need a plant based food system. It was trending on Twitter, you know, people got the, actually it was a creative action that was around trolling the media. It was about piers Morgan saying to somebody dressed up as a broccoli.
Oh, you know, it's because of you that, you know, you're, you're giving climate change activists that bad name. Well, how about interviewing a scientist? I mean, so I think people actually got it and it reached a mainstream audience, um, that we would never really have been able to reach. So, you know, to me, based on those sorts of criteria about reaching a mainstream audience, having a fun association with animal rebellion, that was a very successful and creative action. And yet it wasn't even, it wasn't even planned. It was just something that, you know what I mean? There was seven hours of discussion in a room about how to deal with the piers Morgan invitation. But yeah, it was something that was, that happened very much on the fly. So I think, you know, it's really easy to be critical of these stumps and so called gimmicks. Um, but actually I think they have a really important role to play in getting to places and accessing people that we wouldn't normally.
Yeah. So it certainly brings media attention and I guess that that is presumably the main goal and the main benefit of them. And yeah, to clarify, I'm not trying to be, I don't want to sort of say mr broccoli is a fool or anything like that. I think it's great that obviously people are trying out different methods. I think I, on the other hand, I do think we can sort of think in advance what sorts of actions do we want to promote, what do we want to, what sorts of opportunities do we want to take or reject in advance? Yeah. I think it relates to a number of different trade offs. One is the kind of activist versus mainstream distinction that we've been, that we've been hinting at. And who do you see the main audience has at particular times? Even like if, um, if you see getting in people's awareness as something beneficial come, what may then that seems really positive.
I guess it comes back to this idea of like overall attitude change. What is the takeaway from that clip they saw mr broccoli? Is it that, Hey, there's a serious message behind this or is it that look at these crazy activists / vegans dressing up as broccoli on national TV. It seems really strange. So it's hard to say. It's really hard to say. Another trade off is, is whether you think it's important that it's like the mainstream perception or the perception of the decision makers and the sort of institutional decision makers and the politicians. Because if you think the latter, then you might think sort of seriousness and credibility seem especially important.
yeah. Well I think, I think that's really interesting and that brings us back to the ecology perspective. What are you trying to do? If your theory of change is about shifting public opinion and building a mass movement to do that, you would have one approach. But if you were thinking about really um, you know, focusing on, on, on lobbying or trying to shift, um, directly shift opinions of, of particular power holders, then maybe you'd use a different strategy and insight, a strategy or a structure based, um, kind of organizing strategy. So I think it's really important to be clear about your theory of change. And then within that it's really important to, to know what are you doing? Are you trying to shift public opinion or are you trying to appeal to your base and get them inspired and motivated to come out and join you? And both of those things are really important in the sort of mass protest theory of change. And when you do actions, I think it's really important to know what it is that you're trying to do.
Sure. Yeah. So this, this kind of discussion we've been having about stunts and gimmicks, whether that beneficial or not is one of the various, what we call foundational questions and effective animal advocacy that we've summarized evidence for and are on our website. Another one that I think you've probably thought quite a lot about and we've touched on during this conversation is the topic of confrontational activism versus non-confrontational activism. Yeah. And we've touched about with the idea of sacrifice and how animal animal rebellion kind of was taking a new angle on confrontational activism there. Yeah. Do you have any sort of oval views on that, on that question? Or again, are you going to emphasize the context being super important?
Yeah, you've got my favorite sentence. The context is so important. And also I think, you know, with, with questions like either or or this or that, I'm much more of the opinion that we need both. And so I, I would shy away from um, saying one or the other is more important or, um, you know, I mean though, I will, I will look with interest at your, the collation of evidence that you've got, which haven't seen context is really important and both are important at different times for different reasons.
Cool. So maybe it's better to speak about concrete examples then. Alright. Uh, so another one that's like, it kind of fits into both of these discussions we've been having as well, um, is direct action everywhere. There's recently sort of a video of Direct Action Everywhere's disruption of Bernie Sanders rally in the race between the democratic candidates. I mean, obviously this was, this race is now finished, but, uh, an interesting example of a potential of a potential protest. And so yeah, direct action everywhere interrupted both, both Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden and their race and watching the video of the disruption of Sanders as soon as the protest that takes the mic there is booing and gradually people start to chant for Saunders. It's, yeah, emphasize this idea of getting attention. The protestor takes a top off, that sort of thing. It seems intuitively likely just watching the reaction on that video, that the net effect of the protest, at least at the event itself was to just bolster support for Sanders, not to throw it into question in the light of his support for dairy. And obviously there are sort of indirect effects which are really hard to assess and like just watching the video doesn't tell the whole story. But yeah. Any, any thoughts on that concrete example there?
Yeah, I mean I think, I think you're right watching the video doesn't, it's not, it's never going to tell the whole story. Um, and I think it's important to remember that these types of disruptions aren't aimed at sort of the people who are in the immediate vicinity. They're about acting on society. They're generally aimed at getting press attention for your issue. Um, and, and to have an opportunity to get your argument out there. And I think, I mean, I, I didn't really follow the press attention that came after that, but I definitely saw some positive articles that really went into detail. I think there was a Fox piece, but don't quote me on that. Um, that actually did talk about the issues. So I think from my perspective and also it's, it's, you know, what you're talking about indirect effects but also, you know, taking these actions in isolation.
Um, it's, I think it's quite dangerous. So I think, you know, we, we really need to see them in a broader context of a campaign, a strategic campaign, um, but also see the types of press attention that people are getting and, and the conversation that it's provoking out in society, not with the people who are immediately there. But yeah, I think in general, I think the way that we disrupted who we disrupt, you know, for example, you know, trying to disrupt the idea of systems and institutions rather than individuals, um, is really important. And again, I think keeping the idea of like positive polarization in mind, it feels really important.
Yeah, it's interesting the, the of institutions versus individuals in the case of DxE cause they're a really interesting group that they do those sorts of public actions targeted at institutions and big institutional decision makers. But they also do protests that just like disrupt restaurants and just chat with people in restaurants and that sort of thing, which tends to lead to, to at least anecdotally what I've seen really hostile news. You actions like one newspaper headline from a UK protest was vegan invaders are booed out of restaurant after protest attempt. It just, yeah, it just seems really, the public reaction just seems to be really rejecting those, at least those efforts to disrupt people just going about what they consider that ordinary lives, eating animal products, et cetera. But it does beg the question of just like, what the net effect is. Like we keep going back to this idea, what does it, what conversation does it spark what you change? Does it spark, if any? Are you aware of any sort of like efforts to track these things across these different groups?
Um, I'm not, but I just, I just want to go back to this idea of, you know what? Okay. So, um, the, the, the disrupting, um, people in restaurants and what have you. I also find this really, really difficult to watch. And I think that there, that there could be different reasons for doing things like that, you know, one which could be, you know, an easy kind of action to, to get people active and sort of to grow the base. But I remember that there was definitely one, one, um, action that DXE Brighton did and they ended up getting on on breakfast TV even though, you know, the reception and the restaurant wasn't great or what have you. Um, so it's, it's so complex isn't it? You know, our immediate reaction is, Oh, that's, that's, you know, I'm cringing. That's really painful to watch. And people are, but at the same time being able to get onto mainstream breakfast TV and, and, and to share your argument, you know, I don't know.
And so in terms of the net effect, I have no idea whether DxE or any of these organizations that are trying to track anything. I know that animal rebellion at least, well, they didn't have the time or the resources to do like a proper content analysis on their media coverage, but they were able to track at least the mentions and the articles and interviews that they had and they had I think over 300 articles and interviews across a whole range of media, radio, TV, press papers by the end of October. But yeah, it'd be really, really interesting to see what kind of, you know, some analysis come out of these things, but also it's really difficult to measure because it's like, it's not just about the individual actions, it's the cumulative effect of these things and keeping these like these, these issues in the public spotlight and um, yeah. Sparking off a conversation.
Yeah, definitely difficult to measure. I think there's, I mean there's loads of things that could come out of it just to offer, you know, some examples of ways it could be dotted up would even just be coding things as overall positive or negative or giving them some sort of subjective score out of five of positiveness and trying to code for features and things like that. Alternatively, you could just use those examples of different articles to create some sort of randomized controlled trial where you show people one article or the other with sort of real life, uh, articles have happened in response to campaigns. There's, I think there's lots of different ways that that sort of thing could be analyzed if people had the time and the information and thought it was a high priority. But yeah, it'd be really, it would be really interesting to see what, what comes out of that sort of thing.
Okay. I also just want to emphasize that I feel like I've been potentially sounding quite critical of some of these groups and some of the questions which obviously I have views on some of these questions, but I also think they're doing great work with, with regards to some of the institutional tactics they are using and also some of the work they're doing and actually just mobilizing people, which is a topic we keep coming back to. A kind of related piece of research on that that as has sort of done the rounds in some different groups, especially direct action everywhere actually is a, is the research by Erica Chenoweth and Mariah Stephan on the, the book why civil resistance works and some of the sort of related videos and blog posts that have gone around that. Yeah, so for context, this is a, a big sort of systematic study of lots of different social movements focusing on arguably quite a different focus to the fundamental movement, but it sort of coded them for success or not.
And one of the really interesting findings that came out of this was that yeah, it was that they, they found that there was a sort of a certain threshold of number of people that over, yeah. So this is the quote, no campaigns failed once they achieve the active and sustained participation of just 3.5% of the population and lots of them succeeded with far less than that. Again, I've seen it sort of that figure shared. I'm, I'm pretty sure I've heard direct action everywhere they post about using that. I think I've seen somebody from animal rebellion refer to that as well by comparison. The numbers for vegetarianism are probably somewhere around three point somewhere around this sort of 3.5% figure currently. Uh, depending on which polls you look at and there's a great blog post by animal charity of any rates is looking at various different sources of data on the number of vegetarians and vegans in the U S is your guess that the ask for active and sustained participation in the movement is more or less challenging than the ask for veganism?
Gosh, I'm not sure. I think, again, it depends on so many factors. I mean, when we think about, um, you know, movements and asking for active and sustained participation, so movements that built one campaign at a time. So it really depends on how framed your campaign, what you're asking people to join and what the demand is and the skill with which you're actually making the ask and inspiring people to join. So let's say you've chosen a campaign that seeks to end all animal experts exploitation and you know, compare that to one that's aiming to end poppy farms, which could well be one of the campaigns that you use earlier on to mobilize more people that was going to be going to influence how easy or hard it is to get active and sustained participation. So I think, you know, again, you know, the context and the, and what you're asking, um, depends.
Um, how easy or hard is a rule? My gut feeling is it's probably easier to get active and sustained participation for a really well framed symbolic demands than actually asking people to turn vegan. And you know, the majority of like the thousands of people who are involved in the Shoreham live export protests in the eighties. I mean, I don't think they were vegan or even vegetarian. Um, I remember Dan telling me that Mick Roberts who was one of the key figures with tea with cow's milk when Dan went to go and talk to him last year. So it really depends. But I think, you know, I mean I wanted to sort of emphasize the way that we think about these things, sort of with the ecology perspective that, you know, even if, let's say it's easier to get people to join a movement of active and sustained participation, you know, we need, we need both of these approaches and many more besides, um, if we're going to, if we have any chance of winning. So, um, and you know, we need vegans who are going to be ultimately the first base of people to be mobilized.
Yeah. I think this is, this is an issue that has come up with, well, partly because it's a key focus of a lot of senses. It's user research is this question of institutional versus individual tactics, but it is often, it's, yes, we do need both to some extent. You could argue though that the balance, the balance is not currently 50, 50 between say these, these individual focus, these, uh, this focus on getting people to go vegan and change their diet versus actively participate in demonstrations. Uh, any other forms of activism that influence these kinds of institutional changes we're seeking. So I think it all comes back to that, uh, that trade off and wanting to sort of work out where the, what the optimum balance would be and how far away that is from the current situation.
Mm. Well, I mean it's, yeah, obviously it's, it's very difficult to know and I think, I just want that there was something that I just wanted to emphasize that there's sort of 3.5% active and active and sustained participation figure is an indicator of much broader passive support for your cause. And I think that's ultimately what we need to be focusing on. Shifting sort of the neutrals to be supportive. Yeah. I think, I think this sort of focus on the 3.5% might be misleading are slightly to actually what the most important thing is, which is, is public popular support.
Okay. Yeah. That's interesting. Not something I've thought about with that 3.5% figure that, cause again it comes to, I think there is a bit of a distinction between like direct participation of the most engaged the activists and then the, the wider public opinion, which can be almost indifferent but leans to one side or the other, that sort of thing. Yeah. Okay. So, so obviously this, this book, why civil resistance works is again, it's one of the sort of top two books you recommended to me when we met last year. What are some of your sort of key takeaways from the book?
I mean, I think having said that, this 3.5% figure isn't as important that that was an important takeaway and that, you know, we don't have to mobilize 50% of the population. And I think the other key takeaway for, for us, the animal think tank is, is really about the, um, the, well, I mean it's, it, it's great data to support that sort of nonviolence, um, nonviolent campaigns are much more likely to see succeed than, than violent campaigns. I think those are the sort of two big things. Um, for me it's been a while since I read the book.
Why don't we get back to 'em and we'll think tank itself cause we've kind of done a massive circle of topics, relate to animals, think tanks interested in, but we haven't actually spoken that much about the word animal think tank itself is doing. So, I mean obviously you've run a training session in London and when we spoke previously you gave me the impression that animal think tanks sort of main priority were to focus on doing movement building trainings, random advocates, especially grassroots activists. Is that still the case? Is that still the focus?
No, it's not the focus. I think when we met, I can't even remember when it was maybe a year and a half ago. Um, I think we just recently formed. Um, and we were really, I mean, we're still learning, we're constantly learning, but I think, um, we were trying out trainings partly as a, as you know, you teach what you need to learn. Um, we wanted to share the theory of change and we also wanted to test out some of our, some of the material, um, and see how it was landing with activists. Um, but what we're really focusing on now is actually the process of building the foundations and the DNA of a mass movement for animal justice in the UK. And we're, we're following this sort of momentum, momentum driven organizing approach. And, um, specifically, and I haven't mentioned this, but, um, the, the Institute has got a sort of, I think it's eight webinars that really drill down into the how to do a momentum driven organizing on a really sort of practical level.
So what does it mean? All the things that they talk about, and this is an uprising. Okay, so how are we going to do it? Um, and they talk about four foundational things that we, that you need to develop, um, your structure, your story, the metanarrative that I was talking about, your strategy and your culture. And this is what they call the DNA of a movement. So our current project is basically developing the DNA of a potential mass movement, um, in the UK. Um, and it's a heck of a lot of work, but it's really, really exciting stuff. So what is the story? What is the metanarrative, um, of your, of your movement that's going to really land with people's values and mental models? The sort of the equivalent of like black lives matter or, um, so that's, that's the story part, the structure. So developing the decentralized structure of the movement organization that can absorb thousands of people, um, and can enable them to act autonomously, but still in, you know, unified enough in terms of following the movements, uh, or the campaigns demands, the strategy, the sort of the ground demand and then the strategic milestones that are gonna enable you to get to that legislative change or whatever the ultimate goal is, which you know, is still yet to be decided and discussed and discussed in collaboration with other organizations and the ecology and then the culture of the organization.
What are the principles and the values, what are the cultural that are going to enable you to be resilient as a movement and to build power and to be inclusive enough to be able to appeal to a mainstream audience but still, you know, but to also be anti-oppressive in the way that you do things. So those, that's what I mean when I, well that's what momentum means when they talk about DNA.
And how are those things being shared with the movement?
Well, where we're in very much research and development mode at the moment. Um, and when you look at, um, organizations like momentum and the Anyi Institute, they generally incubate, um, movements for about 12 to 18 months to develop this DNA. So that's basically what we're doing. We're kind of incubating ourselves to develop, um, these, these four elements. Um, and, but one of the, one of the really, really inspiring and amazing things that's happening in animal think tank is the narrative work, the developing of the meta narrative. And we've got Dr. Emma Franklin and dr Alex Lockwood working on our narrative on this narrative. And Emma is a Corpus linguist and, um, Alex is an academic journalist with a position at sunburn university and they're doing research on developing the narrative according to this methodology, which has been developed by the center for story-based strategy. Um, and is outlined in the book re-imagining change if anybody's interested.
Um, and you know, they're doing a lot of analysis on how different parts of the population talk about animals. So, you know, as part of the, sort of the first piece of part of their research to develop, um, a narrative that's going to actually land with people. Um, so that's, that's one of the things that's, that's going on right now. And we would be sharing the results of that. I think the plan was to be, to be sharing that in the summer. Um, and I think they're going to be developing a kind of a toolkit so that others within the movement can, can develop stories around this narrative. And there's also gonna be a workshop where others within the movement are going to be able to feed into what they're doing and, and for us to share what they've been doing. So that, that's one piece.
And I think the strategy piece, as I said, the strategy team is just, um, is really now just getting going. Um, but it's going to be very much, um, I think taking its lead from the narrative work, um, the structure piece, um, we're, we're now just embedding something called sociocracy within animal think tanks that we're learning around that it's, you know, it's distributed and decentralized decision making and authority and power, which is going to be really important also for the movement. Um, that comes out of, or that we seed. Um, and then I'm leading on the culture work, but I only started last month. So, um, it's very much a case of really going into doing some research on, on how we can develop the conditions, um, where people can, can thrive and transform and become leaders, um, in the movement.
And so the narrative research, what sort of research is that? Is that like content analysis? Is it focus groups? Is it research? How's that working?
So, okay, this is not my area of expertise, so I really apologize in advance to Emma and Alex. But, um, uh, if I'm not, uh, about presenting what their research is, um, perfectly, but, so Emma is, like I said, she's a Corpus linguist, so she analyzes huge amounts of, um, words and data using some kind of a package looking and picking up patterns in the language. Um, so that's what I think they call distance reading. Um, and then Alex is looking at, she's doing close reading. So that's, that's again, uh, I think doing kind of literature reviews, but also looking at social media and different places where people talk about, um, animals and different demographics. And different parts of the population. Um, talk about animals. So it's very much a button language analysis. Um, that's then going to come up with something amazing hopefully.
Okay, cool. Yeah, that sounds really interesting. Look forward to that coming out of being able to read that. So I don't think, thanks website, it's, it's got like this impressive list of different topics and resources that are considered by the organization. And some of them I've just completely unfamiliar with what they even mean. Um, or if not what they mean than just what, what exists out there on those topics already. So let's just, let's just pick a couple. One is, uh, one that is listed is effective approaches to community organizing. What's that referring to? Is that referring to the sorts of things we've been talking about already with mentor driven organizing? Or is this,
yeah, I think this is a festival. That website is two years old and it needs a big revamp. But anyway, effective approaches to community organizing I think is referring to, um, you know, the structure based organizing, um, that we've been talking about. So, um, uh, solar Linsky, Marshall Ganz, Harry Hahn, um, Jane MacAlevy, her book, no shortcuts. You know, she's a big train trade union organizer, um, big organizing types of approaches. So there's a book called rules for revolutionaries about the Bernie Sanders campaign. So it's, it's, it's really about, um, you know, developing, um, really cohesive groups and, and leaders, um, and leadership within those groups, um, um, to be able to do big things. Um, and I think there's also, you know, some research from psychology about what motivates people to be in groups. But I think the, the, the authors that I've listed to the kind of classic, um, authors in terms of and practitioners, in terms of community organizing,
another one that's listed on there is "strategic litigation," which seemed, which is interesting to me because it's something I looked into quite a bit. It's come up in the us antiabortion movement case study that I was talking about before. It's also come up in the case study that I'm launching, sorry, publishing fairly soon on the U S anti-death-penalty movement. And I've also reviewed the political science, sociology and legal writings related to Supreme court and social change, which is published as another report on our website. So yeah, I was interested with the strategic litigation. Do you know what that's referring to?
Yeah, I mean, I think this is really Dan's area. He's a, I've got a legal background, but I think we're talking, I think the best example of the sort of strategic litigation and our movement anyway is the Nonhuman rights project. But then we're also thinking about things like, you know, focusing on challenging false advertising claims of the industry. Um, there's somebody called Jay Shooster in the U S who's doing, who's, um, doing a strategic litigation like this, for example. Um, you know, uh, contesting Ben and Jerry's claims around like their advertising around happy cows. Um, so it's, I think it's exploring those things. Um, and those sorts of, uh, you know, using the legal system and legislation in a strategic way. And I think, I think it's George Lakoff who talks about two different types of initiatives in this area. So there's strategic, so laws that you can pass, which have wider effects over many other areas.
So maybe a tax law might affect many, many different sectors. Um, and that would also perhaps hit the animal industry without people even realizing it. Um, another example could be like banning the slaughter of pregnant dairy cows, you know, through the court systems would be like a strategic initiative. Um, and then there's sort of a different type of um, initiative, um, which equals slippery slope. So initiatives like them on human rights project. But ultimately I think when we're thinking about strategic litigation, we're focused on litigation that can shift public opinion and give fuel to grassroots campaigns. But it's not something that animal think tank is, is working on a tool right now. But it's, it is a piece of the ecology that feels like it's quite weak within the movement at the moment. Um, and that would be really beneficial to have more of.
The first podcast we actually did for the first episode we did for this podcast was with Kevin Schneider, the nonhuman rights project. So again, definitely a topic that I've been thinking about quite a lot. Uh, I mentioned also there's the resources section on your website and there's tons of books on there I've never read. Um, but a topic that we've spoken about a bit in this, in this interview but also I think is referred to you with some of the books on that is this idea of how to mobilize activists. And there's a book on there, Swarmwise, which I've read and I know lots of people found really inspiring. Like people that open cages have recommended it. To me it's more about organizational principles, that sort of thing. Yeah. Do you have any other thoughts on other books that touch on this topic of sort of effective organizing and how to actually mobilize activists? For example, there's a book on there called like how organizations develop activists and that seems like that would be relevant to that topic. Any thoughts on that?
Yeah, no, I think that the hairy hand book that you mentioned is, is also a really good one. A big key insight about that was, you know, to make big asks of people rather than in and delegate roles rather than, um, tasks. So people can really step up. I think, I don't know any books that specifically all about how mobilizing activists, I think the things that, you know, the community organizing books that we talked about, you know, those sorts of books or solid Linsky that, um, the J, uh, the Jane Mac levy, no shortcuts that are really, really interesting. But I think, um, this sort of this, the, the types of books that have really helped or helping us to think about sort of these sort of decentralized mechanisms which is swarm wise is, is also talking about, um, and how to develop those. That's the sort of structure piece of the DNA that I was talking about earlier.
Books that I think are really important for us are reinventing organizations by Frederic Laloux. There's Holacracy by Brian Robertson, I think it is. There's we the people about sociocracy that we're, we're also using, um, you know, in animal think tank. We're trying to embed that. And also, and I think a really good resource actually coming to think, thinking about it to go along what side's form wise is the it Institute have got a bunch of webinars, um, are, which I think they call it something like decentralized form organizing. And I think it's kind of a bit like, I haven't, I haven't watched them, but I think given how brilliant their momentum webinars are, which is kind of like a companion to the, this is an uprising about how to actually do it, I would imagine that they'd be worth checking out for how to actually do the swarm, you know, swarm organizing. Um, and I'll structure the person who's looking after structure is going through those webinars right now in animal think tank. So
cool. Lots of different resources and books mentioned there. Do you have, do you know what sorts of evidence and research these these books are based upon? So for example, with the books we talked about so far, this is an uprising very much based on a sort of handful of case studies and drawing on historical social movement, case studies and drawing on some other books. And contributions that have been used using different methodologies of course. And then once a resistance works much more a very thorough sort of systematic review of a certain type of social movement and coding it for changes and different characteristics, that sort of thing. But then swarm rises very different methodologies. Either those, it's, it's like, it's just sort of the experience of a particular organizer from the uh, uh, Scandinavian country. I can't remember which, but the pirate party in that country.
Yeah. I mean it's like a, it's like a big in-depth case study. Just the one. Yeah, I mean, I think, I think a few of these books are sort of, you know, really based on personal experience, which I think is just, there's so much to learn from these. But then books, like reinventing organizations was based on three years of research looking at pioneering organizations of different sizes across the world. You know, I think the biggest one was about 40,000 people, um, in, in that, in an organization. So I think they vary. And I, I, I, I'm not sure I can speak really, really accurately to the evidence that some of these books are based on, but I think there's a range. Yeah. And the hairy hand book is based on scientific research, I think.
Cool. Yeah. And interesting to hear as well, the animal thing tank, doing some more sort of primary research with those different projects. Then, uh, my impression was previously, uh, so yeah, looking forward to some of that stuff coming out. Okay. Why don't we talk about the book that you're co-editing briefly as well. So it's called rethinking food and agriculture new ways forwards. Why don't you just tell us what's involved in that book?
Well, basically, I mean, I can give you a bit of backstory. So my, I, it's a book that I've co-edited with my father who is an expert in sustainable agriculture, specifically a paradigm of agriculture called conservation agriculture. And he'd been asked to edit a book about conservation agriculture. He does this all the time. And he said, Oh, Laila, why don't you help me? And I was like, I'm not interested unless we can also include, um, the sort of the political economy, the structural aspects and the, yeah, the economic and political and social aspects that you know, and the systems in which, you know, agriculture, any sector is going to be embedded because that's ultimately what's sort of driving our destructive food system. Um, and so we came up with this idea for a book that kind of puts together so many different, um, areas and disciplines all around, um, rethinking our food and agriculture system, including the sort of animal liberation and animal justice aspects of it as well.
And so, yeah, we've come up with a monster of a book, which it's got 21 chapters and you know, where we sort of reviewing, reassessing and ultimately trying to reimagine the current food and agriculture system and look at some of the sort of structural drivers and root causes of unsustainability, of degradation, of our destruction of nature, but also to highlight the many ways that farmers and their communities, civil society groups and so many other people are forging new ways forward. So in terms of alternative paradigms of agriculture, of nutrition, of political economy, which are truly sustainable. And just, and we've kind of come up with a, with a, a concept that we're calling inclusive responsibility, which really speaks to this kind of idea of, of, you know, all of our systems, but especially our food and agriculture system, needing to be, you know, truly sustainable and just for all.
So including also animals. By the end of the book, we, we sort of draw, you know, the key lessons from all of the different chapters. Um, and, and try and synthesize them into coming up with the foundations of what an inclusively responsible food and agriculture system might look like. Um, so that's a bit of a, an overview. Who's the main audience of the book? It's a range. It's academics, it's activists, development experts. I mean, we've, we've really tried, uh, I mean all the, not all the authors are hardcore academics. So, um, there's, there's a, as a mixture of sort of scholar activists, um, people who have spent their life as practitioners. Um, and then there are obviously, um, academics. So I think it's, it's, there's a range in the book and I think there's a, there's a broad audience that would find it useful.
So your father Amir Kassam is listed as being the moderator of the global conservation culture, community of practice of the food and Agricultural Organization of the United nations. Uh, and that's that sort of advice and academia and that sort of stuff seems like quite a different route to impact compared to the one that at least animal rebellion. And some of the groups we've been talking about more focused on is it seems much more of a sort of insider track and obviously you've had some exposure to that yourself as well. What are your thoughts about that sort of approach compared to the sort of tactics we've been speaking about more?
Well, I mean, I'm going back to the ecology perspective. I think that the insider track is, is needed as much as all the other kind of, um, theories of change within the ecology. Um, if you can stomach it. And I also just want to caveat that not everyone working inside these organizations are pursuing a strategy of social change. Um, as it happened, my father has actually been very successful in championing, um, conservation agriculture globally within, um, FAO, um, which has adopted, uh, the conservation agriculture approach, but amongst many others. So it's been a successful approach for him in terms of what he's wanted to do in his career. But you know, at the same time he's also been following like another type of strategy of developing alternative. So the, what you mentioned, um, the conservation agriculture community of practice is actually, um, uh, has, uh, has established a global network of practitioners of conservation agriculture, um, all over the world and using it to develop an alternative to the dominant industrial agriculture paradigm. So, yeah, I mean, I think, like I said, I think all of these types of, of, of ways for making change are really important and they are, they are interdependent actually.
Yeah, it makes sense. Something I've been thinking a lot about with the new nonprofit I've cofounded called Animal Advocacy Careers is how people fit into this kind of ecology and how important those considerations of personal fit with different types of routes to impacts are in terms of how somebody, an individual can maximize their impact. But you've, you've mentioned a few times your father's background in sort of sustainable agriculture. What are your thoughts on that area? Is that an area that more advocate that could benefit from more farmed animal advocates thinking about and using as a kind of route into whether it's academia or sort of public policy advocacy, any of those sorts of things?
Yeah, I mean I think in general sustainable agriculture is a really important area that we need to understand in the animal justice community. You know, because if we are demanding, let's say a plant based food system but don't understand how destructive our conventional agriculture is, we're going to create a different type of food system, but it's going to still be very, very destructive to other animals and to marginalize humans and to the planet. So I think in general it's a really, really important subject area that we need to be able to yeah. To really grapple with. But I would say that, you know, the conventional route is, you know, going to universities. Most universities are still promoting industrial crop agriculture and animal farming. So my father has been, um, well he's, he's been a professor at Reading University in the UK for nearly 20 years I think.
And he's been teaching conservation agriculture and natural resource management. But there's not that many universities that teach sustainable agriculture and still, even if they do these alternative paradigms that are being taught sort of organic agroecology, regenerative farming, they still, you know, they still co-opt animals by default without understanding that we don't actually need other animals, them and your or their integration into production systems. So yeah. So my answer would be yes, very important. But with the caveat that a conventional route to learning about this stuff like through academia is going to be, you know, you should be careful. Um, but definitely I would encourage people to research conservation agriculture and also things like vegan permaculture are really, really important for the world that we want to create. I think.
So is this more, something along the lines of reading a couple of books would be really helpful sort of context and help sort of focus your understanding on those particular topics as opposed to say, doing a PhD in a relevant area?
Oh, well, I mean it's all needed. It depends. It depends what you want to do. I mean, if you just want to feel comfortable that you're, that you, that there is definitely another paradigm of agriculture that doesn't need animals. So you can feel confident in your advocacy. Yeah, I read a couple of books, but if you want to actually, you know, um, come up with new ways of doing things within a, within a sustainable agriculture paradigm here at golf and do a PhD. So it really depends what you, what you want to be doing with it. But I think in general, those expertise are important within that, within our movement. And to add credibility, especially when the environmental and food movements, really few views or vegan and vegans as being sort of uneducated about the reality of farming and those sorts of things.
Sure. So you yourself previously worked in international development. Can you tell us a little bit more about your work in that respect?
Yes. It feels like a lifetime ago now, but I can tell you. So I did an undergrad in economics and politics and then did a master's in development management and then went off and started working in the development industry. Um, I've worked in, uh, I started working in a private foundation in Switzerland, which had projects in Africa and Asia mainly to do with rural development. So that's what I was, was working on. Um, then I moved on to, uh, working in Kenya where I was doing an impact assessment for a project. They'd been going for 10 years and ultimately had no impact that I found. Um, and then like worked in the ministry of agriculture and Guyana advising the minister of agriculture. And then I moved into working in the field of fish farming for poverty alleviation. It was kind of by chance. Um, and it's strange now to think about it now that I'm vegan.
Um, but yeah, so I started consulting for the world fish center, um, which was really focused on, uh, fish farming and sustainable fisheries for poverty alleviation and food security. Um, and ended up doing a PhD looking at the impact of fish farming on poverty alleviation in Ghana. Um, and then carried on consulting after my PhD for the FAO for the world fish center and other organizations on development projects, um, funded by USAID, by DIFID, um, by different donors, um, that were focused on mainly on, on fish farming, but also other sort of rural development aspects, um, and assessing them for their impacts on food security and poverty and livelihood development. Um, and so that sort of brings us to 2017, I think, and that's when I kind of decided that I was going to stop consulting. Cool. Are there any particular lessons that you think the animal advocacy movement can take from the international development field?
Oh, yeah. I think, well, I mean I think, you know, I have quite a critical relationship with mainstream development, but that's the subject of a whole other podcast. But I do think that there are some sort of overarching lessons that I've certainly learned anyway. And I think, um, I think firstly I think that, you know, there's a growing realization the aid has failed and hunger and poverty is actually getting worse, not better despite what official sources would like us to believe. Um, and I think part of the problem is that the mainstream development industry doesn't actually address structural factors in any really addresses sort of symptoms. And when I talk about structural factors, I'm talking about the fact that more money goes out of places like Africa to the West than, than actually goes in, you know, in terms of interest payments on loans, um, in terms of so many different cash flows going, going out.
And also, you know, aid is being spent on outside consultants like me who don't know as much about local issues and locals themselves. And so from my perspective, I really feel like focusing on the structural factors rather than, and the root causes rather than only on sort of the symptoms is something that development the development industry could do much better. And I think the animal advocacy movement should also be doing really looking at systemic and structural analysis and things to change the structures rather than sort of the symptoms and having systemic change. I think also, you know, I think related to this idea of systemic change, I think in terms of research, I think some of the research that I was doing in development was, was action research because of the complexity of um, social change and interventions and what have you. And so research and interventions, which were adaptive and iterative and supporting learning through feedback and reflection so that we can engage with underlying drivers and root causes. And I think that's also something that could be, you know, a lesson for the animal advocacy movement about, you know, action research and the complexity of, of, of, of system change and being complexity aware when we're looking at planning and monitoring and evaluating arse off actions. And our interventions. Um, I think that's, that's the lesson for me and we're trying to do that with animal think tanks or action research.
Are there any particular concrete examples that jump to mind of those sorts of complexities that you have taken into account that for instance, some other analysis might not have taken into account or if not, you then would be really crucial to consider in a certain research report or analysis that otherwise might be easy to be forgotten about?
Well, I think a big one, and I've talked about this a lot, but I'm just going to say it again. There's the ecology perspective that is a complex that is, that is a framework that really speaks to the complex nature of, of the systems and the sort of the interdependence and all sorts of things. And so when we, you know, when we're looking at, we're doing research and we're asking questions like, is this way better than that way or focusing on, Oh, is this tactic better than this tactic? To me it feels like it's not complexity aware because there's so much into dependence and you know, all of these parts are needed, but it's, it's how do they interact and how can they be optimized to, to, to really, you know, to increase our chances for success. I think that that's the piece that I think animal think tank is really trying to, to, to, to at least use as our framework for our conceptual framework. Um, and I would encourage others to really think about the sort of wider perspective and the, and the complex systems that we're embedded in. I mean, social change sort of, it's a network of cause and effects. Things aren't linear. And I think often when we're doing sort of reductive kinds of of research, we're trying to find these linear cause and effect relationships when actually it's so much more complex. Yeah,
definitely. Uh, with the, the social movement ecology thing was something that changed my own mind when I read about it. I think it did make me think a bit more that I needed to accept that there were certain that there's, there's kind of like an optimum level for different kinds of tactics and it's never going to be this one. We want it or we don't. But that said, I do think, like I've said at various points, I do think that having a clearer sense of the sort of pros and cons of various approaches, even if sometimes your understanding is fairly sort of blanket of like how much do I support this tactic? It helps you to put those into those specific contexts and say for example, if you only very rarely think that for example a confrontation activism is helpful, then you wouldn't just sort of say, yeah fine, that's a confrontational group.
That's not, you would say you would push a bit deeper on trying to work out whether certain tactics were actually helpful or not. That sort of thing. So I think, for example, we have this foundation of summaries, questions page on our website and it's, it's sort of listed as for and against, but it's not meant to imply that if something, if there's, it's not like, it's just like a stacking up a bullet point. So once you reach a certain threshold and everything else is ignored, it's, it's obviously the way that you apply that evidence is more complicated than that. But I do think it's helpful to have really thought through the sort of pros and cons and the implications of various different approaches to think about how the, what the optimum balance of resources and the prioritization is.
Yeah. No, I agree. And I didn't want to make it sound like I'm railing against your approach at sentience Institute. Just more in general. I think I find that, um, in research often it's, it's, um, you know, trying to find really clean answers where there aren't any, and this idea that, and Mark's background actually is in, in systems thinking and systems analysis. And he often talks about the fact that we can't really engineer complex systems. We can only engage with them. And I find that like a really nice kind of hook really. When I think about uh, how complex things are, we engage with them and then we get feedback and then we iterate.
I just wanted to sort of touch on the different sorts of constraints that are holding back. We can talk about animal relia, we can talk about animal think tank, we can talk about the movement more generally from your perspective. But I'm interested in this idea of funding constraints as well. So animal running is an interesting group in this sense because I think it's mostly or exclusively led by volunteers is anybody's salary to animals, animal rebellion.
So animal rebellion and also actually animal think tank and there's nobody salaried, but there's a fund where you ask for what you need. I think there's a real role for funders to really support the infrastructure or the core or the anchor type volunteers who are really kind of like the hub of facilitating the wider movement. There's just not enough resources I don't think to pay everybody.
Yeah. So from that point of view, how much is would, is, is lack of funding a constraint? Do you think, for example, if, if the available funding for an rebellion animal think tank or just or even say the animal advocacy movement in the UK in general or something like that, was to double overnight with that, what sort of, would that have a substantial effect? Is that a substantial limiting factor on the work that's being done at the moment in your view? Or is it actually just other factors?
If the money was to double it would depend on where it's going. Um, and I mean it's definitely, I think a constraint for an organization like animal rebellion, doing confrontational direct action. There's not that many donors who really understand or really are on board with that type of thing. Um, and I think they're very, they're very keenly aware that they need to develop a sort of more grassroots funding network to be able to, um, have some longevity in terms of their resource mobilization. So I think for something that animal rebellion funding is a constraint. I think for an organization like animal think tank, it's not, we've been lucky and we've, we've got some really decent funding, but maybe once we start doing actions and you know, stunts and gimmicks as do you call them? Um, maybe it's going to be a different story. I don't know.
Yeah, okay. Um, yeah, it's uh, the, the idea of funders w under appreciating certain aspects of the movement I think is really interesting. And something that is, is basically the focus of a report written by the annual Institute that you've mentioned a couple of times that was, uh, commissioned by open philanthropy project, which I can't remember the exact title, but it's something like funding social movements. And that is essentially the sort of, the key takeaway is that this, the sort of mass participation based aspect because it's not, it doesn't seem as maybe respectable or inside the track or whatever other reasons for, for various reasons. It's sort of likely to be underfunded. And I found that quite interesting and quite persuasive actually as well. So, yeah, I think that's a really great report and it's a bit more, it's a bit more concise I think then this is an uprising in terms of getting some of their key ideas across, but it doesn't go into as much depth on some of the aspects. So I'd recommend that resource. Some people,
yes, I would second that. It's a really, really great report and if you haven't got time to read the 120 pages, there's some, there's three blog posts that they've done as well. Um, which I think you could find on the open philanthropy project website. Okay. That could be the high level kind of takeaways.
Okay. That's, yeah, that's really interesting. Thanks so much for going into depth on some of the strategic considerations for animal think tank, animal rebellion, all these different groups. And I don't want to keep you too long. So yeah, thanks very much for joining me on the podcast data.
Oh, thanks so much for having me. Jamie it has been a real pleasure.
You're welcome. Yeah. Is there any, just sort of last shouts outs you'd like to make of where people can look to get involved with your various work or support, anything you're doing?
Yeah, absolutely. I think, um, sign up to animal think tanks newsletter. Um, and also do, do you check out animal rebellion, um, and follow them on Facebook. And also one shout out, I guess I want to make is animal think tank is going to be recruiting, um, in the very near future. So please do look out for that cause we're really, really on the lookout for some bright, passionate, uh, wonderful people to join us, um, with our bold audacious goal of building a mass movement in the UK.
Great. And let's just some concrete details on that. Is that for research roles?
Um, it's for, it would include research, but it's mainly for developing our DNA. Um, so it's, it's research and action I would say.
Okay, great. Alright, thanks again. Thank you. Thanks for listening. I hope you enjoyed this episode. You can subscribe to the sentence Institute podcast in iTunes, Stitcher, or other podcast apps.