Strategy is a big topic of debate amongst animal activists. What is the best way forward to create the most change? Esther Salomon of Animal Think Tank joins us to discuss the strategies and many lessons the animal rights community can learn from other justice movements throughout history.
ABOUT OUR GUEST
Esther Salomon helped kick-start Animal Rising as a full-time member in 2019 and supported it through its first wave of resistance to later become a founder and director of Animal Think Tank. She is currently working towards establishing VARC (the vegan and animal rights conference), a grassroots gathering for animal advocates in the UK. She is a certified Kingian Nonviolence Level One Trainer and has a background in nonviolent strategy and civil resistance for Animal Freedom.
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Jasmin Singer: Welcome to Our Hen House, Esther.
Esther Salomon: Welcome.
Jasmin Singer: I'm so excited that you're here. You have the name of many of my ancestors. I think their name was not only Esther, but I really think I had ancestors named Esther Solomon.
Esther Salomon: Really? Yeah, well, it's a really biblical name. I know it has like a Jewish heritage or background. It's a shame because I really don't know the, uh, story of Esther or King Solomon from the Bible. And I always, I'm always meaning to like look it up, but I never do.
Jasmin Singer: That's so
Esther Salomon: Yeah.
Jasmin Singer: So instead of interviewing you about animal rights, let's just talk about the Bible. It's like...
Esther Salomon: Yeah.
Jasmin Singer: It's a perfect thing for like an atheist Jew like me to talk about. No, I'm kidding. Although it is a beautiful name and the work you do is also just so powerful. And I'm so excited to talk to you about it.
So tell us how it started. What did you and your co founders feel was missing from the animal movement that you sought to fill with Animal Think Tank?
Esther Salomon: Yeah, I want to say as well first that I'm really grateful for the opportunity to talk about all of this and to talk about all of this work. Especially because we feel like it is a gap and it is something that isn't so appreciated or thought about in the movement.
So. Yeah, I'm really happy to be here talking about it. I think what really inspired us was a book called This Is An Uprising, which all of us talk about a lot, so. It came out, I think, in the late 2010s, written by Paul and Mark Engler and what they talk about in the book is mass social movements and examples of mass social movements and it also kind of provided the ingredients for how to create moments of the whirlwind, which I'll talk about a bit more in a minute. It kind of gave you the recipe for mass protest and how to create mass protest.
So, it drew a lot of examples from the civil rights movement and Indian independence, and Otpor, which was a people powered movement in Serbia to overthrow the dictator, Milošević. And I think even though we have an incredible history of grassroots organizing in the UK, we haven't seen anything close to what was described in the book.
So I think what we felt was that this is something that is very much needed, and a lot of the work in the animal rights movement is focused on creating alternative proteins, cultivated meat, and then also a lot of corporate campaigning as well. So it seems that the movement has leaned into certain strategies and what we wanted to do was diversify the strategies that we pursue, as a movement basically.
So, all of us kind of came from like grassroots backgrounds. Some of us were academics; others also had corporate history as well, but I think we were really kind of united by that vision. So yeah, that's what we're interested in bringing, I think.
Jasmin Singer: That's brilliant. And in brief, and we'll get into it in detail, but how would you describe the Animal Think Tank's theory of change?
Esther Salomon: Yes, that's a good question. It's kind of ever expanding and always changing, but broadly, I would say we have like an ecology or ecological, or whatever you want to kind of call it, theory of change, which also we first heard about from This Is An Uprising, and also the group called, Ulex, in Spain, have also taught us quite a bit about that as well.
They're like a training institute for activists and organizers. So what I mean by an ecology is the diversity and strength of a movement as a whole. So movements are made up of lots of different types of people and organizations and communities and there's often infighting, which people have talked about a lot, but I think a better word for that is just differentiation.
So people disagree about how to create change within a movement. But, essentially, it's all of these different strategies and different perspectives working together over time that really contributes to making meaningful change. So, if I go into this a little bit further, because I think it's really useful to understand, it was definitely very useful for me to understand.
There are three broad camps. There's changing dominant institutions, which is kind of the camp that I'm a part of, even though I believe in all of them. Within changing dominant institutions, what people are trying to do is, you know, push governments to change, push public institutions to change, like schools and courts, and government departments etc.
So they're trying to change the laws and rules and regulations of society. Mass movements are kind of part of that, and then so are folks who are doing lobbying and strategic litigation and the like. Moving on to another category, there's creating alternatives.
So. Within creating alternatives, what people are trying to do is create the vision of tomorrow, today. So, alternative proteins, animal sanctuaries, rescues, vegan clothing, things like this. Vegan education... What that is doing is showing everyday people that another world is possible and this is what it looks like.
So, you know, that's very important infrastructure for us to build.
Jasmin Singer: Sorry to interrupt, I just have a quick follow up. Are you primarily focused on animals in agriculture?
Esther Salomon: As Animal Think Tank, we are going through a process of determining our long term goals and milestones. And that is potentially likely to include animals in agriculture, but not strictly.
Jasmin Singer: Hmm, okay. And what role does research play in shaping the think tank's policies and advocacy efforts?
Esther Salomon: So as Animal Think Tank... we don't, behave like a regular think tank, where we, you know, do research and suggest changes in policy and things. What we're interested in is shifting the political weather through social movement organizing. So we do a lot of reading and research to support us in doing that.
Jasmin Singer: And what can those who care about animals learn from other movements for social change? And for that matter, which other movements would you say have the most to teach us?
Esther Salomon: Yeah, I think there's so much to learn from movements that exist today, movements that have existed in the past. I think there's probably something that we can learn from each and every one of them. I think the ones that I personally am inspired by the most are the civil rights movement, the Indian independence movement, and especially the abolition of the slave trade. And I know that sometimes this can be a little bit controversial, but I feel that the movement to end the transatlantic slave trade is probably the one that is most similar to what we are trying to do. We're trying to end like a trade and a commercialization and monetization of life.
I read an incredible book called Bury the Chains, which is, like a history book about the movement in the UK, especially. How the people in the UK contributed to this. So there's loads of things to learn around how different organizers and activists, the different roles that they played, kind of referring back to what I said about movement ecology as well.
I think what we've learned the most about is, is how to organize, how to organize people, the challenges that come with that. I think something that I've learned as well is that pretty much in every single context, people felt that, you know, all of these other movements, they had these particular advantages.
It's very easy in hindsight to say well, of course they were gonna win, but when people are thinking about their own issue, they always feel kind of like, a bit hopeless or they feel that, you know, something isn't, isn't going to work. But, all of these movements, all of these people felt the same way at that point in time.
I think I'm also, like, really astounded by how a group of pretty ordinary people can create change on a really, really large scale. So, I mean, thinking about, abolition of the slave trade. Slavery had existed for hundreds and hundreds of years or since, like, the beginning of time. It was such an established institution and system and people couldn't imagine a world without it, but in the span of 40 to 100 years, they managed to change that and to bring down something that was part of the fabric of the economy at the time.
So, you know, it really goes to show what ordinary people can do when they come together and when they organize and when they voice their issues and concerns.
Jasmin Singer: So, specifically, what have you learned from the Freedom to Marry movement?
Esther Salomon: Yeah, this is a really good one. So I think the two key things to take away from Freedom to Marry is one, unity and momentum behind a common goal. So when I was speaking to Evan Wolfson, he really drilled in the importance of a common goal. And marriage equality was something that was ambitious, where there was kind of a feeling of potentially we'll get there, potentially won't.
And I think that, that was part of its ambition, and it was singular and it was clear, so it really provided a lot of direction and focus.
Jasmin Singer: Okay, well, and who was that activist you mentioned? Wolfson?
Esther Salomon: Evan Wolfson, so he was a leader in Freedom to Marry, I think he played a big part in initiating it.
Jasmin Singer: OK in the UK?
Esther Salomon: No, in, in the US, this was, um,
Jasmin Singer: Oh, okay. Well, shame on me for not knowing that!
Esther Salomon: Yeah.
Jasmin Singer: I'm I'm like, I feel like they're going to take away my lesbian card or something.
Esther Salomon: No, no one's gonna do that.
Jasmin Singer: Alright, good, good, good. Well, so, sorry, were you still going on about the Freedom to Marry?
Esther Salomon: Yeah, so I was gonna talk about the common goal, and then also a narrative as well.
Jasmin Singer: Please do. I'm fascinated.
Esther Salomon: It provided direction and focus which was really essential I think in bringing a lot of different groups together. So that's something that we're really interested in at Animal Think Tank as well. So, I think as the animal rights movement there's lots of different areas and goals and Milestones that we could pursue. Something that has quite a lot of momentum behind it at the moment, I think, is ending factory farming.
But there's also anti vivisection, banning fur, better rights for companion animals, etc, etc. I think some movements have a very well defined goal, especially ones that are trying to overthrow dictatorships, or oust colonial rulers. Like, it's very clear what the end goal is, and that's kind of like the undercurrent of the movement.
But if you think of, like, women's rights, LGBTQ+ rights, environmentalism, there isn't necessarily this clear thing that we're trying to go for. And, you know, it doesn't necessarily mean that everybody who's a part of the movement has to work on this one thing. I think providing a clear goal can just create the conditions for different organizations to come together and work on something. So it creates coordination and good strategy and collaboration, which is all really, really good stuff. I think the other thing that we can learn from Freedom to Marry is the importance of a good story and a good narrative.
So marriage equality, while providing that clear, singular, ambitious goal also tells a really important story about gay and lesbian couples. Because marriage is this symbolic practice that has existed for such a long time that you're telling your community that your love is legitimate.
And winning marriage equality tells the public, tells people that gay and lesbian love is legitimate. So there's a real cultural impact of achieving something like that. For example, you know, we talk a lot about subsidies in the movement, about how much animal agriculture is subsidized.
And I completely agree that it would be incredible if we managed to reduce the subsidization of animal agriculture. But if you think about, say the Sentience Act, which has just been passed in the UK, it will allow for a sentience committee, which will provide recommendations and advice to the government around animal welfare law.
So, this is the first instance of animals being somehow, like, represented in politics. So, that tells, an important story that, okay, so now animals are worthy of representation in politics. Now we have a committee in the government to oversee animal welfare law. There are probably more instances of this as well, or more examples of great symbolic wins.
The reason I mentioned subsidies earlier is that, yes, it would be really good to achieve that. But does it tell the right story? And I think with Freedom to Marry, they had a really fantastic focus goal that also had the right narrative behind it, which is really a great formula.
Jasmin Singer: I love that. I came to the animal protection movement by way of the LGBTQ movement. Like 20 years ago. So we didn't have marriage equality then. And, I mean, of course we had the campaign, but, to me, it was very much a streamlined shift from working in AIDS awareness activism to working in animal rights activism.
And since then I've gotten involved with other social justice movements as well. And it's been really fascinating to me to see the ways that the animal protection movement has moved forward with really a very quick pace, especially since I started 20 years ago. Much, much faster than the LGBTQ movement, in my opinion. What do you think?
Esther Salomon: That's interesting because, I guess everybody thinks different things, but I guess I saw the LGBTQ+ movement make a lot more sweeping wins than the animal protection movement. But yeah, it's interesting because I guess like, pride has become such a thing.
I, you know, I see all my friends going to pride. Marriage equality was achieved, and I think it would probably be very different if I was someone who was a part of the movement, fighting for it every day. I think when you're in that sort of position, like, you see the strengths and weaknesses of your own movement much more clearly.
I think, um, in the animal protection movement, I'm so proud of all of us. I really am. I think I've never met such, like, dedicated and hardworking people in my life before, and then something that I also recognize and see is just, I guess, how long animal rights has been an issue that's been on the table that a lot of people have heard about. But consumption of animals is on the rise, and I think we're still very much in that phase of trying things and figuring things out. Yeah.
Jasmin Singer: Totally, and let me clarify, I think in the last 20 years, the LGBTQ movement has had much bigger sweeping successes. I mean, as a movement, the farm animal protection movement is very young.
And In like the last, let's say, 50 years it, to me, has, from beginning to end, accomplished a lot more than some other justice movements that are much older.
But certainly, if you compare apples to apples, in the last 20 years, I agree with that. And you're totally right. There's like 9, 000 ways of looking at this and you would probably get like 9,000 different answers.
So I'm always curious what people think, especially someone who does the work you do.
Esther Salomon: Yeah, it's interesting. And from what I know about movements is that they go through ebbs and flows. There's moments that we call like spring and summertime where there's like a lot of activity and a lot of public recognition. Where there's a lot of media attention and wins and things. And that's sort of what we call that moment of the whirlwind where there's so much activity and then often things will die down and a lot of people will think that nothing really came of everything that we did, but essentially, that's the time when all of the work you did during that spring and summer time is allowed to really take shape and take form. But yeah, you know, movements kind of go through these ebbs and flows and it takes generations to really change things as well.
If, again, kind of going back to anti slavery and then civil rights, that's like, 400 years. I don't know the exact time span, but, you know, all of that has taken hundreds of years, and there's still progress to be made.
Jasmin Singer: Oh gosh, so much, so much is still needed. And so what is the state of the grassroots in the animal protection movement and what needs to change?
Esther Salomon: So I think I can probably speak to the grassroots movement in the UK a little bit better than I can globally. But there's a lot of interesting groups and organizations working on this question of how do we organize people for power. So, a group that isn't so present in the UK but is in the US is DxE, so Direct Action Everywhere.
They've done a lot of really incredible things. As I said, they're not so big in the UK, but I think what I have seen from them that I haven't seen so much from other groups is that they're really pursuing a legal question as well, which is the right to rescue. So last year, two activists, Wayne and Paul, were both facing up to five years in prison for burglary and theft, because they basically rescued a pair of piglets from Smithfield's food and factory farm. When they were taken to court, they were acquitted. This was the jury's decision to acquit them both after more than like several hours of deliberation. So, it's really interesting that they're kind of trying to combine organizing people and demonstration and protest, while also pushing the courts and really trying to get them to admit that, no, this isn't burglary and theft, this is rescue. That's something that I find really interesting, something that I haven't seen other groups do so much.
Jasmin Singer: Agreed. Agreed. They give me a lot of hope and we've covered them quite a bit and we have some interviews with the folks you just mentioned. And anyway, go ahead. I just wanted to echo your intrigue because I too have intrigue in this way.
Esther Salomon: Well the other groups that I know of, so, Animal Rising in the UK. They do a lot of high risk, high publicity direct action, often, like, pulled off by a small group of dedicated people. They've been using, like, disruption of animal industrial supply chains.
They did some really cool actions last year where they blockaded, like, a burger factory that supplied most of the McDonald's food chain restaurants in the UK and managed to shut a load of them down for a day. They've also disrupted the supply of milk in the UK as well, so that's really interesting.
It's a great tactic for causing, like, economic disruption, and especially like, I think they're very good at putting their opponents in a position where they're losing something tangible. So I think that's really interesting. And I guess the way that they are engaging the courts is when the activists get arrested, they'll often plead not guilty, which will push them to go to trial where they can really say why it is that they did it and put that before a judge and potentially a jury as well if it goes that high up. So, I have seen that happen here as well, not so much around a specific thing, like right to rescue, but yeah, it's something that they're pursuing, as well.
Animal Rising took a lot of inspiration, I think, from Extinction Rebellion. When we first launched Animal Rising, it used to be called Animal Rebellion, actually, and we partnered with Extinction Rebellion, especially to bring the issue of the animals into the climate debate as well, which again is like another really interesting strategy.
I'm just thinking about some other organizations as well in the grassroots scene. There's Anonymous for the Voiceless, and the Save Movement, and Earthlings Experience. And what I think is interesting about these is that people are doing like a specific sort of activity. So, for Save it will be like the Vigils, and for Anonymous for the Voiceless it will be the Cubes, this is kind of like a specific activity or, like a tactic that can be picked up by a lot of different people. So it's a form of campaigning that is really well distributed and easy to pick up for anybody to do. So I think I've seen, like, Animal Rising trying to do things like this as well.
But it's a really good way of organizing people into local chapters and groups. And then there's also us, Animal Think Tank. So I think what we provide is a super long term, kind of ambitious, strategic approach to movement building. We're interested in seeding organizations and really putting into practice that ecological approach to change.
And I think we're interested in the kind of mass of mass movement organizing. You know, this is a challenge that we're going to face as well. A lot of these groups are trying to organize, wide and deep. So by wide, I mean, like a good cross section of society, so lots of different types of people in terms of socio economic background, in terms of their jobs, in terms of what they're interested in. Like, we want a broad based movement. And by deep, I mean that, you know, we want to organize people well, we want people to be involved and to be active. You know, it's all right for people to kind of have different levels of engagement, but we want to organize deep as well.
I think a lot of different groups have kind of struggled to do this. So, you know, often, it would be the same people showing up to demonstrations and protests, and we really want to be pushing outwards and kind of making this like a popular movement. At the moment, we're really interested in deep community organizing.
And I think, like, all of these different grassroots organizations that I've mentioned provide something different and something unique to the space. So, referencing the civil rights movement again, Ella Baker, who was an organizer and activist at the time, was really interested in community organizing as well.
She helped to, found SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and was interested in doing this kind of wide and deep organizing of people for power. So the students would be shipped off to different parts of the South to organize the community, to campaign for things that they cared about, and so that's something that we're kind of interested in pursuing and making a part of our organizing model to see if we can kind of innovate and bring something new to the space as well.
I think this is the thing as well, because a lot of people across the grassroots space, I think, have read This Is An Uprising and know a lot about organizing. But essentially, we're in this space that is ever changing. We're in a different context to all of the other movements that I've mentioned as well.
In terms of, like, our geography, in terms of who we're trying to organize and our constituency. So we have to learn from these other movements but also test things and experiment and learn. So I think each of these different organizations is trying to figure things out in their own way.
And, we know all of us kind of provide, like a piece of the puzzle, really, I think. In terms of other, like, challenges, one that always comes up when I'm speaking to people is the fact that we're an ally movement. You know, I spoke about civil rights, I spoke about Indian independence, and Otpor, and when it comes to those other movements, they had a clear group of people that they were trying to organize. So for civil rights, it was Black people in the south. For Otpor, it was the Serbian people. The Indian independence, there's the Indian people. For us, the animals can't organize and demonstrate in the same way that we can.
They definitely resist, they resist their oppression, and I think that's a really important thing to talk about, but there isn't a specific constituency in terms of, like, votes, and voice, and money, and all of that. So, you know, what does this, mean for us? What does this mean for who we try and organize for power?
I think that's something that we're all still asking ourselves that question. As I mentioned, there's animal resistance, and talking about animal resistance, and I think what I want to say about this is that, I think a lot of people understand that animals resist their oppression, but there's much more to it than that. Because what it says is that animals fight for their freedom and resist the things that are done to them and have the same sort of courage and tenacity to defend themselves in the same way that we do.
I think that that's a really powerful way of creating empathy between humans and animals, and potentially a lot more effective than, like, the farm and slaughterhouse footage that we often show to people. And to take that even further, in resisting their own oppression, they're asserting their dignity, and it also shows that they're capable, in some ways, of civil resistance. So, how is it different when minority groups assert their autonomy and their voice when they protest. What animals are showing when they resist is their dignity. And that's really the foundation of rights. It's the foundation of human rights. So I think it can really form the foundation of animal rights. That was a whole aside.
Jasmin Singer: Yeah, but it's fascinating. I love it.
And, Esther, I was excited to see that you believe in a story based strategy. I have personally always felt that stories are fundamental to the way humans learn and think and relate to the world. We are the storytelling ape. So can you tell us what you mean by a story-based strategy?
Esther Salomon: Yes, so I spoke a little bit, well a lot about, freedom to marry earlier. So that is an example of what we might call a story-based strategy. There's a clear strategy in terms of a goal. Who are we trying to organize? What are our strategies and tactics, and it also tells a really powerful story to the public as well.
It's kind of a combination of a good narrative, and a clear strategy. How you can think about this is, you can think about your goal, you can think about your audience and constituency and what kind of marries those things together as well is the strategies that you pursue, basically.
So, I want to talk a little bit about action logic. This is a term that we use to kind of ask ourselves if someone was to look at our demonstration or protest, could they understand what it is that we're trying to achieve just by looking at it? One example of this would be right to rescue. Right to rescue is a really good example of this because what we're trying to say is animals shouldn't be trapped and exploited on factory farms.
What we want to do is rescue them and establish the right to rescue. Our demand is the right to rescue, so what we're going to do is rescue animals from slaughter. I think, sometimes I've seen animal rights activists blocking roads or infrastructure that doesn't completely align with what they're trying to achieve.
So, if I turned on my TV and I saw a bunch of activists blocking a a road, for example, I might not immediately kind of understand why they would do that to achieve, say, for example, the right to rescue, or freedom for animals, or whatever. It's sort of like, are they protesting the traffic?
I wouldn't necessarily know what they're doing, so, through your strategy, you can really communicate what it is that you're trying to achieve, you can communicate the story that you're trying to tell, the narrative that you're trying to tell. So, those are some of the ingredients for a story based strategy.
But it's really bringing together what you're doing, what your goal is. You're thinking about your, audience, you're thinking about your base, you're thinking about how to marry those two things together through storytelling, as well.
Jasmin Singer: Okay, that's great to know. I feel validated by my sort of instinct that I love that. And I know that Animal Think Tank supports both diverse approaches and movement unity. At first glance, these seem like opposites. Why aren't they?
Esther Salomon: Yeah, that's a good question, and I think I've been learning so much about that recently as well. So I think essentially, really boiling it down, is that often people who are trying to change dominant institutions, or trying to create alternatives, or pursuing kind of personal change, like, trying to push people to go vegan, they all might disagree with each other about what the best thing to do is, but really, all of these different strategies working together, is what creates change.
So often, one, like, classic disagreement is between demonstration and protest groups, and then, like, lobbying organizations, because what lobbying organizations want to do is negotiate with people in politics, and be cautious about what it is that they say and when it is that they say it so they can pass policies and make progress in that area. And what protest and demonstration groups are interested in doing is really raising hell and putting everything that they think on the table and saying things that would be considered pretty outrageous in, like, a lobbying kind of context.
So, organizers and activists will often say, you know, you're asking for too little, you aren't pushing the boundaries, and lobbying organizations will say, you're creating a really hostile environment, etc, etc. But, what This Is An Uprising and another book, called Doing Democracy by Bill Moyer, what those books tell us is that the protest and demonstration groups, what they do really well is change public opinion and create the space to, to talk about more ambitious policy changes and law, and incremental changes that the lobbying organizations are trying to pursue.
And, the role that the lobbying organizations do is to really institutionalize the changes and shifts in public opinion that the demonstration groups and protest groups are creating. So, what seem to be differences in approaches and opinion, actually really support each other and that differentiation allows for a kind of multi pronged approach to changing the system, basically.
And we really need those differences of opinion because everybody sees something different, and everybody looks at the movement and sees different gaps and opportunities and threats, so that's why the health of the whole is so important.
Jasmin Singer: Relatedly, how would you say movement leaders, how can they learn to distribute power without running the risk of diluting the central theme of animal liberation? You know what I mean? Like, what if people assume influential roles or even leadership roles who don't share the same goal, who aren't vegan?
Esther Salomon: Yeah, this is a really interesting question because I think good quality leadership in a movement is so important and I think all of us can think of ourselves as leaders in this movement and try and do the work to be better leaders in this movement. Truly I don't know what makes a good leader.
It's hard to tell. There are some things I'll say about this. So, I think sometimes, a public figure can be really, really inspiring and useful, and I think I have seen really good examples of this. So, like Greta Thunberg, I think, is a really good public figure and face of the movement against climate change.
Like, she's young, she's very humble, she's very brave, and I think she's a real, like, reflection of what the movement is and what the movement is about and who it represents. Like, she's a part of the younger generation and the climate movement is really concerned about future generations and the younger generation as well.
So I think sometimes I can really see how someone can bring people together and can really represent an idea and I think sometimes it's like the leader has kind of been chosen by the people and it's more a reflection of the people than it is of that person, necessarily.
I don't know if that makes sense. But also I don't want to name names or anything, but I've also seen examples of that going pretty wrong, as well. Where we kind of idealize somebody that might not be the most appropriate person to lead. I guess, like, I've seen so many allegations come out against pretty prominent figures in our movement, which is, you know, a real disappointment and a real shame.
So I can also see how that can really go wrong. So in terms of how to distribute power, I think humility is something that is really important; it's one of our values at Animal Think Tank. So I think it's when your ego kind of comes in between you and the cause.
I think maybe that's when things really start to go wrong. I think it's when the likes and the follows and the retweets and all of that become more important to you than the message that you're trying to deliver and I think it's really only maybe you that can fix that or, or when the kind of power and attention and popularity starts to kind of get in the way. So I think maybe maybe going back to Greta, like you can see how she dressed very modestly You can see how she rejects all of the like rewards and things that are offered to her.
Those are really good examples of humility and I think how you can really model distributed power. I think really recognizing and repeating and referring to how all of us really like play a part in this. I read a really good book called, I think it's In Peace and Freedom, by Bernard Lafayette, again, a member of the civil rights movement. And when I read the book, I really didn't get what it was about because he basically spends the whole book talking about different people that he knows and their character and what they contributed to the movement.
But now that I've kind of been doing this a little bit longer, I really realized that that's what a movement is. It's just people. It's people doing things that they're good at, contributing their piece, and I love that he spent the whole book just talking about all of these different people that I had never heard of.
Really platforming what they did to contribute to this bigger story. So, I think it's really, yeah, modeling like admiration for every single action, every single contribution that ordinary people make, I think. Yeah.
Jasmin Singer: Yeah, totally. And I love the example of Greta. And, you know, on the same theme, for just a second, what are the barriers or maybe the challenges for animal rights advocates who want to work collaboratively with other movements who don't necessarily share the same core beliefs? Like, said another way, is collaboration a particularly difficult task for vegan animal activists?
And how do you negotiate those possible conflicts?
Esther Salomon: Oh! These are all, like, really interesting questions, by the way. Really difficult ones to answer, but I think they're the questions that we need to ask.
So, when I was down in London with who is now Animal Rising. When we were Animal Rebellion, we partnered with Extinction Rebellion, an environmental group, and yeah, it was interesting. I think, in the beginning there was a little bit of hostility, and a bit of like, who are these people, and that really came from both sides.
It didn't just come from Extinction Rebellion. They were just sort of like, some of them were kind of like, this is co option, like, what's going on? I do also remember quite a few of our folks saying like, Why the hell are we talking about the environment? We should be talking about animals, like, you know, etc, etc.
There was a bit of hostility and, and caution there. Again, I think modeling, I think it's about good leadership, which we just talked about, played a part in maintaining partnership. I'm kind of using this specific example to kind of pull out some key principles behind coalition building and partnerships and things.
I think, leadership really kind of contained all of that anxiety, caution, and hostility and kind of said, it's okay for all of us to feel these things and not necessarily to like panic when all of this comes to the surface, reiterating what it is that we all agree on and all believe in.
I think there's really something to providing a vision and providing a solution. I think providing solutions creates the conditions for people to actually say, Okay, this is something that we're for. This is something that we're all agreeing on, to focus on that more than like the strategies and tactics.
And it's really interesting as well because I really learned like a lot there because I think a lot of us were kind of against factory farming, a lot of us were for action on climate change. So these, these really big things, we all agreed on. We all agreed, pretty much, 95% we were on the same page about.
But it's, it's that last, like, five percent around, like, what's gonna go on the leaflets, what are the specific tactics that we're gonna use, etc, that really makes people disagree and fall out. It's pretty amazing how so many people can have so much in common but those small differences can really drive people apart. I think that was a really interesting dynamic to witness. There's something in kind of managing differences of identity and opinion and strategies and tactics and really focusing on what is the common ground, essentially.
Jasmin Singer: We're almost out of time, which is very upsetting because I have so many weird things I want to talk to you about, although I do hope you stay on for our bonus content for just a few minutes when we're done. But as we sort of wrap up the main interview here, this is kind of a big question.
And I don't know if any of us have the answer, but I'm going to ask it anyway. Aren't you excited with that kind of an intro? Good, okay, cool. How do you account for the fact that so many people, and this is particularly true in the UK, I think, really do care about animals and would never treat them cruelly, are in other ways extremely kind and thoughtful people, yet they participate in activities of systemic animal abuse?
Like, what's, what is that disconnect? I'd love your take on it.
Esther Salomon: I think where I've come to with this, Is something that I learned from Kingian non violence, which is the tradition of non violence from the civil rights movement, especially, N MLK's non violent lineage or tradition, also really influenced by Gandhi and non violence as well.
And it's essentially I believe that people are good. Uh, I believe that there is goodness in everyone. I just think that sometimes their actions and behaviors aren't good, and we have to invest in the good side of everybody. And I think essentially like so many of us have very similar values of love and generosity and the really classic treat others how you would want to be treated.
I think the values that almost everybody has and apparently lives their day to day lives by, like, commit them to treat animals better. I don't know how many other people in the movement would agree with me about this, but it is some
thing that I really do believe.
And, I have a lot of non vegan friends. I have friends who are conservative and right wing, because I think I want to also be around people who are different to me and don't necessarily share all the beliefs that I share.
So that I can practice talking to people that don't share my views. But what I really see in my friends who participate in systemic animal cruelty is that, and I know this is a really, potentially controversial thing to say, but I know that they're good people, but they just do bad things. And I want to say that throughout history, you know, we look back and we think, how could these people have done all of this? How could these people have treated each other like this? How was this accepted? And, the truth is that, it's what I said earlier, is that, people are good, but they do, they do bad things, And, it's a difficult thing to accept and understand, but I think I've accepted and understood it, really.
Jasmin Singer: Well, it seems that this is, I mean, to me, I find hope in what you're saying. I mean, I'm not sure you're intending to offer hope in this. I find hope in a lot of the work you're doing, to be honest.
Do you have hope?
Esther Salomon: I think hope is essential. I don't have the time to be pessimistic about change, I think. Yeah, sometimes I wonder like how delusional am I that I think that we can change all of this, but I think you just have to have hope and you just have to believe that the things are going to change and that they will change and I think that's also a really important part of leadership, as well.
You have to communicate hope, because otherwise, like... and I think also having hope is also taking responsibility as well. I think there's a lot of disempowerment, at the moment in political institutions, in the media, in pretty much everything, you know.
I think a lot of people feel like they don't have the opportunity to put forward their beliefs and their voices. You know, here in the UK, like every four years people get to elect a party and then it's just sort of like, you know, how do we even know what they're going to do?
Are they going to actually do what they say they're going to do? And, you know, like democracy isn't as good as it could be, in my opinion. And I think that's created a lot of disempowerment and disillusionment. But I think having hope and communicating hope and believing that things can change, I feel In doing that, I'm really taking responsibility.
Yeah, I think it's a much more powerful position to be in yeah, I think hope is really essential and yeah, I don't have time to not have it
Jasmin Singer: Beautifully said and so true and just the idea I don't have time to not have it is something that will really stick with me. So please, Esther, let our listeners know where they can follow your work online and support your efforts.
Esther Salomon: Yeah, so If you want to check out a little bit more about Animal Think Tank, you can go to our website at AnimalThinkTank. Co.uk or you can check us out at www.Animalthinktank.com. I am also working with a group at the moment on setting up a vegan and animal rights conference in the uk, next spring, which is really exciting.
So what we're trying to do with this is provide a platform where groups and individuals can apply to present their ideas and swap tactics and discuss successes and challenges and really strategize on the question of how to create meaningful change in the UK. We also want to bring in people who might have less experience or are maybe new to activism so that they can see what the movement has to offer.
So we really want to build the capacity of the movement by doing this. and by creating opportunities for ordinary people to enter the movement as well. So if you're listening to this and in the UK, please keep an eye out. If you'd like to apply to present or attend, please go to our website, that's www.varcconference.com, so VARC is V A R C, conference. com. Uh, you can also follow us on Instagram and Facebook, so on Instagram we're at Varc Conference, and on Facebook, you can just search, Varc, as well, so, uh, you can go there to find, out more information and stay up to date as well, so, please, please check out, all of that, that would be really great and really useful.
Jasmin Singer: Amazing. Thank you so much for joining us at Our Hen House and please stick around so I can chat with you a little further for our flock content.
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