As industrial animal farming spreads throughout the world, the effects of raising animals for food are becoming clearer. Human health is being compromised, billions of animals lose their lives every year, and we stand on the brink of environmental breakdown. Change is necessary if we are to limit the damage for future generations.
But a new generation is rising, bringing with it innovations and a fresh worldview! Veganism is the fastest growing social movement, and young people are at the forefront, speaking out about the issues that threaten their future. Meet five young women who are leading the way in their communities and providing solutions to some of today’s most pressing issues.
Haile Thomas - HAPPY (Healthy Active Positive Purposeful Youth)
“Knowing that I can contribute positively to the changing narrative surrounding veganism and also that every dish I order, every trip to the grocery store I make, and every bite I take makes a difference and a statement to the world, means everything to me.”
18-year-old international speaker and vegan lifestyle activist, Haile Thomas is improving the health of entire communities! In 2013, Thomas founded HAPPY (Healthy Active Positive Purposeful Youth), the non-profit organisation with a mission to bring plant-based nutritional education to young people in some of the country’s most neglected communities. By providing nutrition and humane education through cooking classes, summer camps, and in-school programs, this inspirational woman is empowering other young people and their families to make health and lifestyle choices that are good for them, for animals, and for the planet.
Avalon Theisen – Conserve it Forward
“Children and teenagers may think that because of their age, they cannot help or that what they can do now is not impactful. I don’t agree. Youth make up a large proportion of the population, and so even if our acts are small, each action adds up to a lot of positive change.”
Avalon Theisen is the 17-year-old animal activist and conservationist behind the non-profit organisation Conserve It Forward, which she founded aged nine. Conserve It Forward promotes education and action that benefits the natural world, humans, and non-human animals through educational programs on subjects including wildlife conservation, animal advocacy, sustainable eating and peacemaking. The connection between the food we consume and the damage we cause to the environment continues to drive Theisen’s work, and in the years since founding the organization, she has given talks across the world on how our food choices affect the environment.
Genesis Butler - Genesis for Animals
“Advocating for the animals is so important because the animals need our voices. Animals aren’t voiceless, it’s just that people don’t listen to them, so it’s important to speak up for them so they will never be silenced.”
Genesis Butler is the 12-year-old animal activist behind Genesis for Animals, a non-profit organisation that raises funds for animal sanctuaries around the world. After visiting animal sanctuaries and seeing how much time and money was required to care for the animals – and that most sanctuaries were struggling to meet their costs – Butler decided she wanted to help. Butler, who has been a vegan since the age of four, is already a sought-after speaker, regularly attending events across the world to share her story of activism and compassion.
“There are lots of things for people who are going vegan, but I found that there was almost nothing for young people who are still living with parents, who can’t choose everything. There’s peer pressure. There’s family pressure. There’s school pressure. So I kept that in mind.”
Avalon Llewellyn is the 17-year-old vegan activist and mental health advocate behind the Instagram account @tiedyedtofu_. Llewellyn became involved in animal activism as a child, learning about the lives of animals in the food and clothing industries, and aged 13 she went vegan. In the years since, she has inspired countless others to do the same, using social media as her main tool for reaching and engaging with other young people. She organises meetups where groups of young people can connect with peers, explore shared values, and discuss animal rights issues, and she provides mentoring by email to those wanting to learn more about or try veganism.
Zofia Pawelska - Lab Rescue
“Before Lab Rescue, laboratory animals were forgotten, but now I can see it’s common to have a rat rescued from a laboratory, not bought from a shop.”
Zofia Pawelska is the 22-year-old founder of Lab Rescue, a Polish non-profit organisation dedicated to rehoming animals used in scientific research. Lab Rescue is bridging the gap between laboratories that seek an alternative to euthanasia for animals, and families wanting to offer a loving home to them. Since arranging to take 16 rats from a laboratory three years ago, Pawelska has built relationships with laboratories to promote adoption for animals who have been used in research.
This story is part of an Unbound Project feature - a multimedia documentary project co-founded by acclaimed photojournalist Jo-Anne McArthur (We Animals) and Dr. Keri Cronin (Department of Visual Arts, Brock University). The project’s aim is to celebrate the lives of women at the forefront of animal advocacy. For more information and inspiration, visit UnboundProject.org.
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