Some of you will know that we recently began working with Dr Athina Frantzana – an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion professional, animal lover, and OneKind supporter – to improve our inclusivity as an organisation. But why is this relevant in the animal welfare sector? Athina discusses the relationship between EDI and animal welfare in our guest blog:
WHY EQUALITY, DIVERSITY & INCLUSION (EDI) IS IMPORTANT IN THE ANIMAL WELFARE MOVEMENT
by Dr Athina Frantzana, EDI Specialist-Researcher
Many sayings exist about how the quality of a person, or a nation, can be judged from how they treat animals. If that was the case, one would expect all people to care about animals, or all people that care about animals to also care about all people. And maybe some people think that every human has the choice to join the Animal Welfare movement, and if they don’t it is simply because they do not want to. Also, some may assume that people who care about animals are “nice people”, so of course they are inclusive to everyone. It would be great if it was that simple, but unfortunately it is not.
The Animal Welfare movement
This is an issue that has not been researched in great detail but there are a few published studies and some evidence that suggest that the Animal Welfare movement might not be particularly diverse nor inclusive. There are various aspects of this and various suggested reasons why. Studies that have been carried out (mostly in the US – please see some references below) have shown that the majority of the supporters, workers and activists in the Animal Welfare/Rights sphere are white women. And even though, in this case, women are not underrepresented, they still face various forms of discrimination. For example, the majority of leadership positions within the movement are still occupied by men; sexual harassment incidents have been documented within the movement; objectification of the bodies of women for media exposure and fundraising has described to be very common. Additionally, studies have shown that racism to be one of the main reasons why black people do not join or can eventually leave the movement. There is also some evidence that shows most animal advocates and activists usually share similar political and/or religious views and have a certain socio-economic status and levels of education. Therefore, important questions arise from this information that require further investigation: Why do only certain groups of people care about animals? And what can we do to get more – or preferably all – people to be invested in animal welfare?
You might think that this is not relevant to the UK and that there is no evidence that this is the case in the Animal Welfare sector here, however there is no evidence to disprove this either; and the only way to make sure that the Animal Welfare sector in the UK is diverse and inclusive is to undertake further research. You don’t wait for a disaster to find you; you assess and take precautions to prevent it. That’s why we need to identify our movement’s demographics and their thoughts and concerns on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) matters. We need to know if there are groups of people that our message doesn’t reach and are excluded – even unintentionally – from our mission. If there are barriers for certain groups of people to join the movement, we need to identify how we can remove those barriers. As supporters, volunteers, and members of Animal Welfare organisations, we should want more – if not all – people to join the cause to make the goals easier to achieve and the results more effective. So, if some people are left out for one reason or another, we need to do something about it.
Why it matters
Talking about EDI in the Animal Welfare sector and acting for it is of great significance, not only for widening the participation and ensuring all voices are reached and heard, but also for the safety and wellbeing of those who work in this field. They might be animal-focused organisations, but they are still operated by people and depend on people for their successful operation. Every organisation should have available updated and clear EDI policies that state their opposition to any kind of discrimination and harassment, and explain their commitment to EDI: aims, rights, responsibilities. Everyone involved in the organisation must be aware of and follow these policies. Even when the organisation’s priority is animal welfare, they should make sure that their people (staff, volunteers, supporters, activists, leaders) are also safe, happy and productive, treated equally and with respect. Because if not, then it’s a loss for the organisation and consequently for the animals.
Investing time and resources in EDI is never a waste; quite the opposite. If the organisation follows the appropriate strategy and does not just take superficial and minimum action (such as generic statements and social media profile pictures/posts that follow a trend) then the results will bring more resources than what was initially invested, and will be beneficial for all in the long term – human and non-human animals alike.
Covering all areas
Finally, it is important to highlight that EDI is not just about race or gender – a common misconception. EDI covers various characteristics such as sexual orientation, religion/belief, disabilities, age, caring responsibilities, and more. It is really important to understand how these characteristics might affect people’s involvement with Animal Welfare and remove any barriers or stereotypes around them. It is not about imposing views or ideas; it’s about caring. If we care about animals, we must also care about people, and make sure we are all in this together. For the animals.
If you want to help OneKind ensure that it is a diverse and inclusive organisation and reach out to more people to support our mission, please consider participating in our research by filling in our surveys: for volunteers, and for supporters/members.
Thank you for your dedication to protecting animals in need. Let’s support each other in this crucial movement, as we try to make the world a kinder and more compassionate place for all living creatures.