Anita Krajnc is the co-founder and campaigns and fundraising coordinator at The Save Movement. James O’Toole is the social media and special projects campaigner at The Save Movement. They spoke with ACE Research Associate Aaron Call on July 25th, 2018. This is a summary of their conversation.
What do you consider to be The Save Movement’s three biggest accomplishments from the past year?
Global expansion through organizing tours
Our biggest recent accomplishment has been the huge expansion of The Save Movement through the creation of new Save groups in countries around the world. Since 2016, the number of Save groups has grown exponentially. At the beginning of 2016, we only had about 50 groups. By the end of that same year, we had about 100. Last year, the number increased again, to about 300 at the start of 2018. As of October 2018, we have 535 Save groups in 57 countries. In the achievements document that we shared with ACE, you will notice that we did not have any groups in South America, Europe, or Asia in 2016. In the past two years, we have expanded into these regions by running about a dozen organizing tours, which are international trips to promote The Save Movement’s mission in areas where we do not already have a significant presence. We recently started forming more groups in Germany, for example, with the number of German groups increasing from 4 to 22 this year alone because of an organizing tour. The country we reached most recently through this strategy is Macedonia.
Growth of vigils
We have also seen significant progress in our efforts to hold more vigils and to increase attendance at our vigils. Our mission is to have witnesses for every single animal in every single truck going to slaughter. While this is still a long way off, we are encouraged by recent numbers suggesting that vigil frequency and attendance are both increasing. Once a year, we circulate activity reports to measure the level of activism in all of our Save groups, including the frequency of vigils (weekly, biweekly, monthly, etc.) and how well attended they are. Our most recent reports indicate more frequent and well-attended vigils than we have seen in the past. In Toronto, for example, numbers have increased from at most five people attending a vigil (when we first started holding vigils at Toronto Pig Save in 2011) to between 20 and 30 people at a vigil now. We have also started holding vigils not only for pigs, but for chickens, cows, fish, and furred animals. Meanwhile in L.A., our organizer Amy Jean Davis runs roughly two vigils per week: once a week for pigs, twice a month for cows, and once a month for chickens. She also works in conjunction with another group in the area called Animal Alliance Network, which holds an additional vigil every Wednesday. When all of these L.A. vigils first started, they had an attendance of about 30–50 people, but we now estimate an attendance of about 200 at the pig vigils. We have also seen a number of film, music, and social media celebrities in regular attendance, including Joaquin Phoenix, Rooney Mara, Moby, and the Instagram star Tina Louise.
Attraction of media coverage through new types of vigils
We have also been very innovative in finding new ways to attract public attention toward The Save Movement and our vigils. We have found that holding special types of vigils, particularly longer vigils, can be an effective way of drawing more interest. We sometimes hold all-day vigils, where we bring in special guests like Emily Barwick (Bite Size Vegan), Joey Carbstrong, James Aspey, Earthling Ed or Ingrid Newkirk (President of PETA). We also hold longer, five-day vigils, including a recent one at Tönnies in Rheda-Wiedenbrück, the largest pig slaughterhouse in Europe. This vigil was primarily organized by Düsseldorf Animal Save, along with other groups, and they received incredible media coverage. There is another big five-day vigil coming up in Barcelona at the end of August. In addition to these longer vigils, we have also started holding emergency vigils during heat waves or when we hear about a truck rollover. Just recently, we held an emergency vigil in Toronto during a heat wave, and it ended up garnering significant media attention. In the U.K., Earthling Ed heard about a rollover of a turkey truck and was able to connect with enough local activists to hold a memorable vigil, during which an individual turkey, named Asha, was actually saved and brought to a sanctuary.
Inclusion of more species
Another standout accomplishment from the past year has been the introduction of Fish Save groups. Prior to last year, we did not have any official Fish Save groups, even though fish are the most abused animal on the planet. On the World Day to End Fishing last March, we launched a Fish Save group in Toronto, and we now have eleven Fish Save groups in seven countries. Last winter, we also launched the first group for fur animals, and we now have seven Fur Animal Save groups in five countries, and, this summer, we launched our first End Live Exports, Animals in Labs, and Anti-Horse Carriage Save groups. These new kinds of groups are growing very quickly. The expansion of The Save Movement from only pigs at the beginning to all of these other animals is an essential progression.
On that note, there is also a new Rabbit Save in Spain. Previously rarely has the public even seen rabbits in a transport truck before the formation of this group. Through this group, we are now spreading awareness about the suffering of this individual species of animal that many people may not have known about. Given The Save Movement’s principle of bearing witness to animal suffering, it is important to include all animals in our action.
At present, how does The Save Movement measure outcomes of your most important programs?
Measuring the growth of the movement is quite simple because we just need to track the number of Save groups. As mentioned earlier, we can see from this basic record that the movement is growing exponentially, either doubling or tripling in the last two to three years. To measure the number of people attending vigils, we have embarked on a data collection project. Our primary means of measurement is our activity report, which we send to all Save groups once a year. The report is a very comprehensive review, where groups document the frequency of vigils, attendance at vigils, number of organizers, regularity of open meetings, social media presence and following, etc. We have recently updated the report to improve data collection and emphasize fundraising, so we will be sending out the updated version over the summer and it will be due back to us on September 23rd. In one new question, we ask the groups to send links to any mass media coverage they have had, so that we can keep track of the specific content and numbers for all our media coverage. In January this year, we created The Save Movement Media page on Facebook to post media coverage of The Save Movement. This year, we will also use the activity report to get more funding for our groups. When the groups fill out the report, they will be eligible for different types of grants based on their responses. The only difficulty with the report as a method of data collection is that not every group fills it out, so we want to encourage people to fill them out more regularly. We would be happy to send ACE a copy of the activity report, if that would be helpful.
You just mentioned that The Save Movement is starting a data collection project—can you explain what might be different about that, or what you might be doing that you haven’t done before?
We have just recently started a data collection working group. Through this group, we have been working on compiling questions to ask as part of an annual report (particularly in relation to our achievements, so that we can keep track of those over time). We have also been discussing the creation of a world slaughterhouse and vigil map, where we will chart the locations of slaughterhouses around the world and mark the ones where we currently hold vigils. Since our ultimate goal is to have vigils at every slaughterhouse, this would be a way of visualizing our progress toward that goal. We are actually setting up a second working group devoted exclusively to this map, since it is such a big project. Another thing that’s relevant to data collection is our Save Movement Worldwide Organizers Facebook page, which is private and includes about over 1,000 Save organizers around the world. This is an important means of communication, and we use it to send out the activity report to all of our groups. Many of the individual groups around the world have their own regional organizers private Facebook pages as well.
The Facebook pages and groups really help to create an inclusive community, where groups in different regions can inspire and encourage one another. From an organizational perspective, they also help us to monitor the growth and success of the actions we are taking.
What do you consider to be The Save Movement’s major strengths?
One strength of The Save Movement is that our work is based on a very simple set of principles and actions. The whole organization is built around the idea of bearing witness. Our philosophy is encapsulated in a quotation from Leo Tolstoy, which we refer to on our website: “When the suffering of another creature causes you to feel pain, do not submit to the initial desire to flee from the suffering one, but on the contrary, come closer, as close as you can to him who suffers, and try to help.” This principle of bearing witness to animal suffering, because of its simplicity, is very reproducible and even contagious. Compassion looks the same no matter where you are in the world, and people everywhere can bear witness to animal suffering. Even in locations where we were concerned about resistance to Save groups—such as some South American countries like Colombia where our groups were initially met with significant pushback—we have nonetheless been able to firmly establish several groups. By focusing on this one simple idea of bearing witness, The Save Movement has been able to popularize the notion that we have a moral duty, both as individuals and as communities, to bear witness to the suffering of animals.
It is also very simple to join the Save Moment. There are no barriers to entry, financial or otherwise, and membership is open to anyone who is interested and follows our love-based Code of Conduct.
We also started The Save Movement with a strong, love-based, community-organizing framework. Back in the ’90s, there were many activist groups that were doing similar work, but it was more difficult because veganism and the animal rights movement were still relatively new and the public was less engaged in animal rights street activism. Some activist groups were involved in animal welfare campaigns in countries like the Netherlands and Germany while others in the United Kingdom launched animal rights campaigns to ban live export that were more confrontational, in order to get their message across. When we started Toronto Pig Save in 2010, people were ready for animal rights and veganism. From inception, The Save Movement has taken a love-based approach to both animal rights and vegan activism. Along with the simplicity of our principles and actions, this love-based approach is another factor that makes it easier to spread and build the movement. Most people, even those not already engaged in activism, feel they can join us.
The Save Movement is part of a new wave of animal rights street activism that completely adheres to a love-based framework. When we hold a vigil at a slaughterhouse for the first time, there sometimes is aggression from the slaughterhouse workers toward the activists at first, but the activists respond to that with a loving, non-judgmental attitude. Over time, the whole atmosphere at the slaughterhouse will change. In some instances, slaughterhouse workers have actually started working with the activists, even giving animals to the activists on occasion. The importance of the love-based approach cannot be understated.
When we first began stopping the transport trucks on the streets, the trucks would often run into us and it was a huge safety issue. But because we were there every week with a relentless, love-based approach, relations have improved at a number of locations, and we have agreements at many locations now. The Maple Leaf Poultry plant manager in Toronto, for example, agreed to have each truck to stop for five minutes at weekly vigils in Toronto. We have even engaged with Maple Leaf in bigger picture conversations about the necessity of investing in plant-based alternatives, and interestingly, Maple Leaf now has the biggest market share of plant-based meat in the U.S. This is not to say that this is because of our own interactions with Maple Leaf—but we do recognize the importance of engaging in respectful, truthful, and honest dialogue with the representatives of the companies and slaughterhouses where we hold our vigils.
Another strength is that we stick to a clear vegan message. The Save Movement advocates not just for the welfare of farmed animals, but for their complete liberation. We are protesting not only the conditions that these animals experience while in the trucks, but the very fact that these animals are there in the first place. When we see individual animals before us in those trucks, we feel certain that they have a right to be free and equal. That said, we are open to collaboration with organizations that work on animal welfare. There is a big animal welfare group in Canada called the Canadian Coalition for Farmed Animals, and they reached out to publish a brochure with us. As a compromise between our two perspectives, we adjusted the brochure to include, along with information about the welfare of farmed animals, the statement that the best thing anyone can do in the interest of animal rights is to go vegan. These are the kinds of relationships that we have with other organizations. We never criticize other groups, because they all have a place—but we do always try to push them toward a vegan approach.
How does The Save Movement’s work fit into the overall animal advocacy movement? Are there important ways in which it supports or is supported by the work of other advocates?
We believe in unifying the animal advocacy movement. In our “memorandum of understanding,” we ask that Save groups do not criticize other organizations on our pages. When disputes do arise between organizations, we try to play a role in conflict resolution. For example, following a recent Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) dispute, we did attend the Animal Liberation conference, but we also worked with organizations that split from DxE. We feel strongly that there are incredible activists in every organization, and we recognize that our commonalities are much bigger than our differences. Because of our community-organizing approach, we work with organizations across the fields of animal rights, animal welfare, student, environment, women’s rights, LGBT2Q+ rights, and workers’ rights, and many of these organizations do not have a vegan focus. Consequently, we try to use a positive intersectional approach.
Because of our strong vegan stance, one of our closest partners is the British vegan organization Viva! We recently published a brochure in partnership with Viva!, which we would be happy to share with ACE. It was distributed throughout England and Canada, as well as in Poland, where Viva! has an active presence. We also work with Veganuary, another British organization, and Challenge 22 in Israel, doing vegan outreach. It is difficult to hold vigils and witness the suffering of animals while recognizing that we cannot help the vast majority of them. Doing some kind of vegan outreach is a good way to have an immediate impact, and we recently started working with vegan outreach organizations to become more engaged in that kind of work. The Save Movement is currently giving out leaflets that encourage people to join a vigil, and in the same leaflet, we also show how to sign up for Veganuary through a special Save-Veganuary website link. That is actually another form of data collection, since it will show how many people The Save Movement has brought over to Veganuary. We would be happy to share this leaflet with ACE, if that would be helpful.
The other organizations with which we are most aligned are Anonymous for the Voiceless and DxE because they are also global, grassroots animal rights movements undertaking non-violent, direct action. Still, we each play a unique role. At The Save Movement, we hold vigils at slaughterhouses, so that people can meet animal victims in person. Anonymous for the Voiceless shows TV images of animal suffering in downtown areas to reveal animal suffering to people who might not otherwise be aware of it. DxE performs disruptions at supermarkets, where animal products are sold. Our work complements the work of these two organizations in a number of ways. People at Anonymous for the Voiceless often say that having attended a vigil with us makes it easier to talk to people on the street because they have concrete personal experiences of animal victims to share. The same could be said for DxE—when people go to vigils and see suffering animals it fuels their activism and motivates them to do more.
We also work closely with PETA, and they have helped us bring the attendance up at our vigils. At our first vigil in Arizona, for instance, PETA got in touch with all of the local supporters on their contact list to let them know. Similarly, when we hold special full-day or multi-day vigils, PETA has occasionally helped us to spread the word. During the Pig Trial, Peta helped with raising awareness, media releases and celebrity support. Peta President Ingrid Newkirk also offered her support by attending the trial twice and also taking the opportunity to bear witness to the pigs going to Fearmans slaughterhouse.
One more partnership worth noting is with the advocacy group Animal Equality. We first connected with them at an animal rights conference in L.A. in 2016, where they showed a video they had produced of the life of a pig from birth to slaughter. It was a very effective tool, so we invested $60,000 in creating a VR program and ordering VR headsets. We distributed them to Save groups around the world and brought them to university and college campuses, where we would pay people a few dollars or give them a vegan treat to watch the entire video.
What do you currently see as The Save Movement’s major weaknesses?
Difficulty attracting new members
One of our frustrations is the struggle of getting more people to attend vigils. As much as the Save Movement has grown, the people coming out to our vigils represent only a small percentage of their communities as a whole. So to attain our goals of having everyone bear witness and holding vigils at every slaughterhouse, there is still a tremendously long way to go. When you look at other social movements throughout history, like the independence movement in India or the abolitionist movement in America, our progress actually seems quite slow. One barrier may be that, in contrast to other social justice movements, animal rights activists are not advocating for their own immediate interests or those of their human friends or family. This makes it a bit more difficult to attract the kind of commitment and determination that is required. To garner the support we need, we have to get people to empathize very strongly with farmed animals and hence the importance of engaging the community in regular vigils to bear witness to animals. Another barrier may be people’s fear of becoming emotionally overwhelmed when faced with the reality of animal suffering. Once people go even once, they will often return again and again. Our biggest challenge is getting people out to that first vigil. We truly believe the classic saying that if slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegan. So the question we struggle with is how to convince more and more people, including non-activist vegans, to bear witness to animal suffering firsthand.
Another challenge for us—and for the animal rights movement in general—is that there is a bit of an ideological barrier that people face when we try to recruit them to come to a vigil. If they are not already a vegan, they may feel that they have to question their beliefs and make changes in their own lifestyle before coming out. That’s another factor that may not be present in other social justice movements where we can support a cause without making any significant personal changes to our daily lifestyle. We also need to do a better job of recruiting people who are currently vegan but not yet active in the movement.
Need for more mass media coverage
Relatedly, another big frustration is the struggle of getting more mass media coverage. The most media coverage that we’ve had was during the pig trial at the Superior Court of Justice in Toronto in 2015- 2017. That was a bit of an exception because a trial about giving thirsty pigs water seems like it would be something worth reporting on in the mainstream media since there are so many points of intervention in a story like that. It seems that there is a bit of pressure on journalists not to report on these kinds of animal rights issues, although that may be changing over time. We want to have our vigils be the regular subject of mainstream media.
Governance and organizational issues
We also have some governance issues that we need to work on. We have put so much energy into growing the movement, and now we need to start working more on establishing working groups, updating our website, and doing other infrastructural projects. Our website, for example, has not been updated since we first started.
We need to do a better job of following up with groups once they have been established to ensure they stay active. Currently, we are developing national and regional liaisons for this purpose. These are people whose specific role is to help already-established groups to stay active, help them with any issues or questions that come up, assist with global actions and global social media campaigns, and local and global fundraising. Until now, the help and assistance for new groups has largely been Toronto-based, and we now need a network of liaisons to keep up our growing presence worldwide.
Need for expansion into public policy
Much of our focus has so far been on civil society and community organizing. We have not done nearly so much work on public policy as we would like, so we want to expand in that direction. Looking at the accomplishments of DxE, PETA, The Humane League, and Animal Equality, a lot of their work is in policy development. As a vegan group, our policy work might be in the area of subsidies for vegan options. Last summer in Toronto, we actually teamed up with DxE to oppose a pilot project introducing backyard chickens in Toronto. We unfortunately lost that one, but I think it would be good for us to do more in the area of policy in general, through lobbying governments and working in the market sector through corporate campaigns.
Does The Save Movement have any specific plans to expand into public policy and/or corporate campaigns yet? Or is that more of an abstract goal right now, at this early stage?
Of the two, corporate campaigns would likely be the more attainable because we have good relations with vegan companies (such as Tofurky). We are also connected with Jane Velez-Mitchell, who was on the Starbucks campaign with Compassion Over Killing. The traction that plant-based meat is already having in the market (the success of Beyond Meat at A&W for example) makes this a promising area in general.
With respect to public policy, Toronto Pig Save did have an anti-subsidy campaign to protest subsidies for the pig industry and other meat industries at one point. That was just a one-time campaign, though. Right now, we do not have a clear plan for policy advocacy, so that would be a next step. One possible approach might be to partner with groups that already have well-developed policy programs. If we could find a way to gather evidence for legislators or animal rights lawyers from our work on the ground, on the transport routes and at the slaughterhouses, that would be a great way of joining forces.
What is the maximum amount of funding that The Save Movement could use effectively next year?
Our aim with The Save Movement going forward is to increasingly invest in organizing drives. Historical research suggests that the most successful unions—such as the Service Employees International Union—invested about 25% in organizing drives in the 1980s and 1990s and became one of the fastest growing unions in the U.S. As we discussed earlier, one of the main reasons that we have grown exponentially since the Pig Trial in 2015 is our investment in teams of organizers going from city to city around the world holding workshops, organizing vigils and starting new chapters. Thinking about what we could use, or what would help us going forward, we would love to have thousands of organizers. We are constantly developing more cost-effective and efficient ways of getting as many organizers out there as possible. With this goal in mind, we could absorb a lot of funding. We are in a position to recruit good organizers and integrate them quickly into the movement. This would not just be starting new groups, but deploying organizers to optimize existing groups. We would like to have 1,000 groups within the next year, and then tens of thousands within the next five years, as outlined in the Save Movement Strategic Plan 2018-2023.
Our initial organizing tours usually had two to three organizers, and were paid $2,000 (USD) per month. The tours themselves have cost roughly $10,000 per month, taking into account all expenses. One significant additional expense is funds to hire videographers and a media team. For example, we have two organizers on a six month tour of 27 countries right now, and their tour costs roughly $60,000. That number has since gone down substantially in the next round of tours in the second half of 2018, as we started working on cost-effective measures like requesting that organizers stay with activists (and eliminate huge accommodations costs) and fundraise before and during tours and raise matching funds to help cover costs like fellowships. Also, often the first tour in a country is most expensive, and then costs in that region will start to come down as local organizers are recruited.
Thinking about one calendar year, we could easily have dozens of organizers and multiple tours, which would bring us already close to $1-2 million. We should also note that we don’t just need funding for tours. We have also found billboard campaigns and subway advertisements to be very effective in Toronto, and these can cost up to $40,000 for 1,000 posters on the subway for one month. We often use individual Indiegogo campaigns to raise money for these, but we plan to have big advertising campaigns in multiple cities around the world. We are also developing special billboard campaigns in areas near slaughterhouses, as part of our communications strategy. In Toronto, for example, there are two cow slaughterhouses and a chicken slaughterhouse in the northwest part of the city. Billboards in these areas will hopefully encourage people to bear witness.
Did The Save Movement set a fundraising goal for this past year? If so, did you meet it?
Bearing witness itself doesn’t cost too much, so that is helpful. At the beginning of the year we didn’t have a fundraising goal, but in the summer, as part of our Save Movement Strategic Plan, we developed fundraising goals for the coming year and beyond. In order to continue our rapid growth of the movement, most of our fundraising objectives would be funnelled to the organizing tours.
Other funding objectives are campaign-specific, such as advertising campaigns, which will often include an Indiegogo crowd source funding campaign. For the Toronto Save groups, we recently had an Indiegogo campaign to raise $20,000 and then we got $20,000 in matching funds.
We have also had goals in terms of monthly donors, one-time donors, and annual fundraisers. We also have an individual donor who provides us with a lot of funding. We recognize that fundraising is extremely important for community organizing, and we know that we can’t continue to do our work without more significant fundraising. We are encouraging our local chapters to open up their own bank accounts and do their own fundraising. The Save Movement bank account provides start-up funds for new Save chapters, and funding for vigil grants, for Save organizing drives, and global Save initiatives.
Are there any changes that The Save Movement has made to your strategic plan recently? Have you taken steps to either improve or cut a program that you thought wasn’t very successful?
We have been working on standardizing our programs, many of which started out quite informal and experimental. Our biggest change was with the grants program. Last year, we sent out an activity report, and then based on the level of activism in each group, we would send different levels of funding—ranging from around $1,000 to $35,000. But now that we have so many groups, we are standardizing the application process and levels of funding. This summer we are introducing a grant program that will include a $1,000 vigil grant, a $5,000 impacts grant (based on matching funding), and a hubs grant for groups that are in a hub area (like Manchester, L.A., Toronto, or Buenos Aires) where there is a lot of financial or media power.
We also developed a standardized organizing tour application, as well as training and a handbook for our organizers. In the past, we have selected tour organizers quite informally, and although we haven’t had too many problems with this method. As there is a growing number of positions, we feel it is important to advertise more formally through our worldwide organizers pages as the movement continues to grow.
We are very adaptive and responsive to feedback from others as well as our own observations. For example, when we first started out, we often sent organizers to recruit at VegFest events in various cities across North America, but we found that flying people for short trips wasn’t very cost-effective, so we moved on to our present organizing tour model. Now, we are again re-assessing and moving forward by improving on that model by introducing cost-cutting measures and fundraising components to the tours.
What new piece of evidence, if it came to light, would cause you to change The Save Movement’s approach to helping animals?
If we knew what specifically it would take for animal agriculture to shift, that would likely make a big difference. We are seeing slight shifts in companies offering more plant-based options, and it would be helpful to know what metrics would be required for them to make a complete shift. That would certainly change the way that we approach corporate campaigns.
It would also make a difference to know what kind of message would invite and encourage people to come out and join the movement or even just come to one vigil. Right now, our Save Graphics Working Group is working on an ad campaign to invite people to “Stand up for animals.” We are trying to figure out a campaign that would draw inactive vegans into the movement, so if we knew what kind of advertisements or posters would most encourage people to get involved, that would be a great help. For our goal of building a mass movement, it would be helpful to know how to draw people in.
Would you say that The Save Movement primarily aims to convert people to become vegans? Or does the movement primarily aim to recruit people—vegans or otherwise—to become activists?
It’s definitely the latter: we aim to recruit people to become activists and organizers. From day one, creating activists has been more important than creating vegans. Up to this point, most of the people at our vigils are vegan anyway or become vegan, since it is so hard to bear witness and not become vegan in the process. There are lots of other organizations, like Anonymous for the Voiceless for example, that are trying to convert people to veganism. Our focus is much more on activism, because the experience of bearing witness is so transformative that it creates new and better activists as it deepens their commitment and resolve. We want to shift conversations around the animal suffering so that it is no longer okay for people to say “I don’t want to see” or “I don’t want to know.” We want people to recognize their duty to bear witness and their duty to organize in their community, hence the importance of organizing tours encouraging people to hold regular vigils. We are also interested in recruiting activists for other, related organizations. On our most successful organizing tours, we have also recruited for Disruptions, Anonymous for the Voiceless, Challenge 22, and Veganuary. We also recently had a meeting with the head of the National Animal Rights Day, so that we can hopefully begin to promote their work as well.
If we want to end the atrocities that are happening to animals, veganism isn’t enough to achieve animal liberation. If you think of the population of the United States—which is around 330 million—then about 4% (13 million) of those people are vegan, at a conservative estimate. If there were 12–15 million animal rights activists in the United States, we would achieve animal liberation far more rapidly.