The following is a summary of a conversation that took place as part of our evaluation of The Humane League. Clare Farrow is a former intern and current volunteer with THL. Clare spoke with Allison Smith, ACE’s Director of Research, on September 4, 2015.
Clare Farrow’s Role at The Humane League
Currently a senior at Elon University in North Carolina, Clare works as a volunteer with The Humane League (THL) primarily at their local office, and has prior experience in the internship program at the Philadelphia office. From her background interning and volunteering at multiple major animal activism organizations, Clare offers an experienced perspective on the effectiveness of animal activism internship programs in general as well as what, in particular, makes THL stand out from other organizations, both positively and negatively.
When Clare transitioned to a vegan lifestyle while a student at Elon University, she was not able to find many vegan lifestyle or animal activist groups in the area. Searching online sites like Meetup, Clare came into contact with THL and started attending their events. From there, she started an outreach internship at the THL Philadelphia office in the summer of 2014 under Rachel Atcheson who currently works as the Director of Campus Outreach. Clare assisted with tabling events to represent THL as well as leafleting at nearby locations. She helped plan and organize the first “Veg Fest” in Philadelphia and was given freedom to take on individual projects, such as distributing Philadelphia vegan dining guides in local hotels and college dorms, and campaigning to get THL’s humane education program into the class offerings at local YMCAs. She remains a volunteer with THL’s Charlotte office, primarily doing online outreach and campaigning.
Internship and Volunteer Experience at Other Animal Activism Organizations
Besides working at THL, Clare also has experience volunteering with Farm Sanctuary in Southern California, working in their farm animal shelters. More recently, she has done fundraising and events volunteer work with Paws4ever, a guaranteed-adoption, no-kill shelter in North Carolina. She also recently returned to doing leafleting and online outreach with Mercy For Animals and worked as a volunteer in PETA’s investigations department as part of the emergency response team, where she took in cruelty reports to be investigated and researched. This gives Clare a broad background in some of the major US animal activism organizations.
The Volunteer and Internship Program at THL
From the training provided by THL, Clare learned the fundamentals of effective activism, as well as outreach skills that are transferable to organizations, careers, and social movements beyond THL. She identifies many strengths in the internship experience at THL’s Philadelphia office that worked well for her and, as far as she has seen, her experience there is the norm for interns, which is reflected in the high retention rates of so many long-term volunteers. The internship schedule is highly flexible, and the staff are always supportive and open to questions. The office team goes out of its way to treat interns and volunteers as integral members of the local office and as part of the broader animal activism movement. THL has frequent galas and social events, such as local running clubs, which also serve as marketing tools to bring in new volunteers. Difficult outreach work was made enjoyable and the structure of the program—particularly because there was training before the internship transitioned into outreach—allowed her to both meet the outreach needs of the office as well as, later on, train new interns herself.
Prior to the internship, being vegan was primarily just a diet and part of a lifestyle for Clare, but the internship evolved her into an animal activist who thinks critically about how best to help animals and use time and resources in the most effective way possible. She would recommend the internship program at THL to others and has indeed done so to friends who now volunteer at nearby offices. Her experience has encouraged her to further pursue a career in the field of animal activism.
The Strengths and Weaknesses of the Volunteer and Internship Program at THL
At least during the summer of 2014, the Philadelphia office only had outreach roles for prospective interns, limiting the potential roles volunteers or interns could play. The internship program at the Philadelphia office has since grown beyond just outreach to include, for instance, specific social media outreach roles. Making effective use of volunteer and intern time is something THL excels at, yet also an area that needs constant improvement given the diversity and expansion of THL offices across the country.
From her volunteer experience in the animal activism movement, Clare finds that THL, and other organizations within the farm animal protection movement specifically, are much more concerned about efficiency and effectiveness than other types of animal-focused organizations. Other organizations don’t often provide the more fundamental and critical thinking skills compared to the training program at THL. Their local office model of organization, which makes large use of local volunteers, is a strength Clare identifies in THL, as it provides a sense of community to vegetarian, vegan, and animal-friendly individuals in the area. Organizations which primarily operate on a national level are not able to provide such a close-knit sense of community in local areas. The willingness of THL to take volunteers and make good use of them, as well as set large and ambitious campaign goals they can take part in, are strengths of the organization in general.
The combination of effective activism, large and positive growth over the past few years, and a supportive and friendly social support network makes THL stand out from other animal activism organizations Clare has worked with. THL encourages a constant return to the basic questions of animal activism: What will the animals get out of the volunteer work? And: am I creating as much good as I can in the work I do?