Francisco, Aïda, and Cristina are the president, CEO, and a volunteer for AnimaNaturalis respectively. They spoke with ACE Researcher Toni Adleberg and Research Editor Sofia Davis-Fogel on July 13, 2017. This is a summary of their conversation.
What is the focus of AnimaNaturalis?
So far, AnimaNaturalis has mainly focused on helping animals in entertainment (e.g., circuses, water parks, bullfighting, etc.). This is because it used to be very difficult to make progress promoting veganism in Spain. Now it’s much easier; in fact, according to a recent survey, 9% of Spaniards claim they are vegan (“claim,” because this is obviously untrue—but it does show an increased awareness and aspirations towards veganism), so it seems like veganism is becoming much more widely accepted. However, given that AnimaNaturalis is finally getting results helping animals in entertainment, they have decided not to abandon their original focus area. They started running these kinds of campaigns ten or fourteen years ago, and last year they started making real progress. However, the organization aims to eventually spend at least half of their time promoting veganism, and the other half campaigning against animal use in entertainment.
What are some of AnimaNaturalis’ achievements?
AnimaNaturalis measures the success of their programs through the number of visits to their websites and the laws and regulations passed thanks (at least partly) to their campaigns.
Some of their successes include pressuring the government to pass regulations banning bullfighting and animal circuses. For example, they belong to a coalition of organizations called InfoCircos.org. The coalition’s focus is to ban the use of animals in circuses in all of Spain. They usually run their circus campaigns in one city at a time. They’ve started campaigns in Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, Valencia, Madrid, Castilla-León and Euskadi, and so far achieved bans in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands. They also successfully campaigned to ban the use of animals in circuses in Mexico. At the moment they are focusing on campaigning in towns around Madrid and Castilla-Leon, and they are pressing the government to pass a national law against using any animals in circuses, but for now this is just a project; they would need ten years to start getting results on a national level.
Within the last year, AnimaNaturalis pressured Spanish members of the EU Parliament to vote on a resolution in favor of improved welfare for rabbits, including a commitment to ban the use of battery cages. Rabbit meat is the second most produced meat in Europe (after chicken), and Spain is one of the biggest rabbit meat producers. Thus, they feel that achieving better welfare for rabbits, and convincing Spanish representatives to support it, was an important achievement.
Last year they were also working against bullfighting. They almost managed to get bullfighting banned in Mallorca, but the ‘Constitutional Tribunal’ said it was against the law to ban it in Spain, so the bill didn’t pass. A regulation was passed on July 22, 2017 that made it impossible to organize bullfighting in Baleares. This is virtually a ban. AnimaNaturalis thinks this is at least partly thanks to their efforts. They are using these kinds of strategies most in the Baleares, Valencia, Catalonia, and Pamplona. Another significant achievement for them is that for the past ten years their website has been the most visited Spanish website on veganism.
AnimaNaturalis believes their biggest strength is their convening power. They are well known by the media, politicians, and activists. The demonstrations they have organized have been successful because they are very well-regarded by politicians; they are not violent, and never act outside the law. This behavior also allows them to collaborate with companies and launch successful corporate outreach campaigns.
What are some goals that AnimaNaturalis has met?
An example of a goal that AnimaNaturalis set for themselves and were able to meet was joining forces with other organizations to make faster progress on different issues (e.g., campaigns against circuses and bullfighting). They have also set the goal of becoming a staffed and generally more professional organization. In order to do this, they are planning to become a foundation rather than an association. This will make them stronger, more transparent, and more professional. They also want to make structural changes in the organization. They want to start a technical department, which would work on sharing their work with other countries.
Can you tell us about AnimaNaturalis’ fundraising and funding gaps?
AnimaNaturalis didn’t set themselves a very ambitious fundraising goal last year, since Spain is only now coming out of the financial crisis. They wanted increase their funds by 10% (from 40,000€ last year), however they don’t have clear data on this because they made mistakes on their database. They did not remove those monthly donors who had stopped donating from the list, so they calculated they had more funds than they actually had.
Next year they are investing in hiring a fundraising professional for the first time, who will send regular newsletters to monthly donors. Up until now they didn’t keep donors informed in a direct way. They are beginners when it comes to fundraising, and are learning from their mistakes. This year they will work on a monthly newsletter just for donors and on improving their database.
Fundraising in Spain is very difficult. People are reluctant to give AnimaNaturalis support; this is even more the case with companies because many of them are in favor of bullfighting, etc. This kind of animal exploitation is very culturally entrenched. This is why AnimaNaturalis thinks that activism against bullfighting is a first step towards veganism, because it is the way in which many Spaniards are introduced to animal welfare issues. It is also much easier to get political backing in this area. It is a strategic step.
At the moment AnimaNaturalis is working in Spain, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Chile, Argentina and Ecuador. In all these countries they work without monthly donors or fundraising campaigns, only with money they raise from selling merchandise. It is only in Spain and Mexico that they have monthly donors and fundraising campaigns.
If they had additional funding, they would use it to hire paid staff. They currently have no paid employees and Francisco and Aïda are using their own money and time to run the organization.
What are some of AnimaNaturalis’ goals for next year?
AnimaNaturalis has short- and long-term goals for next year. Firstly, they want to start focusing more on veganism and less on entertainment. They are working on three campaigns promoting veganism: (1) a 21 day vegan pledge, for which they’ll offer support (a nutritionist, etc.), (2) ‘No soy comida’ (“I’m not food”), a campaign stressing the link between animal suffering and diet, and (3) a campaign trying to influence the government to stop subsidizing farms. Most farms in Spain are subsidized, and if the market changes and meat consumption decreases, the farms still make the same amount of money. The only thing that is changing is that small farms are disappearing and the big ones are getting stronger.
In Spain and Latin America the only organizations focused exclusively on promoting veganism are Mercy For Animals in Mexico and Animal Equality, but they are both using the same kind of messages. For example, they are not working against obesity, etc., but only focusing on animal welfare. Therefore there are some neglected areas, which means there are many opportunities that AnimaNaturalis could take.
What are some of AnimaNaturalis’ weaknesses?
AnimaNaturalis admits that one of their main weaknesses is their lack of paid professionals.They are working on six or seven campaigns per year and there are only two members of the organization (Francisco and Aïda) donating their time and money. Another weakness is that they are only working in Spanish. This is partly because there are already many organizations working in the U.S., while more help is needed in Latin America.
Can you tell us about some mistakes that AnimaNaturalis has learned from?
Ten years ago, AnimaNaturalis wanted teams with people in eight different cities around the world. Now they want to be smaller and more effective. They used to waste a lot of time managing these groups, but now they have far fewer groups, who operate only in cities where their work has most impact. AnimaNaturalis has learned from this and other mistakes; they used to run many different campaigns during a year, but now they have stopped trying to tackle every issue, since they weren’t making progress with this tactic and it resulted in them having too little money and time to devote to each campaign. For example, they ran a campaign against fur years ago. The first year it was successful; a mayor from an important Spanish city stopped subsidising a fur festival. But each subsequent year they kept running the campaign with no results. They realized they weren’t running a real campaign, but rather only organizing small protests for visibility, to get people to know them.
Can you tell us about AnimaNaturalis’ team?
AnimaNaturalis has several groups of volunteers who are very committed. Some have been working with them for ten years. They have ten to fifteen people volunteering in Spain, almost permanently. There are seven committed volunteers in Mexico. In each country where they run campaigns they have at least five very committed people.
Francisco says that diversity is not really an issue in Spain, given that there isn’t as much racial diversity as in the U.S.; therefore, they don’t really actively try to promote diversity within the organization. Francisco is from Latin America.
They don’t have surveys/interview volunteers about morale, but they have a meeting with all volunteers each year where they set goals, give speeches, etc. The main goal of the meeting is to be together. Francisco says they work together like a group of good friends or family. Sometimes they might argue, but in the end, they work better together.