By Aryenish Birdie | September 12, 2017

When I joined the animal protection movement over 17 years ago, I couldn’t have imagined the progress we’d make. I’m proud to be part of a movement whose victories seem endless.

In the past year, Massachusetts voters ushered in the world’s strongest farm animal welfare law, banning the production and sale of products from confined animals. Similarly, hundreds of food giants have committed to implementing farm animal welfare policies. We’ve seen a law enacted which requires chemical companies to use non-animal testing methods for toxicity tests. And we’ve seen the number of plant-based and vegan groups (that are addressing these issues from unique perspectives) rise, see: Sentience Institute, Balanced, and Better Eating International.

Our strategic thinking and capability to quickly innovate have both been vital to our success. It’s due to our continually evolving public messaging, our use of data analytics, our nuanced corporate campaigns and public policy efforts, coupled with investigations, that we claim victory so often. And the ever-growing list of plant-based (and soon-to-be clean) products is a testament to our success as well. But something is missing.

People of color make up 38% of the U.S. population, but less than 11 percent of staff and a mere 8 percent of leaders at the top 20 U.S. farmed animal protection organizations. This has led our movement to earn the label of a “white movement,” one that many people of color find difficult to join. This problem will only intensify, as the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that by 2044 people of color will be the majority of the U.S. population.

This raises the question: can we change a country if we do not reflect the demographics of the people we are trying to influence?

Decades of sociological and workplace research demonstrate that a more diverse movement will be a more effective movement. Diversity and inclusion leads companies to achieve higher profit margins and social movements to realize greater success. Additionally, these principles are now cornerstones in the re-branding efforts of both the Republican and Democratic parties. But these principles haven’t penetrated the farmed animal movement.

I am a woman of color, so these issues are personal, but I am also an animal advocate. It is because I share the sense of urgency that fuels our movement that I know we must, for the animals’ sake, address this gap. Race is a core component of most people of color’s identities. As animal advocates—and as a movement—if we want to meet people where they are, we must acknowledge this.

The good news is our movement is nimble and skilled at changing tactics based on data. We have an opportunity before us and Encompass plans to harness it.