This profile is part of the "Animal Advocate Stories" Series. Haven is the Executive Director at Fish Welfare Initiative, an organisation whose mission is to improve the welfare of fish as much as possible. FWI focused specifically on farmed fish, i.e., fish raised in aquaculture.
Can you share a bit about yourself, what you're passionate about, and what drives you in your work for animal advocacy?
Hello! I mostly just try to think of myself as another person trying to make the world better. Of course, my main passion here and avenue of doing this is working to end factory farming.
I believe that, aside from just causing tremendous and pointless suffering, humanity's treatment of our fellow Earthlings is a stain upon the moral honor of our species and our planet. That may be what drives me most nowadays.
Could you describe your journey in animal advocacy and how you're able to make a meaningful impact in your life and career?
I originally got involved in the movement in college, after having read Singer in an Ethics class—that quintessential radicalizer of college students. After that, I became active in our local student animal rights group, and at some point started thinking of myself as an animal activist. All this set the scene such that, by the time I graduated, I was pretty set on using my life to try to end factory farming.
Soon after, I took part in the Charity Entrepreneurship Incubation Program. There, we began Fish Welfare Initiative.
What does your day-to-day life look like in your role?
Very varied! There's some recurring work I do—specifically hiring, managing, fundraising, and communicating with the team—but most of my work comes in project form, depending on where I'm needed most.
For instance, my two big projects today are:
a) shifting some work from people in the org who are currently over-capacity to someone who is currently under-capacity, and
b) taking a deep dive into our culture to assess and improve on some problems we've been having recently.
What initially inspired you to dedicate your time to animal advocacy? What keeps you motivated to continue?
I think Singer's arguments about equal consideration of interests irrespective of species are irrefutable. That philosophical foundation, combined with the cool movement and cool people I found here, made me feel like this movement was home.
As far as what keeps me motivated to continue: When there are moments—and there occasionally are some—where I become overwhelmed with the suffering we're fighting or with how difficult our task is, I think two things help me the most: First, reminding myself that it's not at all about me; it's about these victims, and it does nothing for them if a fairly privileged individual like me sits around wallowing in my own self-pity. And second, it's helpful for me to read or watch stories of the great campaigners of other moral causes that have gone before us. This reminds me that their jobs weren't easy either, and so often they thought they would fail. . . and yet, their causes often did prevail.
Are there any specific skills or areas of expertise that you find particularly valuable in your role?
A few things come to mind for my role in particular:
- Being able to ruthlessly prioritize between tasks
- Being able to learn quickly
- Being able to develop and maintain a strong and useful network
- Being able to communicate effectively
- Always remembering what the mission and the end goal is
Can you share some of the key challenges you've encountered in your animal advocacy work, and how have you overcome them?
With our work in particular, the lack of a research base of established interventions on how best to reduce farmed carp suffering has been a particular impediment. We're currently working to overcome this doing the research ourselves in the field, though that takes time.
Based on your own journey, what suggestions or advice would you give to individuals considering a career in animal advocacy or those seeking similar roles?
Just get involved! Any level of involvement can be helpful, and it will often open new doors for you later. It certainly did for me.
So for instance, if people want to get a job but aren't yet sure how, I'd recommend they find some organization, contact them, and see first about volunteering. Or if people want to get connected, I recommended they attend some of the conferences (particularly AVA, CARE, or an EA Global).
Is there anything else that you would like to tell others who are thinking about starting a career in animal advocacy?
If you stay in the movement long enough, you will no doubt experience many bumps along the road, whether they are strategic, organizational, or with your own relationships with others in the movement (or probably all three!). We should certainly seek to lessen the likelihood of these bumps occurring, but the unfortunate reality is that there will always be significant challenges when a small minority of passionate people seek to change the world.
Just remember that, however hard it may seem, the history of other movements before us tells us that sometimes victory can seem so impossibly elusive. . . until it is won.
Would you like to get in touch with Haven to learn more about their role and journey? Connect on LinkedIn.