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Animal advocate profile: Mona Oliver | Campaign Director at Animals Aotearoa

This profile is part of the "Animal Advocate Stories" Series. Mona is the Campaign Director at Animals Aotearoa, a nonprofit organisation helping chickens bred for meat by achieving corporate policies to substantially improve their welfare.

Headshot of Mona Oliver with a flowery top on a pink background. Credit to Sarah Booher
Headshot of Mona Oliver. Credit to Sarah Booher

Can you share a bit about yourself, what you're passionate about, and what drives you in your work for animal advocacy?

I am a vegan and a campaigner who lives in Porirua in Aotearoa New Zealand. I have always been motivated by social justice and using my own time and skills to affect change. Helping animals is close to my heart.


Could you describe your journey in animal advocacy and how you're able to make a meaningful impact in your life and career?

Growing up vegetarian I developed a conscience for animal welfare very early on, even participating in protests against sow stalls at seven years old. I moved to the capital city of New Zealand to pursue a degree and then a career in politics. After a few years, I felt a calling to animals, and started working on campaigns to end farrowing crates and live export at the Government level and undertaking study into animal law.


After working on the 2020 election in New Zealand, I took up an opportunity to focus on corporate campaigning for chickens bred for meat at Animals Aotearoa. Chickens bred for meat are three-quarters of the farmed land animals in New Zealand, so focusing on them felt right to me.


What does your day-to-day life look like in your role?

I usually start my day with some basic admin tasks, clearing out notifications and seeing what updates there are in the news and animal welfare spaces. I will spend the rest of my day writing campaign materials, contacting supporters, and organising campaign actions and events. I also support other organisations' campaigns where I can.


Because we are a small team I also spend time managing some other projects like our annual reports and grant applications.


What initially inspired you to dedicate your time to animal advocacy? What keeps you motivated to continue?

What felt accidental and random at the time I now reflect on as an easy path I took towards being true to myself. I fell in love with campaigning while working for political parties in Australia and New Zealand, but I found myself feeling frustrated at the lack of political changes being made for animals. New Zealand has one of the strongest legal protection frameworks for animals in the world, but the reality was our on-farm standards were far below the protection the legislation should have provided.


I applied and got a job working in animal advocacy, and then followed an opportunity to join and co-founded Animals Aotearoa in early 2021.


Are there any specific skills or areas of expertise that you find particularly valuable in your role?

Working with people and writing! I find most of my days are spent either writing materials or working with supporters, officials and other representatives. I need to be able to explain my perspective, answer hard questions and most importantly provide solutions that inspire people.


I also find a high level of organisational skills important for both self-management and the organisation of campaigns and events.


Can you share some of the key challenges you've encountered in your animal advocacy work, and how have you overcome them?

Being self-directed was a challenge to begin with. As animal advocacy organisations are often thin on the ground there is a great deal of self-management and direction required. Slack, ASANA and Google Calendar are essential tools I use, but sometimes I do have to ask for help where I can. Learning to prioritise has become really important.


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?

Get involved! If you have an existing skill you’d like to take into an animal advocacy career then I’d apply – we’re always looking for skilled people. If you’re looking to develop skills, consider getting involved as a volunteer to get experience. This could be either for an animal advocacy organisation or another charity/cause you’re passionate about. I started as a volunteer organiser on election campaigns which is how I began to develop my skills.


Would you like to get in touch with Mona to learn more about their role and journey? Connect on LinkedIn.

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