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Jan 30, 2020

What is it like to stand up for what you believe in? What is the cost and the reward?

Zoe Rosenberg is a 17 year old animal rights activist. She founded Happy Hen Animal Sanctuary at age 11, and so far has saved nearly 1,000 lives. Zoe is also the social media coordinator for Direct Action Everywhere. She travels the country speaking on the importance of taking action for animals.

At 12 years old, Zoe gave a keynote address at National Animal Rights Day (NARD) in San Francisco. At age 14, she received national press attention following an action against the Los Angeles Dodgers, where she protested of the treatment of animals related to the "Dodger Dogs" sold in the park. She and a few other activists ran onto the field during a game with banners and were arrested on live television.

In 2017, Rosenberg gave a TED talk at age 15, recounting her experience as a young animal activist.  In 2017, Rosenberg was honored as Youth Activist of the Year at the Animal Rights National Conference (ARNC) in Washington DC. In 2018, Rosenberg was one of four finalists nationally for PETA's 13th Annual Young Animal Activist Of The Year award.

In 2019, Rosenberg received national attention for conducting a high profile protest on live television during the NCAA Football National Championship Game in Levi Stadium. The protest was aimed at animal products sold in the stadium and the inhumane conditions at supplier facilities.

In 2019 Zoe Rosenberg was awarded the Paul McCartney Veg Advocate Award for her work as a young activist fighting for animal rights and founding an animal sanctuary, with special focus on her work to push Rose's Law, an Animal Bill of Rights.

In her conversation with us today, held at her Happy Hen sanctuary, Zoe describes the life of an activist, why she does it, and what keeps her motivated and inspired while facing so much opposition. She casts a vision for the future where animal cruelty is put to an end, and how little actions can make a big difference.

Whether you believe in animal rights or not, Zoe’s story reveals powerful lessons for any movement maker who seeks to make positive change in the world, including effective strategies used by famous activists like Martin Luther King Jr., that you can apply to your movement.

Key Takeaways

  1. People all over the world don’t see chickens as individuals or creatures who feel pain, and billions are suffering behind closed doors.
  2. At the end of the day I don’t care if people like me, hate me, or don’t even know me, as long as I’m making a difference I’ll be satisfied and happy.
  3. My biggest obstacle is society’s general reluctance to look animal agriculture straight in the face. They don’t want to hear about it because whatever comes next might make them have to change something about themselves or something that their parents taught them.
  4. I’m not attacking people, I just talking about something that is happening in our world.
  5. I believe animals deserve to be safe, happy and free from harm. Factory farming and slaughterhouses should be illegal. All these things that are creating massive amounts of cruelty and suffering towards some of the most innocent beings on this planet – none of this should be happening.
  6. My motto is sanctuaries not slaughterhouses because we want a world of compassion not violence.
  7. We live in a nation of animal lovers. But are they doing something about animal cruelty? Probably not.
  8. I’ve lost friends because of my activism. They can’t stand to look at me because I disagree with something that they agree with. So it’s a big sacrifice for any activist, not just animal activists.
  9. In terms of advocating change at higher levels, we’re starting with issues that we think the public and legislators at large probably already agree with – i.e. banning fur. California is the first state in the country to ban the sale of fur.
  10. Direct Action Everywhere is an international organization of animal rights activists taking direct action for animal liberation.
  11. When the animals we rescue realize that we’re not there to kill them, they start to relax. Then they slowly start to trust and realize that not all humans are going to hurt them.
  12. Facebook fundraising is probably the most valuable fundraising platform that I’ve ever used and I know other organizations feel the same way. I’ve been able to raise tens of thousands of dollars just through Facebook alone.  
  13. There are a lot of organizations that solely give grants. We go to them and say, (1) this is the project, (2) this is the impact it’s going to have, (3) this is why it’s important and (4) this is how much money we need.
  14. We have based our strategy on past social justice movements and the teaching of famous activists and their philosophies.
  15. There has never been a movement in history that has mobilized at least 3.5% of the population and not won.
  16. Ultimately we want to pass an animal bill of rights in the U.S. Constitution that gives them the right to their own lives, so that humans do not have the right to own them or have dominance over them.
  17. Along our 40-year roadmap to passing an animal bill of rights we have other goals such as making it so that all animal products have to give an honest description, rather than these false labels like humane and cage-free even though we know that these facilities are just as bad as any factory farm. We want to give people the right to know where their food is coming from.
  18. The Spectrum of Allies: Active Allies <> Passive Allies <> Neutral <> Passive Opponents <> Active Opponents. In any movement you want to shift the spectrum over one. So you have people normalizing the idea and de-normalizing the opposite side.
  19. Whether you believe in animal rights or not, I hope everyone will go out there and stand up for what they believe. We have enough people being silent about the things that matter.


TEDx Talk: Taking The Mound

Connect With Zoe Rosenberg