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“Everyday is an opportunity to make kinder choices” - Animal advocacy with Lady Freethinker

Words by Cheyanne Bryan

Are you interested in protecting the rights of animals?

Well, we get the tell-all from California-based, but internationally-active animal advocacy charity, Lady Freethinker. 

With “educating the public and inspiring change” at the centre of what they do, Smiley News caught up with Nina Jackel, founder of Lady Freethinker, to learn more about their approach to campaigning for animal protection. 

Their website is a beacon for all things animal rights. From collating active petitions to having their investigations covered by big news outlets, Lady Freethinker are working tirelessly to uncover and expose animal suffering. 

How big is the team at Lady Freethinker?

We have a small-but-dedicated core group working hard to campaign on behalf of animals, conduct investigations, and write news articles that shed light on animal welfare issues.

We are a fully remote organisation, so although LFT is based in California, our team works from home across the globe – which means we are able to work alongside our companion animals. What could be more inspiring? My cats help remind me daily why I do this work, and when the hours of witnessing animal abuse become hard to bear, there’s nothing more soothing than to give my rescue tabby Muffin a big hug.


How much of your work is focused in LA vs abroad? What kind of cases do you deal with in LA?

We are based in California but work to help animals all over the world. We’ve campaigned against cruelty in puppy mills, animal agriculture, and animal testing in the U.S.; the dog and cat meat trade in Asia; social media cruelty rings spanning the globe; and the exploitation of endangered animals on multiple continents.

In California specifically, we’ve campaigned to stop factory farming and rodeos – which can cause gentle animals like baby cows and bulls to suffer gruesome injuries and terror.

One of our biggest campaigns is to stop online animal cruelty videos. We’ve tracked thousands of abusive posts – including fake dog and cat rescues as well as the torture of baby monkeys – spreading on YouTube, Facebook, and other social media platforms. Our investigation into online monkey torture, which we conducted in partnership with Action for Primates, led to the BBC documentary “The Monkey Haters.” Since then, we’ve seen charges brought against people in the U.S., U.K., and Indonesia – showing that when cruelty is exposed, change is possible.

What has the impact of your work looked like over the years? 

The dog and cat meat trade is one of the first major issues I started writing about back when Lady Freethinker was still a small blog. Since then, we’ve seen monumental progress. We campaigned for years to end the industry and led several undercover investigations. Our campaigns, in partnership with local activists, led to the closure of two dog meat auctions. We were thrilled to report earlier this year that South Korea announced they are banning the dog meat trade for good.

In Santiago, Chile, our undercover investigation led to the raid of a dogfighting breeding operation. The dogs were found on short chains with no food or water, and because of our investigation they were all transported to rescues to be adopted into loving forever homes. The perpetrator was handed the strongest animal cruelty sentence in the nation’s history. 

We’ve also partnered with many animal rescue organisations, in the U.S. and abroad, to sponsor food, medical care, and shelter for animals in need. We recently saw a medical clinic in Nepal open its doors to wounded and sick dogs – thanks in large part to sponsorship from Lady Freethinker. We’ve helped save the lives of suffering animals across the world with our grant program, including programs to feed starving animals impacted by wars or natural disasters. We’ve sponsored food, care, and shelter for dogs, cats, and farmed animals, as well as community education efforts in schools that are inspiring a young generation of animal lovers. It’s incredible to see the transformations our partners have made possible for animals and how supportive the community has been. 

Lady Freethinker does a lot of investigative work, what has been your most shocking or surprising find?  

We’ve conducted a number of investigations into exotic animal tourist attractions, including zoos where animals are forced to pose with visitors for “selfies.” I’m constantly surprised that so many well-meaning people participate in these activities without understanding the cruelty behind the scenes. 

Unwitting people who love animals often support this cruelty, which means we have a lot of work to do in exposing the realities behind exotic animal use for entertainment.

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What do you hope for the future of Lady Freethinker as an advocate against animal cruelty?

My hope is for Lady Freethinker to continue educating the public and inspiring change. The larger the audience we can reach, the more change we can accomplish, ranging from people making more compassionate lifestyle choices to governments passing stronger laws to protect animals. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but the victories for animals we’ve seen this year are a testimony to what is possible when we speak out on behalf of our fellow species. 

What is a key message or take away you’d like to share about animal advocacy and the work you do?

Every day is an opportunity to make kinder choices. You can choose not to support businesses that hurt animals for “entertainment,” speak up if you see animal cruelty in your neighbourhood, or choose to eat a plant-based dinner instead of one made from animals. If your community allows people to chain dogs and leave them outdoors, you can ask your city to pass an ordinance banning the cruel practice. You can use your voice to speak up for animals by signing petitions, joining peaceful protests, and sharing information with your friends and family to inspire them to make compassionate choices, too.

To stay up informed with Lady Freethinker, follow them on their social media channels or sign up to their newsletter. You can find links on their website here:

Charity check-in

At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article. 

Sharks Trust. This is a UK charity that is working to safeguard the future of sharks, skates and rays found in the British coast and internationally. Learn more here.

The WildLife Trusts. This is a charity body composed of 46 regional wildlife trusts. Together they work to look after nature reserves and protect wildlife across the UK. Find out more here.

WWF. This charity is the world’s leading wildlife conservation organisation. To ensure the survival of the environment and living things, WWF partners with many groups to meet this goal. Support them here.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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