The cause of animals is a call to action. A call to provide the best possible care for animals, whether they live in our homes, in our communities or in the wild. A call to save, defend and protect them against dangers and threats to their survival and well-being, in the United States and throughout the world.
It is also a call for inclusion, and a recognition that all people, no matter their circumstances, have an inherent connection with animals and are welcome in the animal protection movement—and, in so many ways, are already engaged in it, through efforts that may not always have been recognized by mainstream animal welfare groups, but which have done worlds of good. We’re committed to making more and deeper connections. The more of us there are, the more good we can do. The more diverse we are, the greater our capacity for creative solutions will be, and the more we can accomplish.
To achieve the kind of transformational changes we want for animals will require the engagement of everyone who cares. That’s why the principle of inclusion applies with special force in animal protection. It has far-reaching implications, because greater diversity in our ranks promises not just growth in our movement but better outcomes for animals.
For this and other reasons, we’re making a stronger commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, and building an organizational culture that shows it. Our family of organizations should reflect the demographics of the world we’re trying to change, and of all the animal lovers driving that change. A healthy, pluralist vision demands that we acknowledge, support and seek to realize the value and benefits of the varied perspectives of colleagues of differing backgrounds. We do not see diversity, equity and inclusion issues as an extra responsibility or burden—rather, diversity, equity and inclusion must be foundational to our work if we are to have the impact we seek. Our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion represents the kind of organization we want to be, the kind of people we must be.
Our efforts on issues of equity have involved taking stock of our programs, both domestic and global. We want all people to feel welcome, whether it’s a matter of support for our work, or a sense of belonging to the broader animal protection movement here and abroad. We want to make sure that we are serving the needs of animals wherever they are, and the needs of all those trying to help them, whoever they are. Those who care about animal welfare should see themselves and their perspectives represented in our work, our staff and our priorities. And we want to ensure that our efforts on behalf of animals aren’t inadvertently excluding or, worse yet, causing harm within marginalized communities.
We have a long way to go. It’s not just our public outreach that will need to be more inclusive—we’re focusing on our recruitment and retention efforts, our attention to public policies and institutional practices that might prevent people from full participation in our work, and on barriers to access that might undermine people’s efforts to seek care for their animals. The latter is something we’ve long been working to address through our Pets for Life program and Rural Area Veterinary Services, both of which expand access to veterinary and other kinds of animal care in underserved communities where animal health services may be limited or completely unavailable. We’ve learned a great deal from our community relationships and partners in these programs, and we’re applying that knowledge to other areas of our work. We’re doing more to establish new pathways to progress, through better-informed advocacy, greater cultural competency, new partnerships, and deeper awareness of the harms that bias, discrimination and stereotyping can produce.
It comes down to this: Even apart from the clear justness of diversity, equity and inclusion principles, no movement seeking to transform attitudes and practices toward animals can afford to neglect these concerns. We want people of all backgrounds to see and pursue animal protection as their own cause. We want to forge a sustainable path to the enduring changes our movement seeks throughout the world, with stronger and more enduring results and outcomes for animals. To do anything less would amount to an unmet promise, for the fate of animals worldwide depends on it.
Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.