Meet the woman behind the organization Encompass that aims to build an inclusive animal protection movement.
Why Encompass is vital
Aryenish Birdie, founder and executive director at Encompass, started the organization because she’s observed that the animal protection movement lacks diversity. So, the group, which advocates for animal well-being, specifically works to include people of color in the animal welfare movement.
People of color make up 38 percent of the U.S. population, Birdie says. But POC make up less than 11 percent of staff and 8 percent of leaders at the top 20 U.S. farmed animal protection organizations. “This has led our movement to earn the label of a ‘white movement’ — one that many people of color find difficult to join,” she adds.
“This problem will only intensify, as the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that by 2044 people of color will be the majority of the U.S. population.”
So, these facts lead Birdie to ask the following question: How can the country change its positions regarding animal protection if animal welfare activists don’t reflect the demographics of the people its trying to influence?
“It’s with this question in mind that I knew a group like Encompass [was] needed,” Birdie says.
Why the animal protection movement lacks diversity
There are many reasons animal well-being organizations lack diversity and inclusion, Birdie says. “One [reason] is that our movement has historically used one-size-fits-all messaging, which typically speaks to middle and upper-class white people,” she explains.
“The other is that sometimes our movement uses messaging that can be alienating to people of color.”
However, Birdie adds that she’s seeing more animal advocates working to address these issues.
Birdie explains that diversifying the professional animal protection movement will make it more effective and mainstream. So, it makes sense that inclusion is Encompass’ cornerstone principle.
The organization plans to build on that principle with this simple, five-point plan:
- Reach a larger portion of the population and create more vegans, vegetarians, and meat reducers.
- Attract top talent to work for Encompass.
- Recruit more volunteers.
- Expand the organization’s donor pool.
- Effectively conduct the organization’s work via individual and institutional outreach, corporate campaigning, and policy change. Encompass’ advocates can become leaders. And the public will witness a movement that reflects them (POC) and therefore will be more willing to hear the message.
“If we want our collective mission of reducing suffering to take hold, we must reflect the country we are trying to change,” she says.
To reach more people and increase diversity, Encompass recently launched two programs that address diversity and inclusion.
First, the program will help other organizations understand why inclusion concepts are instrumental to their bottom-line and animal welfare.
“Some of our initial activities include presenting to organizational leadership and staff. [The organization will demonstrate] how they can help facilitate diversity and inclusion,” Birdie says.
“[We also will] create publicly available data-driven reports on the state of the movement’s racial inclusion.”
Lastly, the other program will support advocates of color enter the movement and thrive within it. This can help reduce recidivism and burnout.
“Some of our initial activities include creating a mentorship, sponsorship program wherein younger, newer advocates of color connect with older and more established mentors of color. [We] also [will] offer in-person and web-based leadership skills training opportunities.”
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