An action Deniz was involved in resulted in shutting down a testing lab in Hamburg, Germany. An undercover investigation had uncovered the brutal conditions inside the lab, but let’s face it, no testing lab has humane conditions. The activists used every tactic available to them, including marches, vigils, social media campaigns, and press releases. Within a year, two testing labs were closed as a direct result of this pressure. “That was a success that taught me to pick one target and to go full force on that target. Everything we do has an effect—every conversation we have, every talk we do. But this specific example where you see all of the animals being rescued was most rewarding.”
While she claims to be a bit of a pessimist when it comes to reaching goals in other movements—such as meeting our targets on climate change, she is optimistic about achieving animal liberation. When she speaks to the public about this, she doesn’t attempt to convert people to a vegan lifestyle. Instead, she speaks to them about oppression.
“It’s about them recognizing that whatever oppresses them in their life is the same mechanism that also oppresses animals without their knowing. With this kind of discourse, people connect to it. I want them to see the systemic problem, and if they then change their consumption habits, I let that happen naturally and organically for them in their private sphere.”
For anyone new to activism, Deniz recommends learning about the history of the movement. “Some of the things that I thought we were doing for the first time, some people have been doing for 40, 50 years, and it was valuable for me to understand what kind of results they have achieved.”
She also recommends trying different forms of activism to determine your preference. Activists who enjoy the activities they take part in are more likely to continue, and she stresses the importance of working sustainably to avoid burnout.
“Remember that you are valuable to the movement. Take personal time and be happy and healthy and social apart from activism—don’t sacrifice everything because that will not be sustainable. Animal liberation will take a long time so keep that in mind and understand that activism is going to be a lifetime commitment, not a five-year race.”
That’s the reason behind RARA, Rights for AR Advocates
, an organization Deniz co-founded that aims to ensure animal rights advocates work under sustainable conditions and are paid as much as possible.
“We realized that the animal rights movement, especially in the non-profit area, has problems like any other industry and any other workspace. But we are particularly concerned with this one because we see the retention rates are very disappointing. A lot of activists leave their organizations because of burnout, because of PTSD, because of low pay or no pay. We believe that this is ignored and more important than many of us might think because the human workforce in the animal rights movement has a direct impact on animals. The longer people stay in the movement and become experts, the more valuable they become for the movement.”
As Deniz is working on bringing about change, she is bolstered and emotionally supported by her dog, a stray she welcomed into her home. He provides her with the inspiration she needs to continue to do this difficult work. “My dog is my motivation, but also my reward. Every day I do this work for him and because of him. He changed me completely, and he’s my greatest teacher.”