By Darlene Donloe
In 2013, Nina Jackel started writing a blog about animal rights.
It was a space where the unapologetic animal lover wrote about things that mattered most to her like the ethics behind animal rights and being a more compassionate person when it came to animals.
By 2015, her blog had quickly turned into an animal rights platform and thus was born Lady Freethinker.
Jackel said the name “Lady Freethinker” is about “thinking outside the norm to evolve into a more compassionate world for animals, people and the planet.”
“So much suffering and abuse come from habits that are widely accepted — habits we don’t question enough,” said Jackel, who, with her husband has two cats. “Like forcing animals into lives of torture on factory farms or exploiting them for medical testing when better alternatives now exist. Only by thinking freely can we see the traps that perpetuate such cycles of abuse.”
Lady Freethinker believes that no animal should suffer at human hands, whether for food, clothing, entertainment or experimentation.
“I was working as a freelance journalist,” said Jackel, a native of the Bronx. “I always had a strong interest in animal rights. I’ve had pets my whole life.
“Growing up, I was extremely close to my little dog, Peggy. I remember sitting there just looking at her one day, peering into her eyes and seeing the same life behind them — the same thoughtfulness and sensitivity — that human eyes show. And I remember thinking how my heart would break to see the pain in those eyes, and that if I wouldn’t want to bring her pain, how could I want to cause pain to any other animal?” Jackel said.
“At 12, I realized that animals really mattered in their own way and that they had feelings like humans do. I started thinking a different way. Now I eat a plant-based diet. I never ate another animal after that moment, and knew that I wanted to change the way the whole world views animals because I couldn’t bear to see them suffering.”
Jackel believes “animal rights are human rights.”
“Animals think, feel and hurt just like we do, and to deny that is simply fooling yourself,” said Jackel, who studied philosophy at the University of Colorado at Denver and also studied journalism at UCLA. “Yet, billions of animals endure horrendous treatment at human hands, with very little protection from the law. And even if you don’t care about animals, you should certainly care that the worst serial killers, as well as mass shooters, usually start with animal abuse before going on to commit violence against people. That’s why doing something about it benefits all of us.”
Jackel said Lady Freethinker is a “nonprofit media company dedicated to exposing and stopping animal suffering.”
“We have writers, editors and investigators out there to raise awareness,” she said. “We expose things that some people would not know about. We have different campaigns from the dog meat trade in Asia to the captivity of big cats in zoos, and animal cruelty on social media. We have published reports on the social media cruelty aspect. That campaign has gotten a lot of attention.”
The dog meat trade is a big part of Lady Freethinker’s efforts.
“I went to South Korea to investigate the dog meat farms,” Jackel said. “It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. I was sobbing the entire time. There are a lot of local activists in that area like, Save Korean Dogs to end the trade. True change only goes within.
“We can’t go there as a westerner and tell them that what they are doing is bad and to have our norms. But we can investigate what’s going on. We want to get the facts, which are often obscured. We go to document the truth. We work to protect animals of every species. We see change on the horizon.”
Jackel can’t put a number on how many animals her organization has actually saved.
“It’s hard to put a number on it because our work is based on how much we influence change,” she said. “The number is high. We try to influence policy.”
Lady Freethinker’s undercover investigations and petitions have made global headlines and recently achieved a historic win: the highest-ever animal cruelty sentence in the nation of Chile.
Jackel said her team is changing the way the world sees and treats animals for “the better.”
“We do that by exposing the cruelty inherent in many of our systems and encouraging people to speak out and by promoting the work of rescues,” she said.
Jackel believes changing the norms and policies that allow cruelty is crucial.
“We can end human-caused suffering of all species — from the dogs and cats we call family, to the billions of pigs, chickens and cows suffering on factory farms, to the human animals who need our help,” she said. “There are still farms putting mother pigs in gestation pens. They are force-feeding ducks and geese. These are standard practices.
To move forward, we need to eliminate these practices. We believe that creating systems that protect us all, regardless of species, is the key to building a free and compassionate world for generations to come.”
Every day, Lady Freethinker publishes urgent petitions and breaking news to educate the public and end the suffering of animals, humans, and the planet.
The organization enables everyone to take simple actions to help animals, making a difference with a single click. Its petitions have collectively gained more than 15 million signatures, directly saving animals’ lives and putting horrific cruelty cases in front of government officials, industry leaders and other decision-makers.
The organization’s team not only works to change the laws and policies that allow suffering but also provides direct aid to animals in desperate situations — such as those rescued from the dog and cat meat trade.
Lady Freethinker has facilitated the rescue of dozens of dogs from the Yulin Dog Meat Festival and provided tens of thousands of pounds of food for rescued animals.
Its undercover investigations and petitions have made global headlines.
Every day, Lady Freethinker’s news articles educate people across the planet on important animal, human and environmental issues, and encourage readers to make more compassionate choices in their own lives. They expose animal suffering that may otherwise go ignored.
“Some people limit their compassion to the ones they share their homes with,” Jackel said. “It’s natural and understandable. Our main goal is to see all animals as sentient beings.”
“Our goal is to make the masses aware,” she added. “We want to show the truth to as many people as possible. Doing this work allows me to sleep at night knowing I’m doing something about animal cruelty.”
Lady Freethinker currently has a lawsuit against YouTube for allowing animal cruelty videos.
“We are this tiny organization, but we are taking on big things,” Jackel said. “I’m proud to have a small organization that is not afraid to take on giants.”
“Making a Difference” is a weekly feature profiling organizations that are serving their communities. To propose a “Making a Difference” profile, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Darlene Donloe is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at email@example.com.