This Environmentalist Just Wrote a Book on Why Animals Matter—Can We Get an Amen?

It’s hard to believe that the director of the population and sustainability program at the Center for Biological Diversity—a leading environmental nonprofit—also finds the time to be an author, but Stephanie Feldstein rocks both her jobs. From her Huffington Post articles to her Pop X newsletters to her journal articles on biodiversity and human population and overconsumption, Feldstein’s writings are a must for animal rights activists and environmentalists alike. And Feldstein’s newest work is no exception. Whether you are passionate about protecting endangered species or want to be part of the movement that will end factory farming, The Animal Lover’s Guide to Changing the World can help you become the activist you want to be.

We talked with Feldstein about everything from her new book to how she stays motivated to keep up the good fight for animals. Here’s what she had to say.

Aside from your love for animals and the planet, what inspired you to write The Animal Lover’s Guide to Changing the World?

When I was working at, my job was to help people who saw injustice against animals create campaigns to fight for change. I realized there were so many animal lovers out there who wanted to be a part of creating a more compassionate world but weren’t sure where to start. I wrote The Animal Lover’s Guide to Changing the World to help people put their love for animals into action, no matter what their lifestyle or how much experience they have in activism.

What’s the number one thing readers can do today to help animals, humans, and the environment?

One huge thing people can do today is to start making choices with animals in mind. We make so many decisions every single day that affect animals—what we eat, what we purchase, what we throw away, and even how we spend our time. By taking a moment to step back and consider the animal-friendlier choice, we can be more intentional about our impact on the world. You might be surprised by what changes you can make starting right now, whether eating more plant-based meals, avoiding plastic, or simply buying less. And as we become more intentional about our choices, we start to realize that the more humane, compassionate options are usually better for the environment and people too.

How did you learn about the connection between animal agriculture and environmental issues, like climate change and water scarcity?

I’d been concerned for a long time about the abuse of farmed animals, and although I had a sense that animal agriculture was also problematic for workers and the environment, what I knew was already enough to convince me to change my diet and start taking action. So I didn’t really have the full sense of it until I created the Center for Biological Diversity’s Take Extinction Off Your Plate campaign. I started digging into all the different ways wildlife is threatened by animal agriculture. When you look at the whole picture, you discover that no matter which measure of environmental harm you use, animal agriculture is one of the leading threats. The facts are shocking—animal agriculture has taken over so much of the planet and isn’t leaving much for wildlife.

Your work does an excellent job of showing the links between animal and human causes. How did you discover the ways these issues intersect? What was that like for you?

I had long known about the links on an intellectual level, such as the correlation between domestic violence and animal abuse. But one experience that really drove it home was when I took in a foster dog named Gulliver who had been rescued from the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina. There were networks of people trying to reunite displaced families with their dogs, but some people in the rescue community were saying they didn’t want to return their foster dogs because the families should never have left them behind in the first place. But the situation was so much more complicated than that—a lot of people hadn’t known they wouldn’t be able to return home, had been given misinformation, or didn’t have the means to find their animals. And I kept thinking how devastating it would be to lose everything… and then lose one of my family members on top of that. Since then I’ve been really supportive of programs like pet-food banks and low-cost vet clinics that show compassion to both humans and animals and help keep families together during tough times.

Do you have any advice for activists when it comes to reaching people who aren’t self-proclaimed animal lovers or environmentalists?

One of the most effective things you can do is to meet people where they are. People don’t have to love animals to make positive changes for them. They may be fighting climate change for social justice or self-preservation, or they may want plant-based options because they’re trying to eat healthier. We don’t have to share the same motivations to work together. If you’re trying to educate people on animal or environmental issues, recognize that concepts or changes that seem straightforward to you may be complicated for others, so be supportive and encouraging as they’re learning.

We all know that animal rights activism is hard but rewarding work. How do you stay positive and motivated to keep fighting?

When I spend time with my rescued dogs and cats, walk dogs at the local shelter, visit a farm sanctuary, spend time in protected wilderness, or just enjoy the positive stories shared on social media (about both individual animals and the progress we’re making as a movement), it reminds me who we’re fighting for. It’s so important to stay connected to the animals and not let what you love about them get buried under all the politics and stress.

Any ideas of what your next writing project will be?

I have all kinds of ideas! I can’t talk about the details yet, but for my next nonfiction project I’m taking a deeper dive into some of the themes presented in The Animal Lover’s Guide. I also enjoy writing fiction and am working on a young-adult novel set in the wilderness.

You can check out The Animal Lover’s Guide this June. In the meantime, remember that the best way to protect animals is to leave them off your plate. Click here to learn more about switching to a compassionate plant-based diet to prevent cruelty to all animals used for food.