Interview with Nina Hauptman Jackel: Lady Freethinker
Nina Hauptman (also known as Lady Freethinker) loves animals so much that helping them has become her life’s work. One of the tools Nina finds essential is Change.org. Nina has started over 70 petitions focused on helping animals — receiving millions of signatures in support of her efforts. We sat down with Nina to learn more about her passion and advice for those using Change.org.
How did you become an advocate for animal rights?
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t conscious of the need to protect animals. Animal protection has always been a part of my life. I stopped eating meat when I was 12, and have been vegan for years. Naturally, I gravitated towards a career in animal advocacy. As a journalist, I have been writing about animal issues for over a decade. Three years ago, I started working as a writer for Last Chance For Animals, a national animal advocacy organization focused primarily on vivisection, pet theft, fur, and circuses. I quickly rose up to become LCA’s Campaigns Director.
What is your philosophy on animal rights?
It’s just common sense to treat other beings with kindness. We are all animals. Human beings are animals. Animals have consciousness and intelligence and deserve to be treated with respect. It’s easy to ignore the fact that animals are sentient, or pretend that they cannot feel pain and suffering, because then it is easier to rationalize the cruelty.
How did you come to Change.org?
In 2013, I founded Lady Freethinker, a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) media organization with the mission of achieving social justice – for every species. Initially, LFT started out as a blog about my personal philosophies. I realized that the blog had the potential to expand to something larger, and it evolved into what it is today – a dedicated team of writers covering breaking news about human rights, animal rights and the environment, as well as simple actions you can take to effect meaningful change. I’ve been using Change.org for years, signing tons of petitions. I wanted LFT to offer actions to actually effect change, and so Change.org was a natural fit to start incorporating into my website. By creating and posting petitions, our readers people could take action on the stories we report on.
What was the first issue you addressed on Change.org?
The first petition I started was directed at Keurig, urging them to make all K-Cup coffee pods biodegradable, instead of ending up in landfills. Keurig has not evolved yet, but after the petition grew, several other brands started offering compostable, biodegradable coffee pod products. They didn’t exist when we started the petition. When you start a petition, you attract the attention of people who share your passion, and grow your strength in numbers. When businesses see that thousands of people are signing this petition, they realize that there’s a demand for eco friendly products. All of those signatures created the momentum to drive change in the disposable coffee pod industry. Businesses start to take notice that there’s a growing market for sustainable products. This petition wasn’t just about getting one company to change – it was about changing an industry.
What’s your advice to a first time change.org user?
Just go for it! Once your petition is live, you’ll start to see that there are many other people out there in the Change.org community who share your passion and concern. Once the petition is out there, you’ll feel invigorated as you see the petition numbers climb. And you’ll feel so much more productive having created a petition that if you’d done nothing at all. To get your petition off the ground, start with people that you know – like your friends and family. Get them to sign and share it with their friends, and when then they share with their friends and you’ll see the snowball effect. Always utilize social media, and share the petition with your personal email contact list. If it’s a local issue, call reporters and ask them to cover your campaign. Also, use the update tool. Many of my petitions deal with individual cruelty cases, and people want to know what’s happening. Stay on top of the petitions by monitoring stories in the press, and use the update tool to notify your supporters of what is happening. This is a good way to keep your petition signers motivated to stay involved.
What are the best features of Change.org’s platform?
I like how it sends the petition letter right away, directly to the targets. It’s important to put the email address of your targets in your petition. My advice for petition starters is try to find a good email address for the decision makers. Flooding their inbox is a great way to get your petition noticed by your target.
I’ve worked with the Change.org petition coaches before and that was very helpful. They helped me refine the messaging and showed me how to tweak the petition to make it even more effective.
The Change.org API is really amazing because it allows me to embed Change.org petitions directly onto my website’s homepage for maximum visibility. When I create a petition on Change.org, I simply drop the code into WordPress, and like magic, it appears on my website in a clean and clear format. It’s incredibly useful.
What are some features that you’d like to see Change.org offer?
It would be great to be able to post multiple photos on a petition page, and to have the ability to place the photos in multiple places throughout the petition.
What was your most memorable victory on Change.org?
There was an event in Mexico called “Strangle The Duck Festival” — where a live duck is hung upside down by the feet, and people pull on the duck by the neck until her head is ripped off. There was a lot of public outrage so I started a petition, and it was banned in 2016.
Why is it important for Change.org to remain free and accessible? I am grateful for Change.org because you shouldn’t have to pay to make an impact. Rich people already have the advantage when it comes to controlling policies. The average person should have the same opportunities to be able to make a difference and stand up for what they believe in.