Cami Hoffman of The Raven Corps Is Shaping The Future of The Animal Rights Movement
Updated: Jul 18
Cami Hoffman - youth director of the advocacy group The Raven Corps - chats to us about the rise of veganism, food as politics and how to get involved in animal rights activism.
What was the inspiration behind The Raven Corps?
As a species, ravens are smart, resourceful, and adaptive messengers, but they are often underestimated and treated like a nuisance. Much like young people, right?
Our organization (originally called “Youth for the Voiceless”) unofficially started back in 2016 as a small high school animal rights club in Portland, Oregon – supervised by our current Executive Director, Claire Howe. It came about after we attended an animal rights conference, and noticed that there was very little youth representation.
So, in 2018, The Raven Corps was born! That’s right around when I joined. The Raven Corps was a response to the clear need among teenage/young adult activists for community and belonging. That still remains at the core of what we do, but we’ve grown so much since then. Now, we’re an anti-oppression Vegan youth activist organization (that’s a rad mouthful) for humans, our more-than-human kin, and the planet. We tackle issues head-on with the clear understanding that issues are complex and multi-dimensional – we understand that all forms of oppression are connected, including those involving animals.
In discussions about anti-oppression, the topic of animal rights is almost never raised, even though – from a standpoint of intersectionality – it overlaps with so many other issues that activists are fighting for today: the climate crisis and environment being prime examples. Why do you believe there is this cognitive dissonance, and what can be done to remedy it?
Food is political. Food is also deeply personal. And for many people, animals fall under the umbrella of food.
Our personal lives are deeply intertwined with all forms of oppression. When it comes to animal rights, that personal connection is impossible to overlook – especially if someone eats animals. So, it often feels safer to ignore the issue altogether.
In discussions about anti-oppression, it’s important to look at the messenger. Who is actually in it and who is just putting on a performance? For example, the white person who philosophizes about anti-racism but doesn’t use their own privilege to enact change is just putting on a performance.
For people who are interested in multi-dimensional advocacy but haven’t made the connection with animal rights, I recommend reading Racism as Zoological Witchcraft by Aph Ko. We read it as part of The Ravens Corps book club in 2020, and it has been foundational in shaping our philosophy today. In that book, Ko challenges the very idea of intersectionality and seamlessly weaves animal rights into the web of systemic oppressions we’re up against. I’d also recommend the works of anti-oppression vegans like Christopher Sebastian, pattrice jones, and Jake Conroy. And if you’re 15-22, join The Raven Corps!
In recent years, there has been an exponential rise in veganism. It has moved from the fringes to a mainstream, celebrity-endorsed lifestyle. But many of its early followers have raised alarms about the so-called commodification of the diet, suggesting that its earlier, more radical roots are slowly becoming replaced with corporate motives, and separated from the animal liberation movement. Where do you stand on this debate, and do you believe corporate involvement is harming or hindering the movement?
This is something we’re constantly thinking about at The Raven Corps. As such, my opinion is constantly evolving. Right now, I think the original vegan movement has by and large been co-opted, corrupted, white-washed, and commodified by corporate involvement (and celebrity endorsement). That said, I don’t think corporate involvement is harming or hindering the animal liberation movement overall. Because corporations aren’t the movement. Corporations – and often celebrities/influencers – are pushing plant-based products for profit. The animal liberation movement is in the interest of animals’ lives. These two things are related, but not nearly as closely as people think. Expanding access to plant-based food is certainly a part of animal liberation. But plant-based food alone isn’t synonymous with animal liberation. That fallacy, in my opinion, is the danger of corporations monetizing the movement.
For those who aren’t in a position to go fully plant-based but want to make a difference to the lives of animals, what would you suggest is most helpful?
Going plant-based is one tactic among many when it comes to fighting for animal rights. The Raven Corps is a Vegan organization, but that doesn’t mean someone has to eat plant-based in order to join us. If someone really cares about the lives of animals but can’t go plant-based, they can still make a huge difference by simply participating in activism. They can see what advocacy groups are active in their area or start organizing their own project.
Beyond that, be open and honest! Connecting oppression (NOT comparing or competing) is a powerful thing. Talk to people in your community about why you’re passionate about animal liberation and help others make the connections you’ve made. At the end of the day, we want to create meaningful change for ALL, so the more you can mobilize others (and yourself) the better.
Also: support your local farmed animal sanctuary!
Looking to the future, what would an ideal world look like for you in regards to animal rights?
I love this question, because it’s easy to lose sight of what we’re actually fighting FOR and TOWARDS. My personal vision as it relates to animal rights is ever-changing. That said, I would love to live in a world where animals aren’t needlessly exploited by humans, where respecting and appreciating the basic wants and needs of others are normalized. I want a world beyond survival where we can coexist and thrive together.
Who are some young activists and changemakers you would recommend following?
When in doubt, turn to your community. I cannot emphasize that enough: change starts locally. So start off by finding out how young activists are already making change in your community and ask yourself, how can I support them? If your search is coming up dry, search harder or drop us a line at The Raven Corps – we know people!
You can also search out like-minded young people you know and trust to start something new.
Finally, follow Aiyana Goodfellow. Because if I had to recommend one radical young changemaker to follow, it’d be them!
Finally, how can those interested support your work?
We are ALWAYS looking for 15-22 year olds to join our community on Discord. That’s where we do our organizing and community building.
This year, our focus is on Operation: Mind Over Milk. We’re building a Vegan student movement to make plant-based options more accessible in school cafeterias – more information can be found on our website.
But for anyone who wants to support (Raven-aged or not), following us on social media (@theravencorps and @ravencorpstreats), sharing our posts, and making donations are some of the best ways to support the work we’re doing!