Our Team

Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Our team at Animal Think Tank possess a wide range of experience, knowledge and skills. Having come from all walks of life, the ATT team have each made the choice to dedicate themselves to the cause of animal freedom.

Mark Westcombe

Mission

Mark is responsible for building Animal Think Tank’s organisational capacity and coordinating the overall mission delivery. He has a particular interest in ‘Momentum Organising’ and the movement building of the Engler brothers; as well as decentralised, non-hierarchical organising methods such as Swarm and Holacracy. His work in Animal Justice is inspired by the UK movement for the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade and the Open Source software approach to organising. He is interested in Social Movement Theory and how this can support winning audacious campaigns for social change. He is philosophically and strategically committed to active nonviolent campaigning.

Mark has previously organised the UK’s Animal Rights Gathering (2017 & 2018) bringing a focus on Movement Building and Strategy; and facilitated a 1 day ‘Animal Liberation Visioning Forum’ in 2017. He co-organised and facilitated the Lush funded ‘AR Principles and Values’ workshops in 2018 which explored and developed a set of shared values for the AR movement. He has facilitated a 2 day strategy workshop for the SAVE Movement UK helping them develop an organisational roadmap and structure. He was a cofounder of Animal Rebellion.

He has been a volunteer within the environmental and green movement since 1998. He founded the multi award winning Lancaster Cohousing, 2005-2014; and was Co-Founder and Director of the UK Cohousing Network 2006-2015, and Chair 2013-2015. He has been an active member of the Green Party at local and national Scottish level; as well as involved in direct action and Earth First! He also organised several of Lancaster’s QueerFeasts, as well as helping organise Lancaster Pride in 2007.

Professionally he has worked as a freelance management consultant and group facilitator specialising in risk mitigation, strategic decision making and project direction on large, complex projects. He has worked for many national and international organisations, including HMRC, British Sugar, NHS, Ministry of HE Indonesia, Ministry of Trade Sweden, MOD, etc. He has lectured on this, as well as project management and nonhierarchical teamwork, at Lancaster University Management School at BSc, MSc and MBA levels since 2001. He is a trainer in Systems Thinking and Group Facilitation for his professional body, The Operational Research Society; as well as on a freelance basis. He has twice been awarded teaching prizes for his work on incorporating diversity into the university syllabus. He has a 1st class Maths and Operational Research degree from Lancaster University and postgraduate training as a Group Analyst.

He has been an advocate of the Liberation Pledge since the beginning in Oct 2015; he is an avid fell runner, forager, and for getting outdoors generally; and he cooks italian influenced wholemeal food.

Laila Kassam

Mission/Culture

Laila has been involved in social change for most of her career, having worked in the international development sector since 2003. She has worked for NGOs, foundations, government ministries and international research and development institutions. Her work has focused on conducting research for rural development projects in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. This has ranged from planning multi-million dollar projects to assessing their impact on poverty, food security and livelihoods. Her research has been published in peer-reviewed journals and by international organisations including the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research (CGIAR) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO).

Laila was born in the UK and has lived and worked in the UK, Switzerland, Kenya, Guyana, Malaysia and Ghana. In addition she has undertaken short-term projects and consultancies in Uganda, India, Thailand, Kyrgyzstan, Zambia, Mozambique, St Lucia, Bangladesh and Sierra Leone.

She has a BSc (Hons) in Economics and Politics from the University of Bristol, an MSc in Development Management from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a PhD in Development Economics from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

Laila became vegetarian in 2010 soon after she started meditating, and started practising veganism in 2013 after educating herself about animal oppression. She is co-founder of the Veterinary Vegan Network and Ethical Globe. Laila has attended several training courses in different aspects of movement building including The Ecology of Social Movements and Integral Activist Training of Trainers at the Ulex Project. She has been trained in Kingian Nonviolence by David Jensen of the East Point Peace Academy. Laila has co-designed and facilitated several one and two day training courses on Movement Building and Kingian Nonviolence. She helped organise the Extinction Rebellion mass protests during the 1st Rebellion in London and is co-editor of the book Rethinking Food and Agriculture: New Ways Forward’ (Elsevier).

Laila completed her Permaculture Design Certificate in 2013. She has a passion for natural building ever since volunteering with the Earthship crew to build an off-grid community centre in Malawi. She loves to read, meditate and spend time in sacred idleness and with other animals, especially her feline housemate Lucky.

Dilan Fernando

Governance

Originally from Australia, Dilan is a versatile organiser with 6 years’ experience in various movements across the UK, Australia and the USA. After a period of deep reflection in 2019, Dilan left his corporate career to devote himself to animal justice work. He is now focused on Animal Think Tank’s Culture and Governance workstreams. Drawing from ideas like Teal management, Sociocracy and Swarm organising, Dilan seeks to understand how we might build resilient, agile, and truly democratic social movements that unite people from all walks of life.        

Previously, Dilan coordinated the Media team at Animal Rebellion. Working with various campaigners, Dilan helped the idea of a plant-based food system reach deep into the mainstream, with Animal Rebellion garnering 350+ press appearances across national TV, radio, online and print media. Dilan was also instrumental in planning initiatives like Animal Rebellion’s landmark nonviolent occupation of Smithfield Meat Market

Dilan’s animal justice journey began in 2015, after an experience that saw him befriend an injured puppy in rural Cambodia. He soon discovered the idea of speciesism, promptly took up veganism, and while studying in North America he was introduced to nonviolent direct action. Dilan then joined the vibrant animal justice community in Melbourne, Australia, where founded the Monash University Vegan Society, co-organised the 2017 March to Close All Slaughterhouses, and presented at conferences held by Animal Activists Forum and the Institute for Critical Animal Studies

In 2017 Dilan co-founded the non-profit group Young Voices for Animals with fellow ATT member Harley McDonald-Eckersall. With YVA, he pioneered Catalyst, a youth leadership program, and co-organised Australia’s first Youth Animal Rights Conference. 

Years earlier, Dilan’s social change journey started in the anti-poverty movement when he was asked to be a volunteer leader on Oaktree’s Roadtrip to End Poverty, and later took on a key coordinator role at Monash SEED. He has also campaigned with the environmental movement, having coordinated election calling parties with the Australian Conservation Foundation.  

Dilan holds double Bachelor’s degrees in Commerce and Economics from Monash University, Australia. His business experience includes a Marketing role at National Australia Bank, an internship at Pitcher Partners, and a stint volunteering in the Fijian microfinance industry with Good Return

Outside of work, Dilan loves hot chocolates, reading, exploring new places and immersing himself in video game worlds. He is an avid cinema-goer and cricket fanatic.

Esther Salomon

Strategy

Esther delved into animal justice work early in her life and holds a love for natural intuition and wisdom that’s gained from real world experiences. Feeling disillusioned with chasing academic success, Esther turned down an offer to study Politics at Edinburgh University. During this time she realised that building people-powered organisations into a political force was needed to bring about the sweeping changes that she had wanted to help shape through the degree. 

She turned vegan early in College after spending three months as a vegetarian, it was during these years when her understanding of animal oppression and speciesism began to grow into a desire for meaningful action. Esther spent the first portion of her life surrounded by politically minded people from diverse backgrounds which led her to explore issues of justice from different perspectives.

From the need to connect to the natural world Esther trekked across the Annapurna mountains and came away with a deep respect and awe for the planet and all its animals. While there, she developed a curiosity around parts of Eastern philosophy that touched on the value of all forms of life. Her interest in the significance of human-animal relationships in our culture and history was sparked here. But after visiting several major cities around the world the reality of economic inequality and social injustice became clearer than ever. The experiences, conversations and people that she came across acts as an anchor in her day to day work. 

Esther became a full-time member of Animal Rebellion, moved to London and helped kick-start the organisation in June 2019. In her time there Esther learned the value of building bridges between movements through shared values and experience as well as building foundational skills in facilitating training, leading workshops and speaking at conferences and events. Reaching back to her time visiting her family in Kerala, she witnessed the potential of truly empowered communities who are able to act on their local concerns and work to find solutions together. This enabled her to grasp how to inspire, mobilize and coordinate volunteers to take action. She played a part in designing the tone and events of Animal Rebellion’s occupation of Smithfields market in October 2019. A few months earlier she had led a call to action and declared the demand for a plant-based food system to thousands of people at the Official Animal Rights March in London. 

Now in Animal Think Tank, and drawing from social movement theory, Esther is keen to explore how to create strategies that have the power to work within our current society, engage and inspire the public and make lasting change possible.