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.

Laila Kassam

Mission Lead

Laila is a founder and director of Animal Think Tank. As Mission Lead (Culture) she is responsible for building a healthy and resilient organisational culture to enable the delivery of Animal Think Tank’s mission. She is co-editor of the bookRethinking Food and Agriculture: New Ways Forward’ and co-founder of the Veterinary Vegan Network and Ethical Globe.

Laila worked in the international development sector from 2003 to 2018 with NGOs, foundations, government ministries and international research institutions. Her work focused on conducting research for rural development projects in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. This ranged from planning multi-million dollar projects to assessing their impact on poverty and food security. Her research has been published in peer-reviewed journals and by international organisations including CGIAR and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO). She has lived and worked in the UK, Switzerland, Kenya, Guyana, Malaysia and Ghana.

Laila has a PhD in Development Economics (SOAS), an MSc in Development Management (LSE) and a BSc in Economics and Politics (Bristol). She has a passion for permaculture and natural building. In her spare time she loves to read, meditate and spend time with other animals, including her feline housemate Lucky.

Mark Westcombe

Mission Lead

Mark is a founder and director of Animal Think Tank. As Mission Lead (Task) he is responsible for building and resourcing Animal Think Tank’s organisational capacity and steering the delivery of organisational strategy and mission. He was a co-founder of Animal Rebellion and previously organised the UK’s Animal Rights Gathering (2017 & 2018).

Professionally he has worked as a management consultant and group facilitator specialising in risk mitigation, strategic decision making and project impact. He has worked for many national and international organisations, including HMRC, British Sugar, the NHS, Ministry of HE Indonesia, Ministry of Trade Sweden, and Ministry Of Defence. He was a lecturer in this area at Lancaster University Management School at BSc, MSc and MBA levels between 2001 and 2018. He is a trainer in Systems Thinking and Group Facilitation for his professional body, The Operational Research Society. He has twice been awarded teaching prizes for his work on incorporating diversity into the university syllabus. He has postgraduate training as a Group Analyst (Psychotherapy).

Mark was a founder and director of the multi-award-winning Lancaster Cohousing; and co-founder and director of the UK Cohousing Network 2006-2015, and chair 2013-2015. He has organised several of Lancaster’s QueerFeasts, as well as helping organise Lancaster Pride in 2007. In his spare time he enjoys fell running; foraging; cooking; and generally being outdoors

Esther Salomon


Esther is a founder and director of Animal Think Tank. As lead for Story-based Strategy she is responsible for providing strategic direction, knowledge and skills related to Movement Theory in order to guide the organisation in fulfilling its mission.

Esther helped kick-start Animal Rebellion as a full-time member in 2019 and supported it through its first wave of resistance. She was lead for Regenerative Culture and a member of the Core Team. She is a certified Kingian Nonviolence Level One Trainer and gives talks about the  relevance of nonviolent strategy and civil resistance to Animal Freedom. She also delivers talks on Movement Ecology, Theory of Change and Movement Strategy. She is especially interested in the history, sociology and context of past movements such as those for Indian Independence, Civil Rights and the Labour movement. In her work, she integrates Systems Thinking, Experimentation and Design Theory and applies these to the development of movement strategy.

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. She delved into full-time Animal Justice work early in life and holds a love for natural intuition and wisdom that’s gained through real world experiences. She dedicates her time towards understanding and building people-powered organisations that are capable of creating transformative change. 

Dilan Fernando


Dilan is a core member of Animal Think Tank. As Governance Lead, he is responsible for enabling Animal Think Tank to organise at scale while staying resilient enough to achieve its mission. Dilan has trained as a Self-Organisation Coach with Evolving Organisation, and holds deep knowledge of progressive governance systems like Holacracy and Sociocracy.

Dilan was integral in the early success of Animal Rebellion. Leading the organisation’s Media team in 2019, he helped the idea of a plant-based food system reach deep into mainstream consciousness. Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Dilan co-founded Young Voices for Animals, where he created a youth leadership program and Australia’s first Youth Animal Rights Conference. He founded the Monash University Vegan Society and co-organised  Melbourne’s March to Close All Slaughterhouses. He has delivered talks on social movement strategy at the Institute for Critical Animal Studies and Australia’s Animal Rights Forum. In the Australian anti-poverty movement, Dilan was a pioneering member of Monash SEED and a coordinator at Oaktree

Dilan holds Bachelor degrees in Commerce and Economics from Monash University, and previously worked in Marketing at National Australia Bank. In his spare time Dilan enjoys calisthenics, playing the guitar, watching arthouse films and lamenting the performance of the Sri Lankan cricket team.

Paulina Bytniewska

Strategy Analysis

Paulina is a member of our Story-based Strategy team. She is responsible for Strategy Analysis, and developing the values embedded within our strategy such as the feminist ethic of care. She contributed full-time to Animal Rebellion during 2019 as part of the first UK rebellion. She was a member of the Actions team which achieved significant national media attention.

Born in Poland, Paulina grew up surrounded by non-human animals, with whom she shares a strong affinity. She attended a Catholic school which emphasised the Christian values of charity and community service, and, as part of her religious education, volunteered for organisations such as the Trussell Trust Food Bank and the Giuseppe Conlon house for refugees in London. She studied English Literature at  Goldsmiths College, University of London, and wrote her dissertation on Animal Rights in 19th Century Literature, which explores textual representations of non-human animals and the non-human experience, and cultural interpretations of animal justice.

Paulina has two canine companions, Milo and Finn, with whom she loves exploring the outdoors, and enjoys reading and baking in her spare time.

Owen Oliver


Owen is our People lead within our Culture team. He holds responsibility for member recruitment, orientation and onboarding. He is also a part of our organisational Care Support and Connection system and the Conflict Transformation system.

He was a full time member in 2019 of the Talks and Trainings team at Animal Rebellion. In this role he reached out to people across the country organising talks and Nonviolent Direct-Action trainings, as well as delivering them himself. Owen has engaged in many  different outreach groups and has enjoyed the positive interactions he has had with people doing this. He is also a speaker on Animal Resistance.

He has a 1st class degree in Philosophy, wrote his dissertation on Animal Rights, and is trained in Nonviolent Communication. Owen claims that since going vegan in 2018 he has yet to meet another Vegan interested in football and he longs for the day when he finds another Vegan as passionate about football as he is.

Natalie Braine

Narrative Lead

Natalie is our Narrative and Story Lead as part of our Story-based Strategy team. Her work focuses on framing, the psychology of persuasion, developing and testing messaging that speaks to a range of demographics, as well as learning from other social justice campaigns that have successfully changed the story.

Natalie co-founded a number of local grassroots animal justice organisations, including Bristol Cow Save and Bristol Vegan Action, as well as being involved with the charity Animal Justice Project. This has given her first-hand experience of how powerful it can be when people come together to create positive change, but equally how hard it is to sustain engagement and momentum. 

After her first taste of mass civil disobedience with Extinction Rebellion in 2019, Natalie went on to lead Animal Rebellion’s social media team later that year, which involved galvanising the movement’s base into action. It was from this experience that she recognised the power of storytelling as the engine of strategic campaigning. 

Professionally, Natalie has always worked in the media (PR, journalism and book publishing), and is also a published novelist. Outside of work, she enjoys reading, writing and being in nature with her canine companion, Hattie.


Wellbeing Extraordinaire

Hattie came to the UK in 2017, after living on the streets in Romania. Despite her traumatic start in life, she continues to see the best in all human animals. At Animal Think Tank, she reminds the team about the need for regular stretches, breaks and the importance of sharing snacks. Hattie loves exploring new places, squirrel-watching and belly rubs. She’s looking forward to more animals joining the team.