© Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals
Our team at Animal Think Tank possesses a wide range of experience, knowledge and skills. Having come from all walks of life, the members of the ATT team have each made the choice to dedicate themselves to the cause of animal freedom.
Laila Kassam PhD
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 book ‘Rethinking 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 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 Mark 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 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 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.
Mathilde da Rui
Mathilde provides general organisational support. She has a specific administrative focus within the Direction and Coordination Circles to ensure members can best utilise their focus and competences to serve the purposes of their role. She also contributes to our Brand Strategy.
For over a decade prior to joining Animal Think Tank, Mathilde volunteered for a wide range of animal advocacy organisations, participating in charity outreach and demonstrations, writing copy, carrying out research, and standing in two elections as a candidate seeking to represent non-human animals in government.
Spending time volunteering with an animal rescue organisation, and thereby developing a deeper connection with fellow animals and their lived experiences, compelled her to devote her career to animal advocacy. While working in diverse fields, from PR and event management to IP translation, she thus completed a BA in Law and International Relations (SOAS) and an MSc in Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law (Winchester). Through her master’s dissertation, she sought to identify useful English policy instruments for supporting a just transition away from industrial animal agriculture for farmers.
Hailing from France and Switzerland, she originally trained as an actress. She is passionate about metarationality, critical legal scholarship, systems thinking, and effective altruism. Mathilde lives with her 6 feline friends/managers from the streets of Turkey. She is a keen hiker with eclectic tastes in music and books.
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 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 favourite person, Hattie.
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.
Beth is responsible for spearheading the in-house linguistic research which will inform our narrative strategy. This research aims to gauge linguistic usage and social attitudes around animal freedom and personhood, as well as lifestyles and ideologies which promote or obstruct these.
Beth has a PhD in Linguistics from Lancaster University. Before moving to Lancaster, she earned an MSt and a BA from the University of Oxford. She has worked in universities across the north west of England, in both research and teaching roles, and has held visiting lectureships at the University of Manchester and Liverpool Hope University and worked on a major Research Council project at the University of Central Lancashire.
Beth’s research focuses on how corpus linguistic methodologies can be applied in a variety of contexts, to answer questions about how societies function and how hierarchies of power form and are perpetuated. Her work has been published in peer-reviewed journals and she is currently contributing two chapters to a new linguistics textbook to be published by Routledge, for which she is also a member of the editorial team.
Beth currently lives near Lancaster with her husband, two young children, and two feline companions. She has a passion for photography and in her spare time loves to read, run and swim outdoors.
Sebastiaan is a member of our Story-based Strategy team. He is responsible for formalising our vision and developing a political strategy for Animal Think Tank, to make institutional power more receptive to grassroots demands for change.
Sebastiaan has a political background himself. He is a former chairman of a Dutch party dedicated to non-human animals, Partij voor de Dieren, and led the party’s youth organisation for three years previously.
Sebastiaan grew up in a small village in a rural part of the Netherlands, and found his natural curiosity for the world around him was too strong to be undone by state education. After a brief stint at university he became a maths and science teacher at the International School Groningen, where he spent several years getting pupils to realise how fun abstraction can be.
In his spare time Sebastiaan enjoys writing and world building, including all the research, cartography and spreadsheet use that comes along with it.
Social Movement Culture Lead
Emilie’s role is to create strong cultural foundations for the Social Movement, based on Animal Think Tank’s core values. She is researching the best practices that will allow people in the Social Movement to flourish, collaborate and step into their power, giving particular attention to conflict transformation, care and support.
She was born and raised in France and was part of the French climate justice movement for several years before dedicating herself entirely to the cause closest to her heart: the liberation of all animals. She was the co-founder and leader of Earth Resistance, a French animal rights organisation, between 2017 and 2019. She trained dozens of antispeciesist activists on the strategy of nonviolence and civil disobedience and organised several direct actions. She is trained in Nonviolent Communication and is passionate about psychology, sociology, strategy and social change theory – any field that can help social movements become transformative and powerful.
She has degrees in Literature, History and Political Science. She loves reading (her favourite author is Virginia Woolf) but also finds great joy in musicals, video games, getaway weekends and broccolis.
Social Movement Governance Lead
David is our Social Movement Governance lead. He is responsible for building the capacity and sustainability of local groups and their alignment with a coordinated national strategy. This includes conceptualising national and local group governance best practice whilst developing resources and training for social movement organisers.
David has experience of working and organising within social activist groups, university societies and poetry working groups. He is particularly interested in the role of pre-figurative politics in organising activist spaces, the structure of democratic processes in decentralised organisations and their potential in reaching across cultural, social and political divides.
Originally wanting to join the Royal Marines, David became interested in animal ethics after studying Philosophy at college. This led him to achieve a 1st class undergraduate degree from Lancaster University in Philosophy and a master’s degree with Distinction from Durham University in Philosophy. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, writing poetry, board games, going to the gym and (eventually) learning Spanish.