Creating Future Animal Rights Leaders: PETA Asia’s Internship Program
Operating from a small campaign office in Manila, PETA has already created quite a stir with attention-grabbing ads and groundbreaking protests in countries like Malaysia, Thailand, and Japan, where public demonstrations are rare. PETA has done even more for animals—including getting a roadside zoo shut down in Vietnam and distributing more than 100,000 vegetarian/vegan starter kits in the Philippines.
PETA’s internship program plays a critical role in winning victories for animals and strengthening and diversifying the animal-protection movement, and it helps the movement enormously on both the local and the international levels. PETA interns have gone on to become stellar activists in their own countries and communities, and some have even founded their own animal-protection organizations.
The Problem: Animals Need Us to Get It Right
The success of the animal-protection movement depends on our strength at the grassroots level. Fortunately, more and more grassroots animal-protection groups spring up all around the world every year. However, valuable time and momentum can be lost when new groups flounder or repeat avoidable mistakes. Animals can’t afford to wait as each new group reinvents the wheel. For animals’ sake, these groups need to have the best-trained activists using the most effective tactics.
Activists go through a natural learning curve to understand which tactics work to raise awareness of animal issues and which don’t. Most have the same questions: “How do we decide which issue to tackle?”; “What time of day is best for a demonstration?”; “What techniques will make us the most visible?”; “How do we write a news release?”; “How can we recruit other activists?”; and “What skills do we need for media interviews?” The animals suffering right now need for this learning curve to be as short as possible.
A growing number of young adults, college students, and others want to devote their vacation time or college internship to volunteering to help animals, but they often can’t afford to pay for lodging and expenses. PETA’s internship program provides the solution to these challenges
The Solution: Interning Is a Win-Win Proposition for Animals and Interns
PETA’s internship program operates all year long and accepts applicants for two weeks to two months. The program can accommodate three international applicants at a time and also accepts local applicants from the Philippines. Interns work a 40-hour week and are treated like staff members. They assist with PETA’s vital work at the Manila campaign office—and with outreach wherever it’s needed. Their work spans Asia, including China and Vietnam, and Australia. International interns are provided with lodging, and all interns receive a small weekly stipend as well as lunch on weekdays. The program is almost always full months in advance.
More than 100 people have gone through the program since it began. In 2014, there were 18 international interns—from Australia, China, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Norway, Taiwan, the U.S., and Vietnam—and three interns from the Philippines. In 2015, there were 21 international interns and 4 interns from the Philippines.
PETA’s interns take on a wide variety of projects, including brainstorming campaign ideas, attending demonstrations, assisting with research for and writing op-eds for newspapers and magazines, posting social media pieces, and even helping to research legal issues related to specific cases of animal abuse. They then take their acquired knowledge back to their own communities, where they can make a real difference.
“The staff members are very dedicated and devote much of their free time to promoting animal rights and helping animals directly. The official office hours are a mere formality. I, too, found myself arriving to work early, carrying on with projects in the evenings, and volunteering on the weekends, not because I felt I had to but because I wanted to. The work was interesting, and I wanted to help as much as I could in my short time with PETA. I have gotten up at 3 a.m. to table at three events, gotten in past 10 p.m. on another occasion, dressed as an elephant in the midday Manila heat, and spent hours typing signups into our mailing list. … Four weeks, seven research projects, 14 blog posts, hundreds of e-mails to the media, countless other tasks, and lots of doggie cuddles later, my internship has sadly come to an end. I can’t adequately express my gratitude for this opportunity. I feel inspired and empowered to spread the message about animal rights, which I plan to do at every given opportunity. I understand now the incredible impact that dedication and perseverance can have, and I am very proud to have played a small role in providing animals with a voice. The only regret that I have about my experience is that it could not last longer. I would urge any budding animal rights activist to apply to intern at PETA and to stay as long as possible, because you will not want to leave.”
—Briony Thompson, United Kingdom
“The multitasking internship is basically desk-based. I completed a lot of translations for PETA’s Chinese website and worked with the media to spread PETA’s message. Sound boring? Not at all! After an internship with PETA, you will break the mold: At PETA, interns don’t just make photocopies and coffee for everyone in the office. Instead, you get to develop some very practical skills, including learning how to write to the media and communicate with people of all kinds. One of my projects … was assisting with the launch of Annie Yi’s naked anti-fur ads. I translated the news release and contacted local media. I called hundreds of different media outlets in one day alone! That was a real challenge. But after I saw the media coverage, I knew my efforts had been worth it. Plus, the staff in the office are all super-nice and are always ready to answer all your questions and help you if you need it.”
—Wenjin Gong, China
“The most useful thing I have learned is that while animal suffering is so widespread and common such that it can feel overwhelming sometimes, every action we take to help animals makes a difference. People might say we’re fighting a losing battle, but I’ve come to realize that even if animal cruelty is an enormous problem, combating it is worth every ounce of energy we put in. … This internship has been so valuable for me. It’s confirmed absolutely that I want a career in animal protection. By observing the hard work of the staff, I’ve realized that I have so much more I can give to animals.”
—Ashleigh Best, Australia
“The best part of my internship is being surrounded by vegan people. It helped me understand the vegan diet better, as there are not many vegans back home. Also, the conversations with the PETA staff about current animal cruelty and animal rights issues really made me understand and see the bigger picture of what is happening out around the world.”
—Esmee Joseph, Malaysia
“Every day in the PETA office, you get to help create change and make a difference for the millions of animals who are suffering in the world. Sometimes it’s just a matter of taking small steps toward future improvements, and sometimes you get to cross the finish line—but it’s always meaningful. It’s one of the coolest and most rewarding things about working for PETA—everything you do counts. In my month here, I have worked on the ‘Free Mali’ campaign and written numerous blog posts about everything from Beijing’s large-dog ban to apps for the traveling vegan. I have visited, played with, and fed some friendly—and some not-so-friendly—slum dogs with PETA crusader Ashley, who looks after these pups every weekend, and completed numerous research tasks involving tiger sanctuaries, fashion fur pas, case studies … and the list goes on. … It’s been a busy, interesting, engaging, and rewarding internship, wrapped up with a sizeable dose of adventure and a whole office full of good folks. I may not have been looking for it, but I found exactly what I needed by coming here—the satisfaction that comes with standing up for the things that you believe in and an increased sense of hope in the animal rights movement, because these guys fight a pretty awesome fight.”
—Liselle Finlay, New Zealand
“I feel beyond privileged—I’m the luckiest person in the world to have been given the opportunity to intern at PETA and to have worked on such a multitude of different projects, all for the cause of animal rights. Living in the Philippines for two months has been a dream, with so many beautiful islands to explore, beaches at which to swim, bubble teas to drink, jungles through which to trek, volcanoes to climb, postcard-worthy sunsets to watch, … karaoke bars to visit, and mouthwatering vegan meals to eat—and all this while experiencing the endlessly generous hospitality of the eternally joyful Filipino people. I wish my time at PETA would never end. The eight weeks passed far too quickly. I cannot put into words how grateful I am for this experience, and it is one that will stay with me forever.”
—Milena König, Australia
“Much of my life so far, at school and university, I’ve drifted through placidly, told that I was doing something I ‘should’ do but with little conception as to why. Interning at PETA is the first time that question has been answered every single second of the day, and it’s a phenomenal sensation. There’s a purpose to all that you do—it’s to help animals. And that knowledge, no matter what the task at hand, makes everything simple and fulfilling. … All told, I can’t recommend interning at PETA enough: The work is both enjoyable and significant (a combination that I think few other internships can offer), and the knowledge that you are helping, in whatever way, makes every day that much easier. Despite never having been a morning person, while interning at PETA I happily woke up before my alarm each day, full of energy and excited to get to work.”
—Josceline Cluff, United Kingdom
“The days with PETA Asia, however intense, passed quickly. Besides the constant flow of desk-based projects and tasks, I was proud to be painted head to toe in bronze bodypaint, together with two fellow interns, for an Olympic-themed protest outside the British Embassy. I also found myself at another protest, this time squatting on the unshaded street in front of the Japanese Embassy with the aim of stopping the slaughtering of dolphins in the country. In order to secure a better life for Mali, I mixed in with other visitors at the zoo to check on her condition and to take photos of her for reports. I also spent one long evening tabling at a Smashing Pumpkins concert to educate people about the plight of this lonely, miserable elephant. … I feel that I am always lucky, for every little thing (good or bad) that I face in this life. This internship opportunity has granted me the broader exposure to animal rights and a vegetarian diet. The friends I met will definitely last forever, and the experience that I gained is invaluable. I am glad I became a part of PETA, and I’m proud to be able to contribute my tiny little efforts in helping to save animals.”
—JiaYi Ng, Malaysia
“Although there were definitely days when I felt as though I would burst into tears at the inhumane treatment of animals, the majority of my days gave me a remarkable sense of enlightenment and encouragement. After interning with PETA, I feel more dedicated than ever to the vegan lifestyle, the well-being of animals, and speaking out against injustices toward animals (regardless of how small or large the matter is). The friends that I have made here will definitely last a lifetime. Although I have only spent 25 days with my fellow interns and officemates, I feel as though they are members of my long-lost family. It is so inspiring to be around others who believe in the same causes and display such a high level of passion in their work. This experience has opened my eyes to the pain that animals endure on a global scale. It has shown me that staying inside one’s ‘bubble’ is comparable to turning one’s back on animals. Anyone who claims to be an animal lover from inside a ‘bubble’ has not seen the global scale of animal abuse—nor do they understand what it means to be an animal advocate. Going back to my childhood idea that change is obtainable—I think it is. It just takes a great deal of effort and perseverance. One of the main reasons I think change does not occur is because it is more convenient to be a spectator and rely on others to be the participants, but if everyone were a spectator, who would be left as participants? We all are given special talents to help make this world better. It is up to each of us to decide how best to use those talents. Because of my opportunity with PETA, I know that change is obtainable.”
—Ashleigh Day, United States
“I was a writer, investigating a subject and then composing blog posts, letters, book reviews, and action alerts. I was a street activist, honing traditional skills such as tabling at a concert and leafleting, either in PETA T-shirts or dressed as an elephant. I was a researcher, reading in-depth and scientific information on various subjects, extracting essentials, and trying to understand the bigger picture. Over bottles of vegan red wine and until the sun tinted the nightly skies anew, I was a philosopher, discussing with my fellow interns whether pragmatism or fundamentalism might be the shorter route toward total liberation. … Even though I went through some of the hardest times I have ever had—and no day went by during which I was not silently crying for a moment at my desk for the loneliness, pain, and despair some earthlings have to endure for our fleeting pleasures—my time with PETA was much more empowering than disheartening. Overall, I am extremely confident that it made me a great deal stronger and a little wiser.”
—Olivia Ladinig, Germany