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Here at One Green Planet, we are very familiar with the many issues that animals face everyday. From suffering in factory farms to losing their homes to deforestation and everything in between, it has never been more clear that the animals of the world need our help! As an individual, tackling all these issues (or even just one!) can seem incredibly daunting. When you think about how many animals there are on the planet that need our help, it seems impossible for one human to even make a dent! Luckily, however, we don’t have to go about saving the earth’s many animal species all on our own…

In fact, there are HUNDREDS of organizations across the world that share our passion for animal welfare and have made it their sole mission to help countless species in need. Thanks to these organizations, progress is made everyday to improve the lives of animals. Behind the familiar titles of these organizations are many individuals who work tirelessly, most of whom you’ve probably never even heard of! While there are probably thousands of people who deserve a big THANK YOU on behalf of the world’s animals, we’ve compiled a list of 10 Animal rights rock stars who you might not know – but totally should. Check them out!

1. Paul Shapiro, HSUS

10 Animal Rights Heroes You May Have Never Heard OfWikimedia Commons

Shapiro recognized his passion for protecting animals at a young age, “Growing up, my dogs were always considered part of the family. So when I started learning about the cruelty farm animals endure in the meat, egg, and dairy industries, the first question that came to mind was, ‘What if these were my dogs?’ I quickly realized that if I wouldn’t want my own dogs to suffer such abuse, I shouldn’t want any animals to suffer it.” 

Paul Shapiro currently serves as the Vice President of Farm Animal Protection for the Humane Society of the United States. Shapiro also founded Compassion Over Killing in 1995 and has worked as an undercover farm animal cruelty investigator. In has career so far, Shapiro has helped to lead a number of legislative campaigns to improve the lives of animals kept in factory farms.

2. Matt Rice, Mercy for Animals

10 Animal Rights Heroes You May Have Never Heard OfMercy for Animals


Matt Rice is the Director of Investigations for Mercy for Animals. The numerous undercover investigations carried out by Mercy for Animals has helped to transform the way the public views factory farms and the treatment of animals in these settings. Rice works closely with veterinarians, attorneys, and animal welfare experts to build a case against abusive factory farms and expose the cruelty in “industry standards.”

“I’ve always been against animal abuse, but it wasn’t until I watched an undercover video showing the horrors of factory farming that I decided to commit myself to advocating on behalf of animals,” says Rice, “I remember thinking, I would do everything in my power to stop someone from hurting my dog and yet here I was paying people to hurt cows, pigs and chickens every time I sit down to eat. But going vegan wasn’t enough. I had to get active in the fight for Animal rights.”

When he is not organizing investigations, Rice also advocates for animal welfare in a public forum, giving speeches and organizing demonstrations to raise awareness about the suffering of animals.


3. Robin Dorman, In Defense of Animals

10 Animal Rights Heroes You May Have Never Heard


When Robin Dorman was eight years old she made her first contribution to an animal rescue organization. “Adopting” Cyrus, a whale living at Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, this would be the first step in a long career working in animal protection.

“I have always marveled at the vibrant emotional and complex psychological lives of our various animal companions,” says Dorman. And it is this admiration and respect for animals that carries into Dorman’s current role with In Defense of Animals.

An animal lover through and through, Robin Dorman is Campaign Director of International Animal Protection for In Defense of Animals. Dorman manages In Defense of Animals’ Anti-Dog and Cat Meat campaign, working closely with other organizations to secure a ban on dog and cat meat in South Korea. Working to raise cultural awareness about the dangers (to both humans and animals) of the dog and cat meat trade, Dorman and her team carry out investigations, educate the public, and hope to change the prevailing perceptions of the trade. Dorman has been involved in a number of rescues and has helped to give dogs intended for the meat trade a chance at the happy lives they deserve.

4. Shawn Sweeney, Jane Goodall Institute

10 Animal Rights Heroes You May Have Never Heard OfJGI


Shawn Sweeney grew up with a father who taught biology, so he was always encouraged to learn about animals and their environments. He began to research the plight of the mountain gorilla at the age of 10 when his grandmother introduced him to the work of photographer, Alan Brown. After learning about these gorillas Sweeney knew he would one day grow up to protect these animals – and he did!

Sweeney now serves as the Director of Community Engagement for the Jane Goodall Institute. A certified humane educator, Sweeney does communications, marketing and advocacy for the Institute. Sweeney has also helped to bring humane education to the educators of the Congo, helping to teach local communities how protecting chimpanzees and the forests they call home ultimately helps to protect themselves.

“Through all of my work in wildlife Conservation, and studying animals in general I’ve met so many of them that have taught me so much about how they think and feel,” says Sweeney,”When I am near another animal, no matter the species, bunny or a crocodile, I can feel their presence and know deep down how worthy they are of our compassion and respect.”

5. Carole Baskin, Big Cat Rescue

10 Animal Rights Heroes You May Have Never Heard OfBig Cat Rescue


To say Carole Baskin is a BIG cat lover is a massive understatement. Baskin is the CEO and co-founder of Florida’s Big Cat Rescue, the world’s largest accredited rescue facility for exotic cats. Before Big Cat Rescue was founded, Baskin kept wildcats as pets, but after learning that this was truly one of the worst ways to enjoy these animals, “The more time I spent around captive exotic cats, the more clear it became to me that no cat belongs in a cage.”

Big Cat Rescue has been in business since 1992, and has helped to rehabilitate hundreds of exotic cats since then. Baskin and her family works as unpaid staff at BCR, illustrating their incredible dedication to this cause. BCR is an integral voice against the exotic pet trade and the use of big cats for entertainment.

While Big Cat Rescue works to educate the public about the issues of keeping big cats in captivity, Baskin found that, “changing the laws was necessary to bring the relief these magnificent animals needed more quickly.”

Basking and Big Cat Rescue are currently working on a bill to ban private possession altogether and already have 114 co-sponsors in the House and a hearing for the bill has been had in the Senate.

6. Shannon Keith, Beagle Freedom Project

10 Animal Rights Heroes You May Have Never Heard Of


Shannon Keith founded Beagle Freedom Project in 2010 when she learned that there was a possibility for beagles kept in labs to have a chance at freedom. “Fighting for those who cannot speak has always been my calling,” says Keith, “Animal rights causes are the closest to me because animals literally do not have a voice. Our struggle for their freedom extends beyond what any other social justice movement has had to endure, because the fight for animals is for a different species.”

Through Beagle Freedom Project, Keith works to organize the release and rehoming of beagles and other animals used in testing facilities across the U.S. In addition to serving as Beagle Freedom’s founder, Keith is an animal rights attorney and gives speeches internationally on the importance of Animal rights.

“When I look into the eyes of all of my rescued animals and the ones I save every day, I cannot help but promise that I will fight until I can fight no more – that they will be heard and they will be free.”

7. Diana Goodrich, Chimp Sanctuary NW

10 Animal Rights Heroes You May Have Never Heard Of10 Amazing Women Behind Your Favorite Animal Sanctuaries


Diana Goodrich is the co-director of Washington’s Chimp Sanctuary Northwest (CSNW). Goodrich has worked in the non-profit sector for the bulk of her career and her experience spans from researching gestural communication of chimpanzees to caring directly for these dynamic creatures.

“I’ve always had an interest in and fondness for animals, but it took several events in my life, lots of inspiring people, and plenty of education about their treatment in various industries to bring me to the point of advocating on their behalf.”

Goodrich’s first experience working with chimpanzees came in working with Washoe, a chimp who was raised using American Sign Language, “That experience was incredibly humbling because it was immediately clear how intelligent and curious chimpanzees are.”

At CSNW, Goodrich cares directly for the chimpanzees and also manages fundraising, marketing and communication.

While Goodrich deeply enjoys her work at CSNW, she explains, “Captivity for chimpanzees, no matter how enriched, cannot provide the richness of a life in the wild, so our ultimate goal as a sanctuary is to put ourselves out of business. I would love to see the day when there are no chimpanzees in need of sanctuary and they are thriving in their natural habitat.”

8. Theresa Strader, National Mill Dog Rescue

10 Animal Rights Heroes You May Have Never Heard OfNational Mill Dog Rescue/Facebook

Theresa Strader founded National Dog Mill Rescue after rescuing Lily, a greyhound who had been used for breeding in a puppy mill. Strader found Lily after receiving an e-mail with the subject line, “50 Italian Greyhounds in need,” and she immediately responded to see how she could help. Lily spent seven years of her life in a puppy mill and bore the scars of this horrible experience, but Strader loved Lily nonetheless.

Strader saved Lily and 13 other dogs from a Missouri auction, and like that, the idea for National Mill Dog Rescue was born. In 2007, Strader founded National Mill Dog Rescue in Lily’s memory. The legacy of this special little dog lives on in the work the organization does saving other dogs from cruel puppy mills. To date Lily’s legacy is responsible for saving over 7,700 dogs as she is the inspiration and founder of MDRN.

9. Lek Chailert, Elephant Nature Park

10 Animal Rights Heroes You May Have Never Heard

Lek Chailert is the founder of Thailand’s Elephant Nature Park. Elephant Nature Park is a sanctuary for elephants that are greatly threatened by poaching and the Thai elephant trade. Chailert has also founded Save Elephants Foundation, a non-profit that works to provide aid to Thailand’s captive elephants, educate the public on the issues facing elephants, expand sustainable eco-tourism, and provide training for elephant rescue and rehabilitation.

When asked what inspired her to devote her career to protecting elephants, Chailert explains, “When I saw an elephant that worked for a logging company and how the elephant was pushed to work, even though he was not well, I knew I had to do something. His screams still stay in my head, and his eyes to show his pain. There are many elephants in the tourism industry who suffer and are sick, but are still forced to work.”

Chailert works very closely with the sanctuary’s elephants – many of which are young orphan calves – ensuring they receive the proper care and socialization they need to grow up like elephants in the wild. Educating the public on why the tourism industry is harmful to elephants is a driving force behind Chailert’s continued passion. “I think people should get educated, and it is why I work.”

10. Virginie Parant & Neda DeMayo, American Wild Horse Preservation

10 Animal Rights Heroes You May Have Never Heard Of


Virginie Parant and Neda DeMayo are the co-founders of American Wild Horse Preservation. DeMayo is the CEO and founder of Return to Freedom American Wild Horse Sanctuary in California, and Parant is an Los Angeles based attorney. Together, the pair founded American Wild Horse Preservation to raise awareness of the Federal Government’s wild horse round ups.

While horses and burros have been historically protected under the Wild Horse and Burros Protection Act, yet every year the Bureau of Land Management rounds up wild horses to make space for grazing cattle. By advocating on behalf of these iconic animals, Parant and DeMayo are helping to find humane alternatives to round ups to help protect horses and burros.


Green Monsters! Are there any amazing Animal rights heroes that you think should be on this list? Send us your nominations in the comment section and we will add them in! 

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