I love asking people what inspired them to go vegan. Everyone’s personal story is so unique and offers so much insight. Was it a documentary about factory farming? Did they one day realize their love for their dog should apply to all animals? Did they happen upon a particularly devastating undercover video from a slaughterhouse? More often than not, people go vegan after learning more than they ever wanted to know about the realities of animal agriculture.
My blog and Instagram posts often deal with the “how” of going vegan. How to change habits. How to eat. How to shop. How to find cruelty-free cosmetics. How to avoid leather. How to make vegan mac ‘n cheese. The “hows” are important, of course- but this post is about the “why”. We all have our own slightly different “whys”, but I find most are rooted in the opposition to the inherent cruelty involved in animal exploitation.
The following vegan Instagram accounts are run by individuals or organizations that consistently post authentic, insightful, and informative content that I truly believe will help you either begin your path towards a cruelty-free lifestyle, or reaffirm the journey you’ve already begun.
Note: I know many of these vegan Instagram accounts could fall into more than one category. For example, some of the rescuers are also active speakers. Some members of the Save Movement are also photographers. Then there’s my hero Jo-Anne McArthur who basically fits into all four! I tried to choose the most accurate category for each, but please know they’re all much more than the label I’ve assigned them.
The Rescuers include both individuals and sanctuaries that are committed to rescuing farmed animals. The individuals do this work on their own or with friends, sometimes even walking right into a slaughterhouse and just leaving with the sickest and most vulnerable animals. I know what you’re wondering- how do they do this without being arrested? My answer is, I honestly don’t know. Each circumstance is different. The verified non-profits have to go the more formal route, either waiting for farmers to surrender their own animals, rescuing abandoned or lost farmed animals, and sometimes paying a few dollars to purchase “undesirable” (usually sick or injured) animals at auctions. The lucky ones who are rescued become ambassadors for all farmed animals, as their stories and personalities are shared, read, and seen by people across the world.
Leah Doellinger (@leahdoellinger)
Leah Doellinger was actually my inspiration for writing this post. I only started following her within the last couple months, but I constantly find myself thinking, “if only everyone could see her posts, this world would be different.” By day, Leah works in the real estate business. By night, she’s openly rescuing animals from slaughterhouses and industrial farms. She cares for them, finds them homes, and allows them to be ambassadors for the ones she couldn’t save.
Rancho Relaxo (@boochaces)
Rancho Relaxo is among my very favorite rescue organizations (if you follow me on Instagram, you know I share their posts all the time!). Run by husband and wife team Caitlin and Len, Rancho Relaxo takes in all kinds of farmed animals who’ve been abused, abandoned, discarded, or simply exploited. Caitlin is blatantly honest about the ups and downs of running a sanctuary, which I appreciate. She also frequently shares live videos from livestock auctions she enters “undercover” (by which I mean, she doesn’t disclose that she’s there to rescue animals instead of kill them), which lets her followers witness the reality of day to day life in the agriculture industry. Don’t worry, though; the heartbreaking posts are balanced out by photos of some of the cutest and funniest rescued animals you’ve ever seen in your life!
Mino Valley Farm Sanctuary (@minovalleyfarmsanctuary)
The Mino Valley Farm Sanctuary is located in Galicia, Northern Spain, but its founders are from the United Kingdom. They opened the farm sanctuary in 2013, after discovering that there was nothing like it in the region. They provide longterm care to more than 200 animals that were rescued from abusive conditions. They don’t sugarcoat the stories of where these animals came from, but those stories become easier to hear when you know the animals ended up safe and sound in Mino Valley’s care.
Ashley DeFelice (@afelice16)
Ashley DeFelice is the founder of Twist of Fate Farm Sanctuary, a rescue organization in Pennsylvania. In addition to rescuing senior horses, Ashley also rescues animals that have been discarded, abandoned, or surrendered by farmers or slaughterhouses. She often teams up with the aforementioned Rancho Relaxo to attend “livestock” auctions where these two brave women are occasionally able to leave with a few unloved or forgotten animals. Watching these rescued animals, most of whom were destined for slaughter, heal, thrive, and live out their natural lives is amazing!
The Speakers are the vocal and eloquent heroes out on the street, on stages, and sometimes even on television, sharing the truth about animal exploitation. The people listed here have that special talent for explaining the moral reasons behind their decision to go vegan. They do so in a way that never sounds condescending or rude, but also never sugarcoats reality. I highly recommend watching some of their videos, regardless of whether you’re veg-curious, anti-vegan, or even a lifelong vegan- we can all learn from them!
Earthling Ed (@earthlinged)
So, I originally discovered the brilliantly eloquent Ed Winters on Facebook, where his documented encounters with meat eaters on the street often go viral. He has an uncanny ability to engage strangers (and sometimes even animal farmers!) in challenging, thought-provoking debates without scaring them away. Seriously, you have to watch at least one. Even seasoned animal advocates can learn from his respectful but assertive communication style! I feel very confident saying that history will remember Ed Winters as playing a substantial role in this world’s shift away from animal exploitation.
Joshua Entis (@joshua.entis)
Joshua Entis is the kind of person who just makes you smile, even when he’s discussing heartbreaking things. He’s one of those people who just radiates love, and of course this love extends to animals. It’s this ability to inject kindness into any conversation that makes him such an effective communicator and vegan advocate! His content is varied, but to me the most inspirational posts are those focused on his own activism, when he recounts productive conversations he’s had (all around the world!) with veg-curious strangers. Whether you’re vegan or not, your questions and comments will be welcome on his posts!
James Aspey (@jamesaspey)
James Aspey is an Australian animal rights activist, who regularly speaks (both on stage in front of crowds and on the street with individuals) about atrocities on Australian factory farms. Like Earthling Ed, he has a talent for meeting people where they currently are, and educating them without condescension. His Instagram stories are especially informative and inspirational, and fortunately he adds many of them to his highlights! I recommend finding the one labeled “undercover”, where he bravely entered and documented a local slaughterhouse (don’t worry if you’re squeamish: he doesn’t show any actual slaughters, he just explains the process).
Joey Carbstrong (@joey_carbstrong)
You may have seen Joey Carbstrong, or at least heard his username, as he’s recently been interviewed on multiple television and radio shows. Labeled as an “extremist” vegan, all he really does is break down the realities of everyday life for farmed animals without using euphemisms to describe the processes. Fortunately, he’s able to turn much of this media attention into opportunities to spread even more knowledge! He shares inspirational content in multiple places, most notably YouTube, but you can keep track of it all on his Instagram page.
The Photographers are, of course, much more than that label. They are advocates, volunteers, and so much more, but their photography is the primary way in which they tell stories to the world. These are the people who go behind the scenes, into the industries they’re combatting, and document the reality these animals are experiencing. Yes, most of the conditions they expose are upsetting, but you’ll also come across tales of rescue and redemption, especially from the photographers who visit sanctuaries. As they say, a picture’s worth a thousand words- and the words spoken by these photographers are the ones we need to hear:
Jo-Anne McArthur (@weanimals)
Jo-Anne McArthur is pretty much my hero. The first time I saw her, I was so intimidated that I hid behind a couch because I wasn’t prepared to meet her! Fortunately, I’ve since had multiple opportunities to spend time with Jo-Anne and hear about the incredible stories behind her breathtaking photojournalism. Jo-Anne travels the world, using her camera as a tool to shine light on the countless ways in which humans exploit animals. From livestock auctions to rodeos to zoos to dog meat markets to fur farms to CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations), Jo-Anne has seen, documented, and written about it all.
Sympathy Not Slaughter (@sympathy_not_slaughter)
Sympathy Not Slaughter is a project run by an incredibly strong and compassionate activist named Hannah Elizah. She regularly visits slaughter plants and factory farms to provide compassion and comfort to the animals awaiting death, treating each individual like an individual. She uses her photography to honor their lives and share the reality of their final days. I’ve been sharing her photos for years, because they have a rare ability to speak volumes about animal agriculture in a way that words simply cannot.
Andrew Skowron (@andrewskowron)
I only recently came cross Andrew Skowron’s page, but I wish I had found him sooner. I don’t know much about him as an individual, but his photography is incredible. Andrew primarily documents conditions and, more importantly, individual animals, on industrial farms. When possible, he even captures the relationships between the animals themselves as they communicate, cuddle, and attempt to comfort one another. His artistic talent is so significant that I almost want to describe his work as beautiful, but the subject matter makes it impossible to label the images as such.
Sammantha Margaret (@sfisherx)
I admire and appreciate Sammantha Margaret so much so that I constantly find myself sharing her photos. Her photography focuses more on rescued animals than animals destined for slaughter, but sometimes those stories are the ones with the most power. She takes portrait-style photos of these rescued animals, primarily at sanctuaries, all over the world! Her stunning images tell the stories of how life should be for all animals, while subtly reminding us how fortunate these individuals are compared to the billions of others who didn’t make it out in time.
The Save Campaigns
The Save Campaigns are independently run groups of individuals all across the world who are committed to documenting the final moments animals experience before arriving at the slaughterhouse. In some locations, these volunteers will provide water, food, or physical touch to animals in need, so the animals will get to experience at least one single act of love in their short lives. While bearing witness to this system, these volunteers take photographs and videos of their interactions so as to show the world the faces, expressions, and sometimes personalities of the beings we kill daily by the millions. There are many more campaigns than listed here, but these are a few that have stood out to me:
Toronto Pig Save (@torontopigsave)
Toronto Pig Save was actually the first Save group I learned about, and I’ve followed them for years. This group has been through a lot, most notably their brush with the law that became international news when the group’s founder, Anita Krajnc, was arrested for giving water to hot, thirsty pigs while the transport truck was stopped. The activists use their vigils as opportunities to reach out to nearby pedestrians and drivers, most of whom have no idea how close they live or work to a slaughterhouse.
London Cow Save (@londoncowsave)
What I appreciate about London Cow Save (in addition to their bravery and commitment, of course), is how many informative posts they share. Yes, they document the transport system and host vigils, but they also frequently accompany their photos with educational facts. This is significant because photos, though powerful, can only do so much. And when we know better, we can do better!
Manchester Pig Save (@manchesterpigsave)
Manchester Pig Save’s Instagram account is slightly different than the others, because in addition to the traditional “Save Campaign” style images, they also add in other thought-provoking photos, videos, and even illustrations. Their captions are also very well written, using a tone that strikes a delicate balance between education and emotion.
Vancouver Chicken Save (@vancouverchickensave)
Vancouver Chicken Save is very strategic in their activism, making sure to hang their huge “SLAUGHTER HOUSE” sign outside the buildings where their vigils are held. Most omnivorous consumers spend little time thinking about where their meat even comes from, so letting them know a slaughterhouse is right around the corner gets those wheels turning.
I know this list is small compared to the ever-growing number of inspirational vegan Instagram accounts! As I mentioned in the intro, there were so many more I wanted to fit in, but I had to cut it off at some point. Feel free to leave your own suggestions in the comments so we can keep this conversation going!