Conscious Conversations, Resilience and Self-Awareness Are Key for This Animal Activist
Katrina Fox is an award-winning journalist, author, PR consultant, founder of VeganBusinessMedia.com, host of the Vegan Business Talk and Conversations with Vegan Women Leaders podcasts, author of Vegan Ventures: Start and Grow an Ethical Business—the first global book providing success strategies for aspiring and existing vegan business owners and entrepreneurs, and founder of the Vegan Women’s Leadership Network (VIVAS) global community, which soon will be transitioning to Vegans in the Limelight and be open to all.
Katrina Fox has been a voice for the animals since her university days in the U.K. With the excitement of being a new university student, she admits she often got caught up in protests without actually knowing or understanding what she was speaking up about.
Animals have always been a big part of her life, so she eventually channelled her political passion into the London Animal Action group in the late ’80s. “I started to go to some of their demonstrations, for example, outside some of the fast-food giants giving out leaflets to people about the cruelty to animals. Or anti-fur campaigns, holding up banners.”
After a break from street-level activism that spanned about 6 years, she noticed an ad posted by London Animal Action in a local publication about a national demonstration taking place against a farm that bred and sold kittens for vivisections. “I got back in touch with them. There were people from all across the country who came, all these coachloads of activists,” she recalls.
Having been vegetarian since the age of 11, it was during these protests with London Animal Action that she committed to veganism and stopped wearing leather, and consuming dairy. Despite her involvement with the feminist movement, she hadn’t yet made the connection about the dairy industry until then, but once she was made aware, she was hungry for more information.
Given this was the mid-’90s, the internet wasn’t yet prevalent, so she contacted the Vegan Society and asked for their Animal Free Shopper Guide, which lists everything that contains animal products. “I remember looking at that and I was like, oh, my God, how did I not know this?”
Once armed with this information, she became a regular at demonstrations. “I did quite a lot. I've been chased by riot police through fields in the U.K. I'm sure they would catch me now, but in those days I could run quite fast.”
She continues, “The police could be quite aggressive. They were in full riot gear, I think mostly to intimidate people. When I look back now, it was quite full on. We would lie down on the motorway, and we would literally stop traffic; then people would go and hand out leaflets to people in cars.”
While many motorists were simply annoyed by the inconvenience of being forced to stop on the roads, others were horrified by the images depicted on the leaflets of kittens being tortured. They were raising awareness, and their protests garnered a lot of media eventually resulting in the closure of the vivisection lab.
Since February 2001, she and her wife Tracie have been based in Sydney, Australia, because Tracie doesn’t tolerate the cold well, and she didn’t want to grow old in the U.K. Katrina agreed to go on the condition that their two cats passed their tests for relocation.
Tracie also became vegan and has even gone beyond the typical route to primarily raw. “She'll eat raw broccoli or cauliflower from the fridge, which I find hideous,” jokes Katrina.
She continues, “Friends and some of her family came from the north of England a couple of years ago. She'd be sitting there eating raw veggies, and I said to her, ‘You're not doing veganism in general much good because it's reinforcing the stereotypes that we eat rabbit food.’ I took them to the most naughty vegan place I could to offset Tracie sitting there with bloody raw broccoli in a salad!”
In 2009, Katrina launched an online magazine for social justice advocates. “It included animal rights, human rights, queer rights, feminism. It was a labour of love. I'd previously been working in the LGBTQ+ media and then the global financial crisis hit in 2008, so I started doing more general freelancing. I was working for a couple of places during the day, but I missed doing that type of writing and advocacy, so I started The Scavenger. I was doing it in the evenings and weekends, and it was a mixture of original articles, either written by me or with volunteer writers.”
Many writers were getting hundreds of thousands of views on their articles, essentially launching their careers; despite this, she did not monetize the magazine and eventually shut it down in 2020.
“For the time it existed, it helped to do a couple of things. I remember the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras here banned Animal Liberation and other groups from one of the Mardi Gras parades. So, I started to campaign on The Scavenger and that got picked up by international media, quoting The Scavenger. The following year, they changed the rules again so Animal Liberation could go back in, and the head of Mardi Gras, when I saw him at an event, said ‘I want to thank you for doing what you do; it was a wake-up call for us.’ A few years later, they had Meat & Livestock Australia as a sponsor. So, of course, again, I put stuff out there and now they don't do that anymore. It had positive benefits.”
In 2014, Katrina wrote an article for ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) called Speciesism: The final frontier. This was one of the first articles of its kind to be published in mainstream media, and she wrote it to promote animal rights and to get “people to think differently.” This article went on to win a prize at that year’s Voiceless: The Animal Protection Institute’s media awards.
Katrina has an extensive portfolio, and her work has been published worldwide, including The Sydney Morning Herald, Forbes, and the BBC. She’s also written personal essays for publication in anthologies around social justice movements. “I wrote a personal essay about some of my experiences with feminism and connecting the dairy industry. When I first found out, I thought how did I not know this? How can I be advocating for women's reproductive rights and the right for bodily autonomy and the dairy industry somehow didn't come up—these things that we do to cows.”
Writing for Forbes was a way to bring attention to the vegan and plant-based sector, something that wasn’t commonly covered back in 2017, and it also helped to build her brand. “I wanted to become recognized as a thought leader in the vegan and plant-based business space, and I achieved that.”
Being a working journalist for more than 25 years, her experience, along with her Vegan Business Talk podcast, led her to develop the Vegans in the Limelight program to teach vegans business owners how to get publicity. “It's a comprehensive video training program with templates—how to pitch, how to write a media release. It's basically for people who can't afford to hire a publicist. I think a lot of people don't realize you can do your own PR. I created the course to help authors, coaches, creatives, and others who really need and want publicity, but they don't have the budget to hire somebody to do it for them.”
She continues, "Vegans in the Limelight has now evolved into a membership community that helps vegan business owners, authors, creatives, coaches, consultants and experts grow through smart PR, marketing, content, personal branding and thought leadership strategies. It includes regular masterclasses, Q&A group coaching sessions, website/content reviews with me and a private Facebook group for even more help and support."
As her experience, exposure, expertise, and connections grew within the movement, Katrina understood the need to expand her level of self-awareness, and to “learn how to communicate more consciously. I think a lot of activists come to activism because of their own wounds—they've got something in themselves that needs healing and somehow they resonate with the movement. They might latch onto a cause and often it can be cathartic. But be aware that yelling in someone's face isn't necessarily going to create change. Whatever you do, do it in a conscious way. Learn how to have those conversations.”
She goes on to mention Melanie Joy and Clare Mann who speak and write about how to effectively communicate about animal rights. It takes a lot of personal inner work to be vegan in a world where you are a minority.
Like many animal activists I speak with, Katrina hopes to see a vegan world in her lifetime. “And that the word vegan doesn't even need to exist anymore because it is the norm. Ultimately, for me, it's a world where all beings, and that includes humans, are not oppressed, exploited, commodified, or harmed.”
Many people in the animal rights movement inspire her, including Canada’s Jo-Anne McArthur, founder of We Animals Media. “I think undercover investigators are incredible. Jane Velez-Mitchell is probably my journalism hero. I interviewed Jane many years ago when she was working in mainstream media. She's had an incredible career and always brought in animal rights wherever she could.”
As we come to the end of our chat, Katrina again mentions the importance of self-awareness, one of the things that stood out to her while interviewing 65 vegan business owners for her book Vegan Ventures. And, of course, as with any new venture, business owners must be resilient.
“I asked people what the key personal quality they felt was important in running a vegan business, and it was resilience. That's come up time and time again because I think when you're running a business of any kind, whether it's a freelance writing business or a company that sells products, it's going to be up and down. It's about that self-awareness. The whole personal development side of things I think is so important, and conscious communication. Everyone I've interviewed has said running your own business is an exercise in self-growth. It's the fastest form of self-development because you've got to evolve as a person, as a manager, and as a business owner in order to run it successfully. So, learning resilience and managing yourself are really key.”
When asked her opinion about the role of activists in society, she says, “I think an activist is someone who helps others to see things differently, to wake people up to things that they might not have seen before so they can choose to make a difference and a change in their own lives.”
Katrina continues to spread the vegan and animal rights message whenever and wherever she can. As she says, “You never know who’s watching.”