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Frequently Asked Questions

What are Phoenix Zones?

Phoenix Zones are places that recognize and advance the rights of people and animals, allowing individuals, communities, and society to live well, rise, and thrive.

Phoenix Zones foster what’s known in medical circles as the Phoenix Effect: conditions that allow individuals to ascend from the proverbial ashes. Through respect for liberty and sovereignty; a commitment to compassion, tolerance, justice, and opportunity; and a belief that each individual possesses dignity, the Phoenix Effect and Phoenix Zones are also metaphors for how we as a society can rise up.

What are human rights and animal rights?

When we at Phoenix Zones Initiative talk about rights, we’re referring to life-sustaining needs that are essential to health and wellbeing. Basic needs include the right to be free and to choose what happens to our bodies and lives; safety and protection from violence and exploitation; and the right to be valued for our intrinsic worth and potential. Sometimes these rights are referred to as natural or inalienable rights.

Currently, many of these rights are recognized in international human rights frameworks, but there is still much more work to do to ensure that every human being has access to these inalienable rights. And there is even more work to do to ensure that animals receive similar protections. History has shown that we cannot adequately address one problem without also addressing the other.

We strive for a world in which individuals are not defined by their ability to produce economic value or by other historical systems of inequity.

What is structural violence?

Structural violence is a form of institutional violence in which some social structures—including norms, beliefs, legal and economic frameworks, and political priorities—can harm individuals, communities, and societies by preventing them from meeting their basic needs.

What is structural resilience?

Structural resilience is a form of institutional resilience in which social structures—including norms, beliefs, legal and economic frameworks, and political priorities—can help individuals, communities, and societies be healthy and thrive.

What are the connections between human and animal rights, health, and wellbeing?

There are strong, evidence-based links between human and animal rights, health, and wellbeing. Connections between the suffering of people and animals are fueled by structural violence: unjust systems that trickle down to individuals and communities in the form of suffering, illness, and death.

Structural violence is perpetuated by social, cultural, political, economic, and legal systems that violate the rights of people and animals. Examples include the disproportionate mass incarceration of people of color; xenophobic patterns that increase the risk for hate crimes against immigrants; cultural traditions that lead to sexual and gender-based violence; and existing economic paradigms that discount the intrinsic value of many people and animals.

Structural violence against animals can also harm people. For example, animal cruelty is a red flag for child abuse and intimate partner violence, and it can be an early warning sign of future violence. Similarly, violent crime rates in communities are independently correlated with the locations of exploitative animal industries. There are also connections between different forms of institutional prejudice such as racism, classism, sexism, ableism, and speciesism. More and more, historians, scientists, and medical and public health professionals highlight links between the abusive treatment of animals and the adverse treatment of vulnerable and marginalized human beings.

We strive for a world in which individuals are not defined by their ability to produce economic value or by other historical systems of inequity.

Why and how does Phoenix Zones Initiative take on such big problems?

As disease patterns, the climate crisis, and countless patterns of exploitation have shown, the rights, health, and wellbeing of people and animals are intimately connected. Social and environmental injustices illustrate these connections in real time.

Fortunately, more organizations are focusing on connections between the health of people and animals. Phoenix Zones Initiative centers our policy and programmatic work on justice for people and animals. We believe that justice is a prerequisite for health.

Our mission is intentionally broad and ambitious. Structural violence has not emerged spontaneously. The steps leading to structural violence have been deliberate, divisive, and far-reaching. Addressing systemic contributors to suffering must also be proactive, inclusive, and comprehensive. In an increasingly interconnected world, our efforts prioritize building bridges between individuals, organizations, and movements that have traditionally worked in silos.

Where does Phoenix Zones Initiative work?

We work with partners around the world.

Who can get involved?

Anyone who cares about advancing the rights, health, and wellbeing of people and animals can join us. If you are interested in being a partner or funder and would like to learn more about our initiatives, please contact us.

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