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Learn more about links between the rights, health, and wellbeing of people, animals, and the planet.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are Phoenix Zones?

Phoenix Zones are places that advance justice for all, allowing people, animals, and the planet to thrive.

The term Phoenix Zones is taken from Phoenix Zones Initiative’s Dr. Hope Ferdowsian’s book of the same name.

Phoenix Zones are defined by key principles: respect for liberty and sovereignty; compassion and justice; and a belief that each human and nonhuman being possesses dignity and the right to live up to their full potential.

What do you mean by 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. Children are at particular risk.

And there is even more work to do to ensure that animals receive the protections they are due. History has shown that we cannot adequately address one problem without also addressing the other.

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.

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.

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.

Connections between the suffering of people and animals are sometimes fueled by unjust policies and practices that trickle down to individuals and communities in the form of suffering, illness, and death.

Examples include industrial agricultural systems that harm children, animals, and vulnerable communities; research policies that hurt vulnerable patients and animals; and existing economic paradigms that discount the intrinsic value of many children, marginalized adults, and animals.

Why and how does Phoenix Zones Initiative work on the connections between people, animals, and the planet?

As disease patterns, the climate crisis, and countless patterns of exploitation have shown, the rights, health, and wellbeing of people and animals are connected in deep and far-reaching ways.

For example, three-quarters of infectious disease outbreaks stem from unhealthy human-animal interactions such as trafficking, industrialization, and ecosystem destruction. The global transition to diets high in animal products is driving this risk as well as the risk for non-communicable diseases, while fueling hunger. Animal and environmental exploitation also drive climate change and air, water, and soil pollution, which disproportionately harm the most vulnerable.

The connections are endless, and the deepest connections stem from how people and animals are treated in society.

Fortunately, more organizations are focusing on the basic connections between the health and wellbeing of people, animals, and the planet.

Phoenix Zones Initiative does this by centering our work on justice—because we believe that health requires justice.

We prioritize building bridges between individuals, organizations, and movements that have traditionally worked in silos. These bridges are essential to addressing the roots of problems that harm people, animals, and the planet.

Why does Phoenix Zones Initiative prioritize vulnerable populations?

A failure to adequately recognize needs and rights in international frameworks, national and local policies, and everyday practice leads to abuse and exploitation.

Since the most vulnerable are usually the first and last to be exploited, they are where we place our focus.

If the most vulnerable thrive, the rest of us will too. Strength is often born of vulnerability.

Children and animals are particularly vulnerable. Links between child and animal protection have been prioritized in the US since the nineteenth century when Henry Bergh, the founder of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), used New York State animal protection legislation to successfully argue on behalf of an abused and neglected ten-year-old girl named Mary Ellen. Her remarkable story reveals the power of nurturing vulnerability.

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