Our Mission and Core Values
The Animal Rights Coalition works to end the suffering, abuse, and exploitation of non-human animals through information, education, and advocacy. We believe that animals matter for their own reasons and that they should not be used by human beings for profit, pleasure, amusement, or simply because it is our habit to do so.
We seek to abolish the use and exploitation of animals for human interests, rather than simply improving the conditions under which animals are used and exploited. We believe that animals are morally entitled to pursue their lives free of human violence according to the needs of their species and should be free from coerced physical and psychological suffering.
The Animal Rights Coalition is the oldest and most successful animal rights organization in Minnesota, with over three decades of helping animals. ARC's membership has grown significantly over the years and it is a locally and nationally recognized voice for animal rights.
We focus on spreading the word about compassionate living and believe that positive change comes about from connection, communication, and education. We advance our goals through community outreach, strategic campaigns and investigations, media outreach, and person-to-person contact, as we strive to fundamentally change how society views and treats all sentient beings. From helping people transition to a plant-based diet to publicizing the abuse of animals in laboratories to educating the public about the exploitation of animals used in entertainment, ARC’s unique and innovative education and outreach programs reach thousands of people every year.
What makes ARC so unique is that instead of expecting people to make far reaching changes in their lives based on a one-time message, we work to connect with people on a deeper level. We create lots of opportunities for people to not only learn about animal issues, but also find support and community as they process these new revelations about how animals are treated in our world. We want to remove as many barriers as we can to people making ethical choices for animals. It’s vital that we help people with the “how” once they believe in the “why” and that’s exactly what ARC does.
While the Animal Rights Coalition will always maintain our specific focus on ending nonhuman animal abuse, we are aware of the intersecting nature of oppression; put simply, this means the mindsets of superiority and dominance leading to poor treatment of human people also underlies animal mistreatment and exploitation. Thus, as an organization that fights for freedom from oppression, we find it appropriate to support other social justice movements that challenge domination in all its differing manifestations.
The Animal Rights Coalition also makes a commitment to reduce our environmental impact. Human activities often have harmful effects on ecological systems, the climate, and the ecosystems where other-than-human animals live. Recognizing this, we are committed to reducing our environmental footprint and promoting environmental stewardship through our organization.
ARC Board and Staff
Ashley – Co-President
Ashley went vegan overnight in 2011 after watching the documentary Earthlings. A few years later when she moved to the Twin Cities, she found ARC’s MN Animal Rights/Vegan Meetup, attended a Petland protest, and has been active ever since. In her four years as Campaign Manager of ARC she saw the closure of Petland as well as the passage of of Humane Pet Store legislation in several local cities, the closure of L.A. Rockler Fur Company and Ribnick Furs, and Hennepin County Medical Center ending their animal experiments. Ashley loves to travel, visit sanctuaries, spend time in nature, watch documentaries, and support vegan restaurants!
Erin Groth – Co-President
Erin has always lived in the Twin Cities and currently resides in North Minneapolis with her husband and a pair of feisty cats, Simon and Phoebe. She is a lifelong vegetarian and transitioned to veganism about five years ago. Along with being a board member for ARC she also volunteers for the Bitty Kitty Brigade, a neonatal kitten rescue. Erin is the granddaughter of ARC founder, Vonnie Thomasberg and spent time protesting with Vonnie in her youth. Her grandmother continues to be a daily inspiration. Currently Erin is spending her free time “Marie Kondo-ing” her home and passing things on to neighbors, friends, and thrift stores in an effort to live a lighter and brighter life.
Shelly Bell – Vice President
Shelly adopted a vegetarian diet over 20 years ago and became vegan a few years later after learning the horrors of egg and dairy farms. ARC volunteer experience includes coordinating the VegKins children’s program. “I really appreciated the opportunity VegKins gave us to connect with like-minded families. The ARC programs and volunteers are amazing and make a real difference for animals and for the vegan community.” Shelly lives in Minneapolis with her husband, son, and two neurotic but adorable cats. She also volunteers at her son’s school.
Steve Leinen – Treasurer
Steve is a life-long Minnesota Native who has always lived in St. Paul or its close suburbs. Steve went vegetarian in 2002 when his youngest son, influenced by vegans, asked to go vegetarian. Steve became vegan in 2012 when his wife Amy stated that she needed to be vegan. Steve was introduced to ARC through his wife Amy, who had used the ARC Vegan University program during her transition to veganism. Steve’s passion is promoting veganism and healthy plant-based eating through cooking classes and grocery shopping tours. He loves helping out during ARC social events, such as the waffle party, hot dish cook off, and pot lucks. Steve has been on the boards of several other organizations including Twin Cities Tai Chi Ch’uan and various Masonic Organizations. He and his wife Amy care for their cat, the cats of their children, and two semi-feral cats for Feline Rescue.
Charlotte is a past ARC board president and has been an ARC volunteer for many years. Highlights of her time with ARC include working on the campaign that led to the abolition of the University of Minnesota’s live dog lab for first year medical students, ARC’s successful lawsuit against the University of Minnesota for previously denied access to research records, ARC’s successful campaign to persuade the Animal Humane Society to discontinue use of the gas chamber for euthanasia, and working on the campaign that led to a ban on mandatory pound seizure in Minnesota. Charlotte is also a member of the Chicken Run Rescue Advisory Board.
Shaun holds a certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition through E-Cornell and is passionate about promoting veganism and finding the most effective ways to reach people. She was predominantly vegetarian for many years and became vegan several years ago after viewing multiple documentaries including Gary Yourofsky’s “The best speech you’ll ever hear.” Because people have differing priorities, Shaun stays informed on various aspects of a vegan diet including its impact on animals, the environment, humans, and health. Shaun also works to make it easier for people to go and stay vegan; she promotes healthy and delicious vegan recipes, stays informed about new vegan food products, and has resources she can refer people to if they need more info on any given topic.
In Memoriam – Vonnie Thomasberg – President Emerita
Vonnie was named President Emerita of ARC in 2005 and was a founder and past president of ARC. For over 30 years, Vonnie defended the rights of non-human animals and advised, counseled, and provided effective leadership and inspiration to others in the ongoing effort to liberate all animals.