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.

Our Work

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.

Board of Directors and Staff

Shelly Bell

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, 10 year old son, and 2 neurotic but adorable cats. She also volunteers at her son’s school.

Brenda Burchfield

Brenda grew up in a southern Minnesota community with a slaughterhouse and was always deeply disturbed by the practices going on there, but never knew how to take action against it. After she became aware of ARC through attending Petland demonstrations, she transitioned into a vegan lifestyle. Brenda is committed to educating others about animal rights and abolitionism, and about how a vegan diet can impact health and help to manage illnesses such as diabetes. Being a diabetic herself, Brenda can often be spotted speaking to others about a plant-based diet and animal rights issues. Brenda and her husband, Gary are caregivers to their beloved rescued cat, Kringle.

Angie Chesney-Mattison – Vice President

Angie became vegan at age 30 after realizing that she was not living according to her own values of compassion for all animals; human and non-human alike. She is a licensed Attorney who fosters dogs through a local animal rescue and has experience volunteering in various non-profit organizations. Angie has a natural resources and environmental background and views veganism as a way to live compassionately towards all animals and reduce negative impacts on the planet we all share.

Charlotte Cozzetto – President

Charlotte is the ARC Executive Board President. 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.

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.

Chelsea Youngquist

Chelsea was introduced to ARC after going vegan nearly a decade ago. She was an ARC volunteer and enjoyed working for ARC for several years as Outreach Director and Program Director. She is passionate about plant-based food and showing how affordable, easy, delicious, and fun preparing and eating it can be. You can find her hosting ARC’s cable and YouTube cooking show, Feed Me Vegan. Chelsea is raising two vegan little boys. If you see her, she probably has cupcakes.

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.