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 reforming or 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. 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.
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 (for example, women, people of color, people with disabilities, youth from marginalized communities, etc.) also underlies animal mistreatment and exploitation. Thus, as an organization that fights for freedom from oppression, we find it appropriate to support—through non-financial sponsorship and/or physical attendance—those events and movements that challenge domination in its differing manifestations. For example, ARC has supported other social justice movements such as the fight for racial equality, youth justice, and LGBTQIA rights.
ARC has remained a grass-roots group because we believe that real and lasting change for animals will happen at the grass-roots level; that is, it's going to take a critical mass of people at the local level to reach a tipping point in our culture's treatment of animals, not policies created and enforced by people higher up in traditional power structures. We believe our members and volunteers are the animals' real heroes and the people who will move our society toward justice for all species.
Our Green Policy
Since the Animal Rights Coalition works to end the suffering, abuse, and exploitation of non-human animals, the organization also makes a commitment to reduce the environmental impact of the products we use. 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.
Therefore, ARC strives to identify and purchase environmentally preferable supplies. Wherever possible, we will minimize pollution and waste, conserve energy and water, protect habitats, support renewable resources, buy environmentally friendly products, and encourage environmentally preferable transportation (i.e. carpooling to events). ARC promotes a culture of reducing, reusing, and recycling both during events and at the ARC office.
Board of Directors and Staff
Brenda Burchfield – Treasurer
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.
Justin started volunteering with ARC by securing donations from companies, writing speeches and publications, and engaging in vegan outreach. He has been an animal advocate since becoming vegan as a teenager and was drawn to ARC by our abolitionist vegan philosophy. He has a degree in Chemical Engineering and has worked in the natural resources, aerospace, and electronics industries. He has fostered many rescued animals and brings his adopted rescued dog to many events.
Megan is a licensed attorney who works as an Attorney Editor. She has been an active volunteer with ARC at many events, volunteers with the ARC Cuddle Coats program, and does training for our Admin Team. She also volunteers with Retrieve a Golden of Minnesota (RAGOM) helping at Meet & Greets with dogs in foster care.
Melissa Maaske – Secretary
Melissa is passionate about animal advocacy and promoting an abolitionist message. Her past volunteer experiences include working with a no-kill dog rescue, Big Brothers / Big Sisters, and providing assistance to people experiencing homelessness. Melissa was born and raised in Minnesota, and appreciates ARC’s local, grassroots approach. Melissa is a Vegan Mentor in the ARC Vegan University program, leads grocery shopping tours and dine-outs, and enjoys educating others about adopting a vegan life. She is a graduate student at the University of Minnesota and currently works at a local non-profit as a Licensed Social Worker. In her spare time, she enjoys kayaking and spending time with her animal companions.
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.