An Exceptional Life

Vonnie at the 1990 March for Animals in Washington, D.C.

Vonnie at the 1990 March for Animals in Washington, D.C.

We’re sad to report that Animal Rights Coalition Founder Vonnie Thomasberg passed away on July 13. Vonnie founded ARC in 1980 and for over 30 years defended the rights of nonhuman animals and provided leadership and inspiration.

Jim Mason, author of Animal Factories and The Ethics of What We Eat with Peter Singer, An Unnatural Order, and co-founder of The Animals’ Agenda magazine sent this tribute to Vonnie: “We ‘old timers’ who knew and worked with Vonnie over the years will miss her greatly, for she was a great soul and fun to be with. All of us benefit from her work, for she was a pioneer and leader in the building of the American Animal Rights movement.”

“Sensing the rising awareness and restlessness catalyzed by Peter Singer’s 1975 book, Animal Liberation, she founded Animal Rights Coalition to put that into action for animals in the Twin Cities. With ARC, she organized some of the very first conferences to bring together speakers and activists from all over the country to talk about issues, strategies, tactics, and actions for animals.”

“Some of the then-young activists who attended her conferences went back home to Boston, New York, Washington, DC, Chicago, and many other major U.S. cities to start ARC-like organizations. Other attendees founded or formed the first staff of national organizations such as Farm Sanctuary and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Her leadership and activism in the Twin Cities was both a model and a motivator for animal activism across the U.S. when the American Animal Rights Movement was newly born. Vonnie, you made an awful/wonderful lot happen for animals; may the rest of us keep it going.”

Gary Francione, author with Anna Charlton, of Eat Like You Care: An Examination of the Morality of Eating Animals; Animals as Persons; Introduction to Animal Rights, and other books sent this tribute to Vonnie: “Vonnie was a great person. She not only embraced veganism and abolition fairly early on, but she also saw the connections between human rights and animal rights. She was a major force in animal rights even beyond Minnesota. She will be missed.”

To learn more about this exceptional woman and her fascinating life, read Vonnie’s article “Look How Far We’ve Come!” in the Winter 2011 30th Anniversary issue of ARC News and “History of an Activist.” Both articles are guaranteed to give you an appreciation for Vonnie’s groundwork that went into making ARC the strong activist organization it is today.