The Culture & Animals Foundation (CAF) began in 1985 under the auspices of animal rights philosopher Tom Regan (1938–2017) and his wife, Nancy. Nancy heard about Los Angeles–based performance artist Rachel Rosenthal (1926–2015), who brought animals on stage to open people’s hearts and minds to the “others” with whom they share the Earth. Nancy was struck by the celebratory nature of the event—animal advocacy that used art and culture to raise awareness. Nancy’s vision, complemented by her husband Tom’s academic leadership as a philosopher, helped CAF take shape.
“Once you take the first step,” says Nancy, “you realize there is more to be done.”
Beyond performance, Tom and Nancy wanted to explore the entire cultural language of animal rights, including music, dance, film, poetry, and philosophy. Thus, CAF’s unique combination of the arts and academic investigation was brought into the world.
International Compassionate Living Festival
Shortly after its foundation, CAF began by developing “animal awareness week,” the predecessor to the International Compassionate Living Festival (ICLF) that CAF hosted for twenty consecutive years, and co-produced with the Animals & Society Institute from 2005 to 2008. The largest animal advocacy event in the southeast, ICLF brought animal advocates together for dialogue, presentations, and performances. You can listen to attendees talking about their experiences at the ICLF here. In October 2017, CAF, in collaboration with Compassion Arts Festival, revived the spirit of ICLF in a weekend of performance and presentations held at Symphony Space in New York City.
In the course of its three-decades-long history, CAF has given grants and invited to speak at ICLF some of the leading lights in animal advocacy and scholarship. From artists/photographers such as Sue Coe and Jamie Wyeth to educators/campaigners like Rod Coronado, Sara Amundson, lauren Ornelas, Heidi Prescott, Paul Watson, and Patrick Kwan; from environmentalists like Jim Motavalli and Ellen LaConte to feminist scholars such as Carol Adams, Marti Kheel, and Diane Beers; from filmmakers such as Jennifer Abbott and James LaVeck and Jenny Stein to historians such as Harriet Ritvo, Bernard Unti, and Roberta Kalechofsky; from legal scholars such as David Wolfson and Steven Wise to musicians such as Ellie Sarty, Jim Harris, and Country Joe McDonald; from novelists such as J.M. Coetzee and Amy Hempel to vegan educators such as John Robbins and Joanne Stepaniak; from theologians Gary Kowalski and Jay McDaniel to social scientists such as James Jasper and Jeffrey Masson—and many, many others—CAF has been the focal point for scholars and activists seeking to expand and deepen their work.