Our History

Farm Animal Rights Movement is the world’s first and longest-operating organization dedicated to advocacy for animals raised and killed for food. FARM’s roots date back to 1976.

Early Days

In 1976, chemist, environmental consultant, social justice organizer, and Holocaust survivor Dr. Alex Hershaft, founded the Vegetarian Information Service (VIS) to disseminate information on the benefits of plant-based eating on consumer health, animal protection, and environmental integrity. VIS participated in hearings before the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, leading to publication of the original Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and testified before Congress in favor of the 1978 National Consumer Nutrition Information Act.

In August of 1981, Dr. Hershaft invited seasoned leaders of the established vegetarian movement as well as animal rights advocates influenced by Peter Singer's Animal Liberation to explore opportunities for cooperation at a conference in Allentown, PA. Participants included animal rights pioneers like Cleveland Amory, Ingrid Newkirk, Alex Pacheco, Peter Singer, Henry Spira, Gretchen Wyler, and radio host Thom Hartmann. This Action for Life conference effectively launched the U.S. animal rights movement.

Major Milestones

1975: Organized the first public (vegan) Gentle Thanksgiving in an Indian restaurant near the White House. The program now includes a recipe plan for home celebrations and a database of dozens of public dinners.

1981: The Action for Life Conferences (annually through 1991) provided the only national platform for animal rights leaders and activists to network with and learn from one another.

1982: FARM’s Compassion Campaign (through 1992) brought the concept of veganism and animal rights to key U.S. legislators, executives, and journalists through Congressional hearings, national party conventions, and polls of candidates for public office. 

1982: The Veal Ban Campaign (through 1986) was the first U.S. campaign on behalf of farmed animals. By focusing on what was then seen as the most egregious form of factory farm cruelty, FARM brought farmed animal suffering into public view. 

1983: World Farm Animals Day (now World Day for Farmed Animals) is the longest-running annual effort to call attention to the tragedy of killing animals for food. It is observed annually with dramatic demonstrations outside of slaughterhouses and government buildings. 

1985: The Great American Meatout (now Meatout) was launched with the modest request that people explore vegan eating for a single day, March 20th, first day of spring.

1996: Letters from FARM reach millions of newspaper readers every year with messages tying the merits of a vegan diet to national holidays and news developments.  

1997: Took over running of the national animal rights conference from the Animal Rights Alliance, which organized the celebrated 1990 March for Animals in Washington.

1999: Consumers for Healthy Options in Children’s Education (CHOICE) advocated for healthy (vegan) school lunches until 2009. 

1999: The Sabina Fund, named after FARM President Alex Hershaft’s deceased mother, provides grants to organizations across the world that promote vegan eating. 

2001: Vegan Earth Day calls public attention to the devastating environmental impacts of animal agriculture. 

2003: Launched Meatout Mondays, a colorful weekly e-newsletter with recipes, health tips, product reviews, and inspirational news. 

2006: Launched Equal Justice Alliance, a national effort to repeal the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, which was signed into law that year.

2007: Changed our name to Farm Animal Rights Movement to emphasize our commitment to ending the use of animals for food, rather than just reducing their abuse.

2011: Our 10 Billion Lives program had up to three vehicles screening graphic farm animal footage and collecting vegan pledges at college campuses, rock concerts, and street fairs.

2013: We turned our attention to duplicate the 10 Billion Lives program online, mostly by boosting graphic footage on Facebook.

2015: The Vegan Support program grew out of a survey showing that five in six vegans revert back to eating animals.

2016: Thanks to a generous donor, we were able to multiply our Sabina Fund support for Israeli vegan groups.

2017: Launched a program to coordinate Western support and encourage local vegan advocacy in India, Nepal, and China.

2018: As part of a gradual retirement process for Founding President Hershaft, turned over most of our programs and staff to Compassion Over Killing.

Two national organizations were conceived and nurtured at FARM: Farm Sanctuary, in 1986, and A Well-Fed World, in 2009.

Prominent supporters of FARM’s campaigns through the years have included celebrities Ed Asner, Bob Barker, David Carter, James Cromwell, Doris Day, Casey Kasem, Mary Tyler Moore, Alicia Silverstone, Russell Simmons, Steve-O, and Jane Velez-Mitchell, as well as social reformers Corey Booker, Cesar Chavez, Thom Hartmann, Michael Jacobson, Heather Mills, and Jeremy Rifkin.