by Marsha Rakestraw

“Their suffering is my grief. Is my motivation.”

In his TEDx talk, Damien Mander shares his transformation from a former special forces sniper to passionate conservationist. He says:

“Back then, I’d no idea what a conservationist did, other than hug trees and piss off large corporations.”

In 2009 Damien founded the International Anti-Poaching Foundation, which is a direct action law enforcement organization. IAPF brings military solutions to conservation, helping reduce wildlife poaching and trafficking.

Damien’s evolution to a modern warrior for animals has also inspired him to expand his circle of compassion.

Damien says, “Whether we’re talking about factory farming, live export, poaching, the fur trade, logically, it’s all on the same playing field to me. Suffering is suffering … And of the five million species on [the] planet, only one has the power to determine what level of suffering is acceptable for all other sentient beings to endure.”

At the end of his talk, Damien challenges each of us to consider: the next time we have an opportunity to make a difference for animals, will we be brave enough to do so?

Watch Damien’s talk: (12:33 min)

Damien’s talk is an important reminder that we humans hold enormous power over nonhuman animals, and that our daily choices and the systems we support determine how much suffering (or how much peace, compassion, and freedom) we’re contributing to billions of lives and millions of species.

Humane educators will find Damien’s talk useful for sparking conversation about our complex and inconsistent relationship with animals, and the ways that we can all be modern warriors brave enough to make a difference for them.