Working Life: Carla Owen gets the message across about vivisection

The head of communications and campaigns at the anti-vivisection charity BUAV says she is still haunted by images of animal suffering, but tries to balance them with positive messages

Carla Owen of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection
Carla Owen of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection

I try not to talk about animal rights issues all the time, but it is a job that takes over much of your life. It's a cause that I've always been passionate about, and this is an organisation I really wanted to work for. This job makes you even more aware of the ill-treatment of animals. I've been vegetarian for 25 years and am now vegan - although it's not a requirement of the job!

It's great to feel part of a team that includes experts in policy, law and science, all of whom are passionate about stopping experiments on animals and campaigning to improve the law. I love the challenge of taking complicated findings and technical data, and turning it into interesting content and campaigns that people can engage with.

Our campaign on the use of cats and dogs in experiments has had a great response - I feel it's worked well because these are animals that people share their homes with.

Social media has totally changed my job - now we can get our message out much more effectively on Facebook than by having campaign bus tours. The comedian Ricky Gervais is an ambassador for our sister organisation, Cruelty Free International, and a passionate advocate of BUAV's work - our petitions go crazy when he tweets.

Probably the hardest part of my role is seeing images and films of horrific animal suffering. I've been here seven years and they continue to haunt me. I think people don't want to think about this suffering, but my job is to get them to take notice and expose the reality of the appalling conditions in which these animals live. I try to balance shock images with positive messages.

I'm mainly office-based and I work from 10am to 6pm. But it's a round-the-clock job because I liaise with our international teams through evening or early morning Skype chats. I often find myself scrolling through my tablet, checking news and social media, outside working hours. It's a fast-paced, busy environment and the days fly.

The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection works to create a world "where nobody wants, or believes it is necessary, to experiment on animals"

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