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Jeff Thomas, a doctoral candidate in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, is the author of “The Farm Animal

VCU doctoral student hopes his book on factory farming will inspire animal advocates

Jeff Thomas cites his Wilder School professors and its intellectual climate for inspiring his pursuit.

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Jeff Thomas says his latest book is “written at an exciting time for American animal advocates,” and he credits his Virginia Commonwealth University professors as invaluable assets to his creative process.

“Without them, I would never have been able to put together this book, one that I hope will make a difference for people and animals,” Thomas said of “The Farm Animal Movement: Effective Altruism, Venture Philanthropy, and the Fight to End Factory Farming in America.” He said the book is “targeted to readers who want to help animals but don’t know how to best dedicate their careers, volunteer time or donations to doing so.”

Thomas, a doctoral candidate in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, came to VCU in fall 2021 after earning a master’s degree at Tulane University School of Public Health and a bachelor’s degree at Duke University School of Engineering. He also has more than a decade of experience in federal, state and local political campaigns and national farm animal welfare policy.

The Richmond native decided to focus several of his final course projects on aspects of, and potential solutions to, factory farming – a system of raising animals, especially cattle, chickens and pigs, in industrial conditions in America. This complementary coursework later morphed into “The Farm Animal Movement,” released in December 2023 by Lantern Publishing. Thomas previously had written two books about Virginia politics, most recently “The Virginia Way: Democracy and Power After 2016.”

“After college I became aware of the problems of factory farming. I saw an undercover video of a slaughterhouse where the animals were treated horribly,” he said. “All of my classwork at VCU has been focused on the political problem of farm animal welfare.”

A book cover with That says \"The Farm Animal Movement Effective Altruism, Venture Philosophy, and the Fight to End Factory Farming in America by Jeff Thomas\"
"The Farm Animal Movement: Effective Altruism, Venture Philosophy, and the Fight to End Factory Farming in America.” (Contributed photo)

Thomas is particularly grateful to three Wilder School professors — Sarah Jane Brubaker, Ph.D., assistant chair of criminal justice programs; Richard Huff, Ph.D., assistant chair of the Master of Public Administration program, and Sarah Raskin, Ph.D. — for their support and knowledge.

“Professor Brubaker cares very much about her students’ success. My topic was not in her wheelhouse, but she not only believed in me, she believed in all of us as a cohort. She helped me think incisively and focus on this topic,” Thomas said.

He added that Huff offered insight in how to analyze the political system in the U.S., while Raskin helped him understand the difference between informed journalism and rigorous social science.

“The skills and analytical tools that I learned in seminars with Wilder School professors helped me in my scholarship – and ultimately benefited my readers, who want to learn how to get involved in helping animals in a more effective way,” Thomas said.

He also has been impressed by the intellectual climate at the Wilder School.

“VCU gave me the freedom and the tools to explore creatively wherever the work took me. Professors believed in me, and that goes a heck of a long way,” Thomas said. “People who believe in you can help change your world. With the Wilder School, I feel like I hit the jackpot.”