I strive to become irrelevant. Every strategy is focused on how to make my organization totally unnecessary and leave my staff bored, twiddling their thumbs, checking their social media, swatting flies. All I want is no more calls, no more messages, no more desperate pleas for help.
I run an animal rescue and farm sanctuary in Vietnam. The need for what I do is high, much like any country in which humans and animals interact and abuse, neglect, and irresponsible pet ownership is the norm. The caseload has overwhelmed us for eight years while we lack the human, financial, and veterinary resources to manage the animals that need our help. The solution to our problem is actually not even a task, however, but an absence of action. The solution to ending animal suffering is to stop using animals for food, clothing, research and entertainment and no one wants to hear that. We must stop making more domesticated animals that end up in rescue and on our plates.
To understand why we must end animal use, we have to look at what domestication has done to animals. We have bred and confined animals for our purposes for 10,000 years which is really just a bleep in the history of the planet which can still be reversed. The incredible suffering this has caused for so many species, both domestic and wild, is profound. The industrialization of the animal production industries is the most recent of the crimes against animals, but it is not the only one. The pet industry has driven demand for animals we enslave who depend solely on our kindness to keep them healthy and happy, yet humans have failed them immensely. The idea that every home has a right to a pet is asinine, as anyone who works in rescue will tell you. Even the most loving pet owners will fail to provide basic vet care or a proper environment either out of financial difficulty, inconvenience, or ignorance. Zoos, circuses, horse and dog racing, equestrian sports, hunting, lab research, and the fishing industry have all contributed to this suffering and yet all we have to do is stop. Stop the killing, stop the use of animals for our profit and amusement, stop acting like it is our right to cause unnecessary harm against whomever we please. This is a message that disrupts economies yet saves nearly three trillion animals per year if we could manage to actually do it.
Telling the public as an animal rescue organization that they need to quit having pets, stop eating, wearing, and using animals is a surefire way to get people to turn off, however. This message broadcasted to people who will swear up and down they love animals while mowing down a plate of BBQ ribs is like the herpes of animal advocacy, not to mention fundraising. What people want is for us to constantly take a bottomless list of animals in need into our loving hands, regardless of our lack of resources to care for them or homes for them to go to, all the while they want to keep on with the same exact habits they have always had. They love pictures of shelters teaming with animals, completely oblivious to the amount of stress on the animals living there and the caretakers who manage it, much less the obscene amount of money and human resources needed to keep that type of environment healthy for anyone living or working there. They want us to cram animals into a noisy, stinky property to prove that we have “done something” for the animals, all while they grab a chicken sandwich on their way home from work and feel nothing for their own cruelty because they donated to our overwhelmed rescue.
“Save” one, kill another. That’s the current methodology. This is perpetuated by the nonsense media of animal rescues that for the most part will say nothing at all about the reality of the daily life for the animals in our care, much less the constant struggle of the staff to manage the animals humanity has tossed out like trash, rehabilitating them enough to go to a better life in a family who we can only hope will not end up putting them right back into the same situation. What people want has no connection with addressing the root of animal suffering because they are usually the people who are causing the suffering of trillions of animals in industries they blindly support every day.
What people want
People want to buy French Bulldogs they thought were cute on Instagram because a rescue is too much of a “hassle”, not cute enough, or not flashy enough to show off to their friends.
People want to keep eating their eggs and bacon for breakfast in spite of the 80,000 edible plants and their endless permutations of ingredients that did not scream when they were killed.
People want to continue to live in the fantasy that their eyeliner was not responsible for a bunny, rat, beagle, or monkey being tortured so they buy whatever is cheap or a fad instead of what was not tested on animals.
People want to breed their cat because she is cute and they can make money from it, ignoring the millions of cats waiting for homes who will be gassed at shelters this year as a result of this thinking, others starving in the streets or hit by traffic. Even worse, they don’t feel like spending the money on a spay surgery so they just let their kitty roam or dump her to make babies for a rescue like mine to be tasked with caring for.
People want their kids to see an orca or a dolphin, so they spend money on the marine parks confining sea animals used to swimming 100 kilometers a day and living in large groups. Heaven forbid the Discovery Channel documentaries be enough for their kids, so they would rather pay someone else to torture an animal for its lifetime for a field trip easily forgotten.
People want me to fill my rescue with animals they refuse to be responsible for in their own communities, trashing us for not taking enough to be bursting at the seams and swimming in kitten diarrhea. Then they never even glance at the calls for donations for a mass sterilization project that would effectively END the need for cats and dogs to be rescued and go into shelters.
What honesty gets you in animal rescue
Going out of business for an outspoken, vegan animal rescue is easy. We just have to be honest. We just have to stop upholding the lies of the rescue industry that perpetuates the myth that individuals should bear no responsibility for animals, but rescues can take them all. We just have to let that ugly truth slip that shelters are not the answer to animal suffering, but being vegan and sterilizing and vaccinating all domestic animals will effectively stop putting more innocent lives on this planet that will inevitably live a short life of horrific suffering. Then we lose it all and have an empty account and animals we cannot even feed because we gently reminded the public that they are the ones harming animals everyday with their consumer choices, not just the random Asian man on a shaky viral video hitting a dog. We have failed to do the work we set out to do because the rescue industry has made its money by perpetuating the need for it rather than eliminating it. The rescue industry thrives on non-solutions and when you try to address the root issues of animal suffering, you are quickly hushed and lose your funding. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” feels appropriate for this case.
We wanted to go out of business because we did our job well, not because we were honest about the root of animal suffering and how each and every one of us has a responsibility to address it on a daily basis. We have been barely subsisting for years now, having lost our vet clinic for facing down the speciesist and racist anti-dog meat campaigners and being open about our love of all animals by being vegan. We are out of business in many ways, unable to help animals who need us because allies in the rescue world are limited when you do not harm any species and blatantly call out those who do. If being uncomfortably honest and having a circle of compassion that encompasses all life rather than just a few pet species makes a rescue a failure, then we need to evaluate what animal advocacy really is and if it is truly working for the animals. From where I sit, animal advocacy organizations have failed the animals immensely and upheld the industries of torture and murder which are the root of the vast majority of suffering that we can easily address in how we eat and what we buy. Our rescue failed because humanity has failed to face its own hypocrisy and to be accountable to the vulnerable beings of every species who we each have the ability to protect.
Where do we go from here?
The field of rescue needs a reset. We need to look at the big picture of what it means to love animals and how we are all responsible for avoiding being part of animal suffering. As rescue organizations, we need to all work on going out of business by eliminating the need to take animals harmed by humans not only in their homes, but in the industries that kill them for profit. We need to see ALL species as of worthy of life and happiness and that bringing more into the world to suffer does not make you an animal lover, but just part of the problem. When the rescue world accepts moral consistency, and is not afraid of marketing that, we will finally start to go out of business the right way.