For as long as I can remember I’ve thought of myself as an #AnimalLover.

For as long as I can remember I have thought of myself as an animal lover. When I was young we lived in South Africa where I found the the wildlife and landscapes breathtaking. We went on long distance family trips through Zimbabwe, Kruger National Park and we took in natural beauty such as the Victoria Falls. When I was 9 years of age we returned to the UK.

I’ve always had pets in my life. When I was a child we had 7 dogs in the house. I have also cared for rabbits, hamsters, rats, mice & tropical fish as pets, however I’ve always had a particular soft spot for dogs.

Being brought up with these wonderful animals in my life has made me appreciate that they are all individuals with their own personalities. They have a full range of emotions. You can tell when they are happy or unhappy, confused, nervous, loving, guilty, etc, etc :o) I believe that they have just as much of a right to a happy experience on this planet as we humans do.

Dog Rescues

A few years back I had a short period of time where I was unemployed. I wanted to spend my time constructively so I decided to volunteer at my local RSPCA as a dog walker. I would go to the rescue whenever I had time and walk the dogs, getting them out of their kennels for a break. I had to get a Tetanus jab and wait for three months for my safety induction before I could start volunteering with the RSPCA. By which time I was back in a full time job. However, I still went to the kennels every weekend, without fail, rain or shine for over a year. I enjoyed it so the year flew by in no time.

Prior to helping at the RSPCA I had never met many Staffordshire Bull Terriers before. After spending some time around them I developed a soft spot for the breed. They just adore people. For whatever reason some of the other dog walkers weren’t very keen on walking the Staffies as much as the other dogs. So I would always take out the Staffies for as long as I could which suited me as I loved spending time with them. Those dogs always seemed like they remembered me when they saw me at the kennels and I loved spending time with them every week.

I wanted to get more involved in things such as transport runs, fostering, fundraising etc. I couldn’t currently do this at the RSPCA. I decided to volunteer for Staffie Rescue which is a part of Rescue Remedies. They also rehome other breeds of dog and specialise in Terriers. It was a longer drive for me to get to their kennels but it was worth it.

Why Give Staffies a Chance?

Staffies are such a popular breed in the UK. They have been over-bred and dog rescues now have so many Staffies looking for homes. Staffordshire Bull Terrier Rescues give these dogs a chance. I had never realised before this just how long some dogs have to wait for homes. It amazes me the amount of Staffies still being bred when so many are being killed every day. If you love Staffies, adopt one. They are not damaged goods. They are wonderful dogs who have often just been let down by their human guardians. I think that often rescue dogs, once adopted, know how good they have it and are very keen to please you. They have had it bad before so they know when they have it good.

I would like to add, particularly if you have children. Please make sure that you use a dog rescue that carries out a home check and asks you lots of questions about your lifestyle etc. Although this may sound overly probing and nosey of them, they are just trying to make sure that the dog is likely to be a good match for yourself and your family. The dog rescue should have assessed the dog and will have a good idea if the dog is likely to be suitable for you.

Here is a photo of my Macky who I adopted after initially just fostering him for Christmas. The plan was for me to give him a break from kennels over Christmas. He had other plans and got his paws well and truly under the table. Kimmie, my first rescue dog got along so well with him and I loved him to bits. There was no way I could have returned him to the kennels after Christmas so Macky became part of the family.

Please don’t buy a dog from a breeder. There are so many dogs losing their lives every day through lack of a home. It seems wrong to me that we continue to breed more dogs whilst we are killing thousands of dogs every year mostly from lack of a home. It is just so rewarding to see a dog settle in and be happy after being locked up in a kennel all alone. If you are a `dog lover’ then why not pay them back for their loyalty and friendship and offer a homeless dog a new forever home. I would say personally that adopting my two canine companions was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. I give them so little and they give me so much back in return.

How was this website born?

Some dogs find themselves in a dog rescue but are rehomed within a month or two. Other dogs, often through no fault of their own will have to wait a very long time for a home. Sometimes this may be 2 years or even longer. These are the dogs that I aim to try and publicise more and show people what great companions they would make.

After volunteering for a couple of dog rescues and seeing first hand just how long some of these dogs need to wait for a home. I decided to set up my own website to help advertise these over-looked dogs. That was in June 2011.

Since then the website viewing figures have grown very well. I put that largely down to the help that I have received with drawing in traffic from my Twitter account. My Twitter profile name is @Shelter_Helper if you would be so kind as to follow me and share my tweets. Also it is down to the listings I have of dog rescue contact details. They receive many views every day so some people obviously find them useful.

Making the connection

Sometimes when I had finished at the kennels, getting in my car to go home. I could hear the dogs howling to be let out of their kennels. My heart would sink. They didn’t deserve to be locked up. They should be free to run, play and live a meaningful life where they were loved and cared for. Not locked up alone in a cold, concrete kennel.

I try to do my bit for animals, signing petitions, doing fundraising etc. I felt terrible about the lives that the dogs currently had in rescue. Then I would go home and consume an animal for my dinner without a second thought. Was I being a hypocrite? Why did I care so deeply about one type of animal only?

I gradually began to make a connection when I went food shopping about what life the animals must have had that I was putting in my trolley. For a while I stopped buying pork as I made the connection that pigs have higher IQ’s than dogs and suffer greatly when farmed for us to use as food. I would also buy turkey rather than chicken as in my mind, with a turkey being larger than a chicken one turkey would feed more people than one chicken. I was only buying free range products and trying to be more conscious of where my food was coming from.

I started to buy less meat. One day I came home from the supermarket and I hadn’t bought any meat at all. I was just replacing the meat with lots of cheese mostly. At this point I realised that I was now vegetarian. I knew I could no longer eat animals. I couldn’t believe it at first, me a vegetarian. I sought out information about what a healthy vegetarian diet consisted of.

With a little more online research into vegetarian diets I began to find out much more about the exploitation animals that we use for food are put though. Things that if done to a dog or a cat would land you in jail. Some of the most abused and exploited animals in the world are animals that we use for  food, clothing, animal experiments and entertainment. The things that happen to these animals are hidden away out of sight so people don’t really need to think about it. I strongly urge people to watch this brilliant feature length documentary about mankind’s treatment of non-human animals. It is narrated by Joaquin Pheonix with a soundtrack by Moby.

http://earthlings.com/?page_id=32

 

Animals all have the capacity to suffer but it’s just how we see them that differs.
This determines what we are prepared to do to them.

Pigs have a higher IQ than dogs. Yet we eat pigs and we love dogs. See this interesting website about the invisible belief system that  conditions people to eat certain animals. http://www.carnism.org/

Male chicks are ground up alive as they are seen as being worthless to the egg industry.

Male calves are an unwanted by-product of the dairy industry so they are usually killed straight away. Even the female calves are separated from their mothers and fed milk replacer so we can drink their mothers milk.

Young lambs are brought into the world and then slaughtered at 5 or 6 months of age just so that we can have a leg of lamb with our roast dinner.

The Humane Meat Myth

I acknowledge that not all animal products support the same level of cruelty and suffering. However, the issue for me is not how we use non-human animals but rather the fact that we use them at all. If we truly believe that animals are worthy of moral consideration then we should not use them for food, clothing, entertainment or for use in experiments.

Photo courtesy of Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

I seriously doubt that animal agriculture will end overnight, social change happens gradually. People are becoming more conscious of their food choices and in turn they are demanding `products’ which they perceive to be more humane and ethical. After all, that’s what I did. I was lulled into a false belief that I could discharge my moral obligations by purchasing humane meat. Can we ever call it humane when we kill an animal purely for our own pleasure? We don’t have a biological need to eat animal flesh or by-products. We just choose to eat them. I’ve not eaten any animal flesh, eggs or dairy for over 2 years now and I’m still here.

Photo courtesy of Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

So called `humane meat’ or `happy animal products’ just give people an excuse to continue eating animal products. Making it more comfortable to continue supporting these industries.

I used to buy free range products myself, thinking that it was the right thing to do. In particular I would look out for the RSPCA Freedom Foods label. Now I see that this was more about easing my own conscience about buying the products. No matter what conditions they are supposedly raised in. They are still born into a life of confinement, their young are killed, they suffer mutilations without any pain killers. Male chicks are still ground up alive at birth, male calves are shot within a couple of days of being born. They will still be transported to the same horrific slaughter houses as any other animals. Some of the worst undercover video footage I have seen has been on RSPCA endorsed Freedom Foods farms.

We `choose’ to eat animals, we don’t `need’ to eat them. All of the nutrition that we require from our diet is available from plant sources. So why do we bring these animals into the world to kill and eat them? Culture, taste, convenience, ego? Well none of those reasons are good enough for me to have another animal killed for me to eat.

Anyone can do it

If I can adopt a vegan lifestyle then anyone can. My favourite meal used to be steak and chips. I have a big BBQ in my back garden. I used to think leather goods were luxurious. Most of my house furniture is still leather, however I am gradually phasing these things out. I just changed my car and made sure I didn’t buy one with leather seats. I have a motorbike, but no longer wear leathers.

Now that I have opened my eyes to the suffering that those animals go through that I used to eat and wear, I just don’t find eating animals appetising or wearing them luxurious any more. You don’t crave what you don’t want. So I am finding it easy. The hardest part is the social side but I realise that I can’t be in control of how others react to me living a vegan lifestyle. I’m just being honest and polite with people and how they receive that is entirely on them. I would say that for the most part, people have just been inquisitive about my reasons for being vegan. I am never apologetic for living a vegan lifestyle, after all, what do I have to apologise for.

The vegan lifestyle might sound extreme and I am often told that it is by people. However, I think it is the opposite. I believe that veganism is one of the least extreme set of principles to live your life by. Living a vegan lifestyle is about non-violence, compassion and trying to cause the least harm possible. How is that extreme? I think it is far less extreme to have a plate full of vegetables, beans, rice etc than it is to have a plate with someones ribcage or thigh on it.

30 Day Vegan Challenge

It’s likely that you will feel and look much healthier on a vegan diet. Personally, I do feel much healthier, have lost excess weight and have more energy. I stopped getting acne after a couple of weeks of going vegan. This is after well over 15 years of taking medication for it. I no longer take medication. I think that is down to cutting out dairy, which my doctor told me years ago might help but I never listened to him at the time.

I don’t feel anxious and stressed all the time like I used to. It has made me feel very calm and peaceful. I think that is partly because of all the healthy whole grains, vegetables, fruits and lots of fibre etc that is now in my diet. I also feel that now my actions reflect my values that I feel happier and no longer have an inner conflict going on. Another positive side effect of adopting a vegan lifestyle is the stronger bond that you are likely to feel with other animals. I don’t think that it is possible to get that feeling whilst still eating and wearing animals, thinking of them as commodities. It’s hard to explain the feeling really, it needs experiencing to understand it.

Why not try it for yourself for a month. It is a lot easier to do than you might think and you will probably even find that you are eating far more varied and interesting foods than you were before. There are a huge variety of different foods out there to try. I discovered that I actually prefer butternut squash in my curry rather than chunks of chicken. It adds so much more flavour to the sauce. Pretty much anything that you like eating you can buy a vegan version of it nowadays.

When I first decided to go vegan I thought that it would be a sacrifice. It has turned out to be far from it and my diet is now much more interesting and varied than it ever was before. Also it is not expensive like people seem to think. Lots of the meals are based around rice, pasta, beans etc. so it can be an economical way to eat. The money you save on buying animal flesh you can spend on better quality, organic fruits and vegetables.

Not just another fad diet

If you have been struggling with fad diets. Calorie restricting yourself. Then why not just try eating a healthy vegan diet. You can eat as much as you like and still lose fat. A healthy, whole-foods vegan diet has about 90% less saturated fat than a regular diet and you will have zero dietary cholesterol.

I would advise that if you want to try this lifestyle please do a little bit of research first on what a healthy vegan diet consists of. That should stand you in good stead. The Vegan Outreach website is a good resource.

I believe that we take in energy from everything that we consume. If we consume animals that have been filled with fear and then killed in a slaughter house. That surely can’t be a good energy for us to take in. Not to mention the antibiotics that farmed animals are pumped full of.

Vegan food isn’t a completely different food group. Vegetables, fruits, grains, seeds, legumes, pulses, leafy greens, herbs, spices etc are all things that most people eat anyway. So the food you will be eating won’t be completely different to what you are used to. It can be great fun finding new recipes and food from other cultures. It is very easy to veganise a stir-fry, curry, chilli or a stew for example.

Supply and Demand

Every penny that we spend is a vote in favour of the items that we choose to buy. If we choose to buy animal flesh and other animal products then we are the ones creating the demand for those items. We are pulling the strings of the slaughter man. If we chose to buy vegan products then we are creating more of a demand for cruelty-free products and the shops will in turn order less animal products.

I know that it may seem like animal agriculture is on such a large scale that one person could never make a difference. Surely though, it is still no excuse for us to just sit back and do nothing just because we can’t do everything? For example, people have said to me that they could never go vegan because they like cheese too much. I usually say to them `well why not live mostly a vegan lifestyle apart from the cheese?’. You could still stop using leather, wool, eating meat, drinking cows milk, using animal tested products etc. There is so much that they could do, why not do anything just because they won’t give up eating the cheese?

I know that I am far from perfect myself but that isn’t what veganism is about. It’s not about being perfect or being holier than thou. I’m not an argumentative person, I don’t like conflict and I’m not just out to win arguments. It’s about taking responsibility for our own actions and trying to make conscious choices. Everything that we buy has an impact. Be it workers being exploited, rain forests being cut down, the planet being polluted, animals being made to suffer. Not all our choices are going to be perfect but I do think we should all try to inform ourselves and make the best choices.

Rather than just being blind consumers we can be conscious consumers and all do our bit to make the world a better place for the people, the planet and last, but certainly not least, the non-human animals who share our planet with us.