It didn’t happen in one day. I look back, and try to determine the month or year when I started to see things differently but I can’t pin down any specific time or event. Was it when I first read Jane Goodall’s “In the Shadow of Man”?. Or in junior high when talk of endangered species, habitat loss, acid rain, and ozone layer depletion became common knowledge. Did it occur when I had to euthanize my first litter of kittens because of pet overpopulation?. When I saw David Suzuki give a live talk on deforestation and our ecological foot print. Was it when in college I learned the truth about how we farm our food?. I don’t know but somewhere along the way recycling pop bottles, not using aerosol cans and making sure my animals were neutered and well cared for wasn’t enough.
All of my experiences have helped me grow into who I am today. Animals have always been a large part of my life. I grew up in rural Canada as an only child for the first six years of my life and my pets were my constant companions. I played make believe not with dolls or other little girls but with the barn cats, who were nice enough to tolerate the dresses and baby carriages. My sheep dog Charlie treated me as one of his flock and was constantly moving me from place to place as he saw fit. When my sister and cousins were born they became part of my circle of friends but Charlie and all the others were never excluded. I thought everyone loved animals.
My first experience with animal cruelty came when I was in grade four. Some older kids took one of my classmates tied him to a tree and tortured his kitten in front of him. I still remember the description of the torture from the newspaper. The kitten had sticks shoved trough his body and his eyes had been gouged out. I cried for weeks afterwards. I don’t know what happened to the two boys who perpetrated this awful deed. Unfortunately, I fear that most likely it was treated as a case of boys will be boys.
Since then I have seen first hand the many atrocities committed to animals while I worked at an SPCA. Dogs dragged behind snowmobiles, cats with their limbs frozen off, horses starved to death and innumerable puppies and kittens thrown away like so much garbage. I became very committed to helping to stop the abuse. I helped with fund-raising and wrote letters protesting the unfair treatment of animals.
While earning my B.Sc. in Agriculture I learned that the family farm was an ideal of the past. Farming is big business. Overcrowding, antibiotic and pesticide use, clearcutting of the rainforest are all the result of factory farming. For reasons of personal health and environmental protection, I made the decision to eat only free range meat. This proved to be difficult because it was often hard to obtain in small quantities and quite expensive for a student. Finally because the cost became prohibitive, and so much of the literature on animal welfare and the environmental movement supported vegetarianism, I decided to seriously give it a try. This may have been the most difficult thing I had ever done. I loved meat. Nothing tasted better than a bloody rare barbecued steak or deliciously greasy bacon. I eventually managed to master my cravings, though in the beginning I did have my doubts. It took me two full years to become a lacto-ovo vegetarian.
Though I’ve always wanted to be a veterinarian my newfound concern for animal issues and the environment were pulling me in another direction. I had from the time I was a very little girl known exactly what I wanted. Now suddenly I was unsure. It was very daunting. Not wanting to take a year off school I decided I would take some graduate courses and see where that led me. I was no better off. Nothing stirred my passion.. So I took a year off to work and regroup. A few months ago, I came across a poster for the Master of Science in Animals and Public Policy. I though it was too good to be true. It was exactly what I was looking for but thought didn’t exist anywhere.
I still wish to pursue veterinary medicine but this program will allow me to develop my interest in an area that has become all important to me. I want people to open their eyes and remember the wonder we felt as children when we saw our first giraffe. We have all become too blase to the beauty that surrounds us. I want to help preserve what’s left. I want cases of animal abuse treated as the serious crimes they are. I want us to acknowledge our kinship with animals and to stop treating them as objects to use and discard as our whims dictate. I believe that one person can make a difference and through this program could help me accomplish many of my goals.
Our world is spiraling out of control. Were losing species of plants and animals forever before we even knew they existed. Today my friends ask me how I go on caring so much about so many issues? The real question is how can we go on not caring?