Always, the animals

This article was originally published in Good Gabble in September 2010. We’ve just discovered an eduation program that does exactly what our Mangaging Director was speaking about here in relation to Dancing Bears. We have provided that link in this article …

There were early, indicative signs Lisa Louden’s life would involve helping animals – the strays she brought home, the decision of vegetarianism at the age of 13 and the fact that she was always grinning like an idiot when she was around them (she still does). It’s of no surprise then, she founded an animal charity, what is a surprise though, is its fresh approach and collaborative strategy, as Lisa explains.  

One of my biggest motivators to helping animals is the debt I feel towards them.  Many of my most centred moments of clarity and happiness occur when I’m with them in nature. These are what I call my ‘real’ moments – time spent completely in the moment without awareness that one hour, five hours or 30 minutes may have idly past. These moments also have another important element in that they leave an indelible impression about the innate nature of connection and I know I’m a better person for the experience.

Over the years, what I’ve learnt about preventing cruelty to animals is it’s not just discussing the obvious. It’s often about ‘hidden’ cruelty, like supporting industries and practices that thrive on cruelty to animals. One example is purchasing decisions. Buying ‘free range’ instead of ‘caged’ products is one example of supporting the betterment of animals, and often all it takes to switch is information.

Animal protection organisation, Animals Australia’s recent and most talked about radio campaign ‘Lucy Speaks’ centres around the commonly accepted fact that a pig has the intelligence of a three-year-old child (pigs are very family-orientated, intelligent and capable of feeling pain as humans do). This series of advertisements is told from the point of view of a three-year-old who is forced to endure a permanent prison (sow stall) without family contact or stimulation or room to move or turn around. The campaign has been hugely powerful because everyone knows that it’s immeasurably cruel to subject a child to this torture.

This radio campaign was a tipping point, raising awareness of the plight of caged pigs. With this raised awareness, pressure from consumers on food outlets to stock free range products grew so much, it’s now changing the Australian pig industry. Within weeks of the radio campaign, major supermarket chain Coles announced that their Coles brand pork would be ‘sow stall free’ by the end of 2014. Although there’s still a long way to go in this fight against cruelty, particularly in legislation, this is a significant win. It also shows how with information and education, consumers can shift from purchasing ignorance to purchasing power.

Of course, animal cruelty is not just about ignorance, it can also be about circumstance. If you and your family have been surviving on a dancing bear for income for generations, know no other way of living, have no other access to income and live in a poor country, then getting rid of the bear is not an option likely to be considered. In this case, overcoming cruelty is not just about education that it’s cruel (often this is not known, cruelty is not intended but also not considered in the everyday survival of life), but also about providing the means and resources to an alternative income. It’s also about making the protection of animals more important and more income-beneficial than exploitation of them. [Thanks to Kartick Satyanarayan and his fantastic SOS Wildlife Program – they have been doing exactly this. Click here to find out more]

In 2007, after founding and editing a national animal magazine for several years (that also left our shores for 12 countries overseas) it was time for a change. The magazine involved me in the animal industry and I was exposed to many points of view about animals and people’s interactions with them. From what I knew and what I learnt, I wanted to create an organisation that rationally and compassionately sought to educate, facilitate and strategically find positive solutions to animal cruelty and its associated industries. So, I founded the Adore Animals Foundation, now a registered Australian charity, with our main charter to foster positive relationships between humans and animals.

In facilitating successful partnerships, our charter is not to criticise, but to find a way to solutions that have win-win outcomes for people and animals. Take the meat producing industry, which we have just exampled. While I’m a vegetarian, my personal choice is that I won’t eat what I can’t kill (and I can’t kill). Regardless, eating meat is everyone’s individual choice, so my goal is not to influence people’s choice to eat meat (although that would be great), but to influence people’s purchasing choices to buy the most humane meat product available. Of course this is also about labelling, or as the case may be, lack of labelling, but that’s another topic.

One objection I hear to eating free range is that it’s too expensive. To this, I pose an alternative view: there is no higher price to pay than to give up your life to sustain others. That animal has died to feed you and your family. So the question to ask yourself then, is it worth a couple of extra dollars to ensure that the life that is sustaining you is given a good life while it lives? It’s about humanity – we can make a difference and we do everyday, whether it is positive or otherwise.

Being a volunteer organisation and a Foundation is challenging. For one thing, we all need to generate income outside of the organisation (mine in communications contracting) and then come home to hours of volunteer work. The other is that there are many organisations out there for the good of society, asking you to donate to their cause. So we have taken a different approach, one of sustainability and of social enterprise, which we hope eventually will also provide our incomes.

At the Adore Animals Foundation we aim to produce products and provide events that are commercially viable, the only difference is, our profits go to non-profit causes, rather than to the profits of a company or individual.

To that end, our first social enterprise product is a coffee-table book called Moments of Connection on the benefits that animals have on children. Based on research and amazing photography, it’s a reminder of the value of these interactions and what animals teach us (the research findings are phenomenal).

Moments of Connection was produced to fund animal-related projects in recovery and prevention in the Black Saturday bushfire area. Just as the people are still recovering, so are the animals and their habitats. Through researching the still very urgent needs of the area, our projects are designed to provide both short and long term benefits for the animals. As we facilitate relationships, we work directly with local animal groups to help recovery and strategically build on reducing future devastating impacts on animals from bushfires.

Moments of Connection is a win-win-win situation – you receive a book or provide a beautiful gift for someone, education is enclosed in the book and all the profits go to helping animals. Better still, we’re finding companies willing to support our ventures who also see the value in making a difference!

Photo: Lisa Louden and baby orangutan at the Orangutan Care Centre, on the outskirts of Pangkalan Bun, Borneo 



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