The picture above is from an LA times article detailing how John Fiske, a lawyer, decided that eating meat was wrong and dedicated some of his fortune to opening an animal rescue for factory farm animals. Many of us don’t have the sort of salary a lawyer does to undertake such a project, but we still feel the need to contribute in a way beyond deliberate non-participation in the meat system.
Enter vegan animal rescues and farm sanctuaries. Volunteer work can be extremely rewarding, particularly for those of us that have a harder time proselytizing due to social anxiety. In a rescue we find ourselves making direct impact on rescued animal’s lives, surrounded by a community of like-minded individuals. It can be extremely empowering to visit and volunteer each week or month as well, because even in moments of activist burnout, we know we made a direct impact, no matter how small.
Working at an animal sanctuary can be hard work, but often ends up being therapeutic. It can instill a feeling of hope, in that at least the animals in the rescue and those like it get to live out their lives freely in recovery for their experiences. If you’ve ever suffered trauma or other issues, working with animals can also help re-instill a sense of purpose in your life. For those of us of size, the animals don’t care, and neither do the other volunteers. We’re all here for them, so generally the sort of petty squabbling that we see in other segments of the vegan community is absent. Not always, but usually.
Some people also find reward in working for pounds and companion animal shelters. Generally, it’s better to work for no-kill shelters than for state run facilities that euthanize, but the decision is really left to the volunteer. Some people find solace in making an animal’s last moments wonderful, while others have experienced mild PTSD from the sight of many euthanized animals. If there are volunteer positions open at a no-kill, it’s often the safest choice.
Even if you don’t live near a farm sanctuary or animal rescue, you can still make a difference by contributing to one. Many are 501(c)3, so your donation might even be tax deductible! As a lot of rescues run entirely on donation money, these contributions can be said to be equally important to time spent with the animals themselves, as without them the sanctuaries could never exist. Plus, if you ever get around to visiting, you might even get to meet the animal or animals you’ve been sponsoring, which in and of itself is an amazing feeling.
Locating a sanctuary can be a tricky thing, but a quick google search usually brings up a few of them. Many are in rural areas, so travel time might vary, but quite a few host “work parties” that don’t even require a prior commitment. Some shelters have monthly work program sign-up lists, which helps when you want to make a regular commitment but can’t make the drive every week. If you live in the heart of a city, a no-kill companion animal shelter may be easier to locate for volunteer work.
Here are a couple of directories to get you started:
- The No Kill Society’s Shelters (US, UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland)
- Vegan.com’s List of Farm Rescues (US, Australia, Canada, Germany, India, Netherlands, Spain, UK)
- Animal Charity Evaluator’s List of Organizations (Has tags for Veg/Vegan organizations that help farm animals too!)
- Vegan Revolution’s List of Animal Sanctuaries (US and Canada)
- Vegan Foster And Volunteers List of Sanctuaries (New Zealand)
Feel free to comment or message me about organizations or directories you’d like to see included in this post, along with volunteer stories! I plan on compiling them for a future column on volunteer work and contributions to the vegan cause, if you’d like to be included let me know.
Good luck, and happy volunteer/sponsoring!