Anne Fawcett

Anne Fawcett

“Animal welfare science has provided us with enough evidence to justify behavioural change.”

 

Anne Fawcett. All photographs by Jo-Anne McArthur.

Anne Fawcett is a veterinarian, a lecturer in veterinary ethics and professional practice, the author of a book on veterinary ethics, and a columnist on issues relating to companion and other animals. To put it simply: her life revolves around animals.

 

Despite her obvious passion for animals and their care, Fawcett didn’t initially think of becoming a vet; she first studied philosophy and ethics. But when it came time to graduate, she found that there weren’t many paid jobs available for an ethicist. Rethinking her future, she asked herself that question repeated by careers counsellors everywhere: “What do I really love?” Her answer was spending time with animals, and she decided to maximise that. She went on to study veterinary science and began working in small animal practice.

I was one of those kids who would always proclaim ‘I love animals!’ yet my behaviour wasn’t aligned with this.

For Fawcett, working with animals inspired a shift in how she sees them. “I was one of those kids who would always proclaim ‘I love animals!’ yet my behaviour wasn’t aligned with this. For example, I would sweep up and vigorously embrace our family cat, even though she clearly hated this and always struggled out of my arms,” she remembers. “I loved going to the zoo, but for many years failed to reflect on the fact that while the captive state of the animal allowed me to have an up-close, photogenic experience, that animal continued to live in that enclosure 24/7, 365 days per year, sometimes for decades.”

While many of us consider ourselves to be animal lovers, she believes the challenge is to align our behaviours with those values, and to give thought to how even our most well-intentioned actions impact on others. For Fawcett, truly caring for animals requires observing and understanding their behaviours and acting with consideration for their wants and needs.This is a lesson that speaks to the core of her work, one that informs her teaching and advocacy, and one that is fundamental to her worldview. “I expected animals to fit into my world without realising just how little choice or control they have.” The focus, she believes, should not be what we think and feel, but what we do for animals.

Fawcett uses her position as a companion animal vet to advocate for more conscientious care for animals. In consultations, her human clients often reveal the same disconnect that she experienced between positive intentions and negative outcomes for animals. Cats and dogs come into the clinic with obesity-related illnesses from overfeeding, or behavioural problems due to poor socialisation – the effects of loving an animal without understanding its needs.

One of the reasons we don’t change our behaviour in the light of evidence is the overwhelming force of habit. It’s a constant, daily battle.

She also advocates for continual learning and reviewing of established practices within veterinary science and animal science more broadly. One of the major achievements of animal science in recent years is the boom in evidence to support animal sentience (the ability of non-human animals to feel pain and pleasure, and to experience emotions in the same way that we do). As she became aware of this body of evidence, Fawcett decided to stop consuming animal products. “I felt that continuing to eat animal products was a conflict of interest,” she explains. “Surely the type of use we put animals to influences the type of life we will give them.”

Fawcett feels it is the responsibility of a good scientist to respond to scientific evidence by changing their behaviour and practice. She says, “Animal welfare science has provided us with enough evidence to justify behavioural change. One of the reasons we don’t change our behaviour in the light of evidence is the overwhelming force of habit. It’s a constant, daily battle.”

But Fawcett is seeing positive change. She sees veterinarians paying closer attention to their patients’ welfare, focussing on alleviating fear, pain, and discomfort, and investing in study to refine their practice to improve patient wellbeing.

Through her blog, Small Animal Talk, Fawcett shares information about animal welfare, encouraging colleagues and those with companion animals to reflect on their relationships with them. She also promotes veterinary continuing education and reflective practice, speaking to veterinary students and colleagues about how they can put animal welfare first. She advocates for animals by communicating scientific developments, such as the evidence around sentience, to the mainstream media, and influences policy relating to animal welfare by sitting on various committees. It’s a job that takes commitment and perseverance.

I felt that continuing to eat animal products was a conflict of interest.

“Sometimes I feel like my to-do list is a bit of a dog’s breakfast,” she says. “But if there’s a common thread, it’s about applying knowledge, learning, educating myself and others and making conscious, thoughtful choices about the way we impact these other creatures we share the planet with. And trying to translate my own “love” for animals into behaviour that genuinely benefits them.”


Learn more about Fawcett’s work.

Text by Anna Mackiewicz. Photos by Jo-Anne McArthur. 

Dr. Aline de Aluja

Dr. Aline de Aluja

“As long as I can hear and talk, I still defend animals.”

Dr. Aline de Aluja. All photographs by Jo-Anne McArthur.

Driving to meet Dr. Aline de Aluja, her two colleagues talk about her enthusiastically.  She’s definitely an extrovert, they say, direct, extremely sincere, and guided by a strong code of ethics. This is a woman, now 97 years old, who has dedicated her life to reforming animal welfare in Mexico.

When we arrive at her home –– a big house filled with her father’s antiques and fascinating finds from around the world –– two exuberant dogs greet us. One, Canela, was found by de Aluja’s grandson, abandoned. He brought her to live with de Aluja, who took her in with open arms. It’s just one of the many small acts of kindness for which she is famed.

De Aluja was one of the first women to study veterinary medicine in Mexico. She thinks she may have been the fifth female student, at a time when there was not even a female bathroom at the school. She had always wanted to become a vet, but her father wasn’t keen on the idea. “It was quite unusual at that time for a woman to become a vet. Now, there are more women than men vets!”

De Aluja’s concern for animals began at boarding school in Germany, where she attended the same school as Prince Phillip. There, she was the director of the school’s ‘zoo,’ which was home to rabbits, guinea pigs, and a goat, all of whom she loved dearly. One evening, returning to the school after a vacation, she ran to check on the animals, only to find the goat missing. She asked the kitchen staff where the animal was and was told that she would be eating the goat for dinner.

I am convinced that they are aware of everything.

The shock and sadness this caused her motivated de Aluja to become a vegetarian on the spot, a commitment that she has maintained for eighty years. In Europe, even in the 1930s, de Aluja says it wasn’t particularly unusual to turn down meat. However, when she moved to Mexico with her family at age 18, it was a different story. Like many others living in Spain during Franco’s military dictatorship, her father fled to Mexico.

Moving wasn’t easy. When she began studying at university, she encountered the retorts of her fellow veterinary students. “It seemed to them rather eccentric that I didn’t eat meat. They thought that it was absolutely necessary to eat meat; many people do.”

“In Mexico, people are not animal-minded,” she explains. It was different to the culture in Europe, where she observed that people were very attached to their animals. The prevalence of Catholicism in Mexico has something to do with it, she says. “The attitude is, animals have no soul and so they don’t feel, and they are not aware of things. And that is very difficult because I am convincedthat they are aware of everything.”

I don’t care whether they laugh, because I know that I’m right.

Most of her cohort went into small animal practice. Not one to go with the grain, de Aluja began practicing with farmed and working animals. This was challenging, as farmers and labourers typically couldn’t afford to pay for veterinary care.

For many years she taught and spoke at universities, where she was laughed at for her focus on animal welfare. Still, she persisted. “I don’t care whether they think that I’m a little ridiculous,” de Aluja declares. “I don’t care whether they laugh, because I know that I’m right.” These days they don’t laugh, and concern for animal welfare is increasing.

Her favorite part of her job is working with the poor, teaching communities to take care of their animals. She inspires change by showing people that it’s profitable for them to treat their animals well, keeping them healthy and productive. “It is not easy, but I think it is very necessary,” she says.

As long as I can hear and talk, I still defend animals.

De Aluja founded the Donkey Project, in collaboration with the UK’s Donkey Sanctuary, sending teams of veterinarians into the Mexican countryside to provide much-needed medical attention to donkeys, who are used in gruelling labour and receive little food or care for their hooves.

Has she achieved change in animal welfare in the country? “I don’t think so,” she says modestly. Her colleagues disagree. Thanks to de Aluja there is now an ethology department at the university, giving academics and practitioners training in animal welfare. She has been influential in the faculty, which is using the Donkey Project as a model for further outreach work in rural Mexico. Many people look up to her as a leader in Mexican animal welfare. “Do you think I have achieved that?” she asks, surprised. “Well that would be very nice!”

De Aluja hasn’t stopped working for animals since graduating almost 70 years ago, and she has no plans to retire. “If you are convinced of something, even if you retire, I would still go on doing the same sort of work. As long as I can hear and talk, I still defend animals.”


Photos by Jo-Anne McArthur. Interview and text by Anna Mackiewicz.

 

Dulce Ramírez

Dulce Ramírez

“I deeply admire women who have done investigations”

 

Dulce Ramírez. All photos by Jo-Anne McArthur.

The first time that I meet Dulce Ramírez, I compliment her on her name – Dulce means ‘sweet’ in Spanish. “I am the opposite,” she says resolutely.

Those who know her agree. A colleague described her as “Persistent and tenaciously persuasive.” She’s also undeniably brave and focused. All valuable qualities when you are leading an animal rights organization in Mexico, a country where culture and national identity are so firmly rooted in food. In Mexico, food is about family, history and culture – and it is dominated by meat and cheese.

For Ramírez, it all started 13 years ago when she found a kitten on the patio behind her house. By caring for this kitten, “I began to understand the emotional world of animals, their needs, and their intelligence,” she explains. “I began to search for information and question more and more the relationship of subjugation we impose on other animals.” The more she learnt, the more it became clear to her that she wanted to advocate for animals.

Fast forward to June 2011, when the Spanish government arrested 12 animal rights activists linked to Igualdad Animal (Animal Equality) in Spain, labeling them ‘eco-terrorists’. Hearing this news, Ramírez contacted the founder and president of Igualdad Animal, Sharon Núñez, to express solidarity with the activists. The following year, the Mexico chapter of Igualdad Animal was founded, with Ramírez at the helm.

“The first thing we did was to show how Mexican industrial farming works.”

In the six years since, Igualdad Animal Mexico has achieved big things. Their first campaign brought animal groups in the state of Jalisco together to successfully end the use of animals in circuses. The organization has developed educational programs, petitioned for legislative changes, and conducted corporate outreach, encouraging companies to adopt policies that benefit animals, such as offering more plant-based options.

For the last two years, the organization has focused on improving the lives of farmed animals. As is the case in most countries, Mexico has virtually no legal protections for farmed animals. But while in some other regions the conversation about farm animal welfare is already well-established in the public discourse, that isn’t the case in Mexico. Given the victories coming for farm animals worldwide and the number of farmed raised and killed in Mexico each year, Ramírez believes this makes Mexico a prime target for bold campaigns and big changes. “For that reason, the first thing we did was to show how Mexican industrial farming works.”

At the foundation of this is investigative work, which Ramírez says is without doubt the most powerful ingredient for creating change. It is these investigations that, by documenting the lives of animals in factory farms, bring focus and strategy to the animal rights movement, she says. Without this footage, animal groups would struggle to develop hard-hitting public campaigns and educational resources telling the true stories of animals in animal use industries.

“I deeply admire women who have done investigations.” 

Ramírez is one of only a few female investigators in the country. The work carries huge risks to personal safety, as well as the emotional toll of witnessing the intense suffering of animals.

“The challenge is always when, at the end of the day, you arrive home and the images come back into your head, you have the smell impregnated on your clothes and body, and it all takes you back.”

What inspires her to do this difficult work? “I deeply admire women who have done investigations, who take pictures of the most terrible situations and who transform it into struggle and activism to change the lives of the animals,” she says.

Igualdad Animal Mexico isn’t done setting precedents for the country. New investigations are planned and the group’s corporate campaigns continue. Their current legislative push — ending the use of cages for laying hens — is in full swing. They also plan to launch LoveVeg, a public education platform focused on changing consumer habits, in Mexico.

Leading the way, and with so many hearts and minds to change, Ramírez knows she is exactly where she needs to be.


Learn more and support Animal Equality.
Photographs by Jo-Anne McArthur. Interview and text by Anna Mackiewicz.

Eight Women Changing The World For Animals Through Food

Eight Women Changing The World For Animals Through Food

“I always say that I lead with the carrot and
not the stick, quite literally.”

 

In many ways, the food industry is still a man’s world. But while hatted restaurants and celebrity chef titles are dominated by men, it’s often women who are changing the game when it comes to food innovation and accessibility.

Veganism is the fastest-growing food movement, and it’s more than just a trend. Plant-based eating is here to stay, and women are leading the charge. Through innovative and delicious vegan cooking, baking, cheese-making, plant-based meats and nutritional education, women are transforming the way we think about food, our health, and our relationships with other animals.

With creativity and purpose, women are setting the agenda for the plant-based food movement, and, with their out-of-this-world social media smarts, are bringing compassionate eating into kitchens everywhere. In their hands, food becomes a means of powerful activism, inspiring people around the world to rethink their food choices and habits, and changing the world for animals in the process.

Meet eight women changing the world for animals through food:


Lauren Toyota/Hot For Food

Lauren Toyota. Photo by: Vanessa Heins

Hot For Food has been cooking up a storm around the world. The woman behind the movement, Lauren Toyota, loves creating vegan versions of classic comfort foods – think mac and cheese, saucy burgers, and even cheesecake! Toyota is bringing veganism into the mainstream and proving plant-based food is far from boring.

I always say just do it. Whatever dream or idea you have, just start. Take a step in the direction of your dreams. There’s room for everyone and we need as many advocates as we can get. So stop thinking about it and just take action!

Learn more about Toyota’s work and follow on her Facebook and Instagram.


Anna Pippus/Easy Animal-Free

Anna Pippus. Photo courtesy of Anna Pippus.

Anna Pippus of Instagram account @easyanimalfree is all about keeping things simple – no complicated recipes or hours of prepping; just home-cooked meals thrown together using what’s on hand and what’s in season. Rather than another book of complicated recipes, Pippus saw a need for people to know how to throw a quick meal together, use leftovers and in-season produce, and have a sense of foods that go well together. She uses social media to share her personal recipes and lifestyle tips, and shares stories from her own life raising a vegan family.

It’s hard to underestimate the role of food in farmed animal advocacy. I believe that our movement will be won on food first, not ethics. It’s starting to happen now! My goal is to teach people how to feed themselves and their families — if they have them — simple and delicious plant-based food!

Learn more about Pippus’ work and follow on her Facebook and Instagram.


Colleen Patrick-Goudreau/Joyful Vegan

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. Photo courtesy of Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.

Twenty years ago, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau was a young activist leafleting and organising animal rights demonstrations. Today, she is the award-winning author of several books, host of two podcasts, and is a thought leader on the culinary, social, ethical, and practical aspects of living compassionately and healthfully.

I believe that when we change the way we think about and perceive other animals, we change the way we treat them.

Learn more about Patrick-Goudreau’s work and follow her on Facebook and Instagram.


Day Radley/Vegan Chef Day

Day Radley. Photo courtesy of Day Radley.

On top of her work as a private chef, Day Radley is an educator, spreading her love of healthy vegan eating by teaching professional chefs plant-based food and presenting cooking demonstrations around the United Kingdom. Her food is the perfect combination of nutritious and delicious, teaching that compassionate eating can be for everyone.

I always say that I lead with the carrot and not the stick, quite literally. This approach shifts the focus from a negative where you talk about animal abuse. Many people can shut down with the discussion of what is really happening to animals in farming. But everyone is open to seeing great food pictures and being inspired in the kitchen.

Learn more about Radley’s work and follow her on Facebook and Instagram.


Tammy Fry/Fry’s Family Foods + Seed Blog

Tammy Fry. Photo courtesy of Tammy Fry.

Growing up in a family of vegetarians in South Africa, Tammy Fry was surrounded by the plant-based meats of The Fry Family Food Co., now known around the world for its home-style meat alternatives. With a passion for empowering others to live happier, more energetic lifestyles, Fry shares recipes, lifestyle tips and plant-based advocacy ideas through her Seed blog and workshops.

The question is not ‘can you make a difference?’ You already do. It’s just a matter of what kind of difference you choose to make. Go out there and make positive change happen!

Learn more about Fry’s work and follow her on Facebook and Instagram.


Lynda Turner/Fauxmagerie Zengarry

Lynda Turner with Carla and Eddy. Photo courtesy of Lynda Turner.

As a scientist, Lynda Turner had always been interested in health and how lifestyle choices affect our health. After switching to a vegan diet eight years ago, Turner realized that there was a need for more convenient vegan options and started experimenting with making plant-based cheeses. After encouragement from her (very non-vegan) friends and family, she founded Fauxmagerie Zengarry to offer satisfying non-dairy cheese options and she hasn’t looked back since!

In an industry that is brand new, there is no recipe to follow. I have had to figure things out as I went along… If people have more amazing vegan options that are easy, convenient and readily available, my hope is that more people will make more educated and compassionate dietary choices on a daily basis. Every choice counts.

Learn more about Turner’s work and follow her on Facebook and Instagram.


Erin Ireland/To Die For Fine Foods 

Erin Ireland. Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur.

In 2011, Erin founded her Vancouver-based bakery wholesaler, To Die For Fine Foods, and turned the whole company vegan soon after. Today, Vancouver vegans don’t need to go out of their way to find to die for baked goods because they’re in just about every neighbourhood, and non-vegans are discovering in droves that modern vegan food is every bit as delicious as its traditional counterparts. Ireland also organizes community events like book clubs and movie screenings to help people learn about what is happening to animals and how a plant-based, compassionate lifestyle can make a difference.

Every day, I wake up and think about the countless sentient animals who are being used by humans unnecessarily, against their will. My heart bleeds for these incredible creatures who are intelligent and intuitive in ways we can’t possibly understand. I dream of peace on Earth, which won’t be achieved until our world is vegan.

Learn more about Ireland’s work and follow her on Facebook and Instagram.


Latham Thomas/Glow Maven

Latham Thomas. Photo courtesy of Latham Thomas.

Latham Thomas is a sought-after wellness guru and doula, helping women to have the best pregnancy, birth, and mothering experience possible. She was named one of Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul 100, and is the founder of  Mama Glow, which offers inspiration, education, and holistic services for expectant and new mamas. She teaches self-care practices to help women live their best, plant-based lives.

Learn more about Thomas’ work and follow her on Facebook and Instagram.


Text by Anna Mackiewicz.

 

Lynn Simpson

Lynn Simpson

“It’s simply a cruel, shameful chapter of our country that belongs in the dark ages.” 

 

All images of Lynn Simpson were taken by Jo-Anne McArthur at the University of Sydney’s veterinary school.

D r. Lynn Simpson is tough. For ten years she worked in a challenging, almost lawless, male-dominated industry, as a senior veterinarian aboard Australian live export ships.

Each ship carries up to 20,000 cows or 100,000 sheep for weeks at a time over vast seas, only to be slaughtered once they reach their destinations.

It is an industry that has frequently been in the media spotlight for shocking animal cruelty – in recent weeks to the point of public cries for the entire industry to be ended for good. Simpson is one of very few women to have seen the harsh realities of this trade first hand.

Simpson decided to become a veterinarian at the age of six, when she first discovered that being an animal doctor was a profession. In her third year of vet school she got a job on the wharf in Fremantle loading livestock onto ships. Simpson remembers seeing dead and injured animals being dragged off the trucks that had come from the farms. It was here that she first realised something was wrong, that these animals were suffering.

It was clear to all that what we were involved with was wrong, however, at least we were bearing witness and taking complaints back to shore to push for reform.

Within three weeks of graduating, she took her first live export voyage on a ship bound for Saudi Arabia. Over the next ten years she would work on 57 voyages. It was an exciting career full of adventure, which saw her sailing through environmental disasters, war zones, and pirated waters.

Because of the sheer number of animals she looked after, and the severity of their suffering, her work seemed larger than life. It was also chaotic, filthy, and brutal. On board, the overcrowded animals suffered heat stress, suffocation, starvation, and thirst, so tightly packed they were often unable to easily reach water as they were shipped into the heart of Middle Eastern summer. Lying down meant they were likely to be trampled by the other desperate animals beside them. Mother cows and sheep suffered miscarriages or stillbirths; still more had their babies crushed to death under the sea of hooves. Simpson describes the animals on one voyage as actually having melted, “cooking from the inside.” She spent her days seeing to their injuries, doing what she could to relieve their suffering, and euthanizing those she could not help.

What kept her going on those harsh journeys? “Black humour,” she says, “and wine.” Knowing she was providing a meaningful service to the animals by trying to reduce their suffering also gave her a sense of purpose. “It was clear to all that what we were involved with was wrong, however, at least we were bearing witness and taking complaints back to shore to push for reform.”

Over the years Simpson made countless reports to the Government detailing the bloody reality of life aboard the ships, but her concerns for the welfare of the animals went ignored. Only the number of deaths was recorded.

Like many ‘whistle-blowers’ I was simply doing my job, reporting to authorities and working to improve welfare.

Then, Simpson was offered the opportunity to make a lasting difference to the welfare of animals in the live export industry. In 2012 she was offered a job as a technical advisor with the Department of Agriculture, the live-export industry regulator, while it carried out a review of the Australian Standards for Exporting Livestock.

The report she submitted exposed the cruelty and suffering at the heart of the live export trade. Her evidence, including graphic photographs, was an unprecedented body of work documenting the horrors routinely occurring on board. Simpson felt she was making a powerful case for reform of the industry – she was finally being heard.

When the evidence was accidentally leaked to the public in 2013, it was explosive, blowing apart claims by the industry that animal welfare was a top priority. It also ended Simpson’s career. She was gradually dismissed from her position under pressure from live exporters, revealing undue influence of industry within government. She was ostracized by her colleagues and blacklisted by the industry. “It was a very lonely and frustrating time,” she says. “Like many ‘whistle-blowers’ I was simply doing my job, reporting to authorities and working to improve welfare.”

Since her dismissal, Simpson has been unable to work in the industry to which she gave ten years of her life. But there was a silver lining: “I could then strategize to speak up loudly and raise awareness, knowing I had nothing to lose.”

Simpson’s vast experience within the industry has given her advocacy a credibility that other whistle-blowers don’t have. Where many have been discredited as ill-informed, Simpson has years’ worth of hard evidence behind her. Her voice holds weight.

Simpson has left a powerful legacy in the fight to end live export, both from within the industry and from the outside. In the years since her explosive dismissal, her story has paved the way for more whistleblowers to come forward, keeping the issue in the public eye.

“It’s simply a cruel, shameful chapter of our country that belongs in the dark ages.” she says with absolute conviction.


To follow the story about live transport in Australia, visit Animals Australia.
Photos by Jo-Anne McArthur. Interview and text by Anna Mackiewicz.