The Dark Side of Animal Rescue

While so many of our posts are about the struggles we face in Vietnam trying to get some kind of financial stability, getting any kind of competent vet care, and needing staff and volunteers constantly while being overwhelmed with requests for rescues we can’t even help now, it’s important to remember that in all of this chaos, there have been great successes, many lives saved and changed forever. We are incredibly proud of being a nonspeciesist animal rights organisation, shelter and farm sanctuary working for long term change for all species in Vietnam and globally. It’s not easy, but it’s always worth it and the animals we’ve helped know exactly why we continue to do what we do.

As the person who writes 99% of our media, the one who started it and has seen the tremendous ups and downs over more than 6 years that have nearly broken me personally both emotionally and physically, I’ll admit, staying positive is extremely difficult. The absurd amount of work, coordination, money, and time it takes for JUST ONE rescue drains us all. I am reminded of that with these adoption success posts today and the memory of the years of care leading to the day I said goodbye to these animals I’ve loved like family. In the end, I know for a fact that the impact I wanted to have from the beginning is not being achieved due to the difficulty of accessing the veterinary, financial, legal, and human resources we require to progress and develop programs of high impact prevention rather than constantly cleaning up suffering that has already happened. Every day we hit more walls and waste more time trying to just stay open.

I’m a very self critical person and am hard on everyone I work with and live with because I know we all could do better. It’s damn hard work and it takes a lot of daily problem solving just to get through the insane BS that gets thrown at us. Most days I think my job is solely to communicate with morons and psychopaths around the world who couldn’t properly punctuate a sentence if their lives depended on it and who think sharing a post on Facebook or dumping a kitten at our gate makes them an animal advocate and rescuer. I get to meet a lot of really great people too, but they are definitely hard to remember on some days. Admittedly, I’m working my ass off on being less critical to others and myself, but this isn’t an easy job to make such improvements when the daily contact with preventable animal suffering is a big part of my job. Social media is a double-edged sword. I always strive for higher impact and better use of resources that will truly address the root of animal suffering and I get a TON of pushback as a result. Being a hardass means I will always fight for the animals rather than protect the fragility of human emotions and unfortunately, it means the media I produce can get pretty heavy. I don’t mean it to be this way, but I am a rather serious person to begin with and the reality of our work is that it is imperative that we face our own participation in animal suffering through the products we consume daily. If being told to go vegan hurts people’s feelings, I honestly could give two shits. If it upsets people that I am critical of the incredibly low level of veterinary care available to us from locally trained vets, I also am completely out of f***s for that criticism. (Did I mention how much I enjoy public profanity?…). Having high welfare standards and requirements that vets be GOOD at diagnosis and treatment isn’t something I will ever apologise for. Most of what I have to say about the reality of animal rights globally will get a lot of knickers in a twist, if not get people to unfollow us and hate me forever. Probably the only nice things I talk about involve the glorious progress of vegan camembert and blue cheeses being made nowadays. I just can’t say enough nice things about the vegan cheese revolution.

I’m not everyone’s cup of tea with my serious posts, deep disdain for the use of emoticons, and constant appeals for help and that’s fine. Most of the time I’m not my own cup of tea either, but I’m proud of the work we as an organisation have collectively been able to accomplish in spite of massive challenges and the lessons I’ve learned that continue to drive my passion for the mission. Those hard learned lessons push me to find and fund the solutions that will end animal suffering and develop the rescue sector from a herd of rag-tag kitten hoarders to a high impact, professional career field for educated and driven people who solve rather than perpetuate animal suffering through speciesism and hypocrisy. We clearly have a very long way to go, but I’m not done trying in vain to light the fire under the asses of those in the rescue and veterinary field and the fringe supporters lacking the experience from the inside I’ve gotten over the years around the world in animal rights.

Each one of those photos on our adoption success posts reminds me of those I loved as family who I have lost along the way, the animals we could not save, those lost or stolen in other homes, the animals who suffered and succumbed to the horrendous incompetence of the local vets, and the many I had to say no to due to lack of resources to care for them.  In addition, I remember the ones adopted who I will never see again who wake someone else up across the world instead of me at home in Hoi An. Loss, both good and bad, is a huge part of this job and anyone who does this for years is affected by it.  Our hearts break constantly and we kick on to the next animal who will also break out hearts because that is a job hazard we accepted. 

No one wants to see the loss we go through or hear of the stress we subject ourselves to in situations like this.  Everyone wants kittens and rainbows and the truth is that most of those kittens we see are drowned in the rivers and hit by motorbikes or dying of worm infestations and infectious disease. Those rainbows are only there for a brief glimpse after hurricane force winds and destruction.  They are fleeting and most of us cannot even see them as we are just keeping our heads above the floods. It is objectively a horrendous job.  Being positive about it feels obscene to me as it betrays the suffering we all experience along the way, both from those who suffered and died unnecessarily and those of us who could not save them. I will not sing the glories of rescue when the truth is that the funeral march is more appropriate. 

People often call me negative in spite of the fact that it takes a delusional level of optimism and positivity to pull this off day after day when you would murder small children for just the option to quit most of the time. I do not do this every day because I love it, but because I have been given the gift of being a relentless bitch whose resilience makes me ideal for a job that involves this much personal sacrifice.  I do it because above all, these animals are my family whether I have met them or not.  I’m not an “inspiration” for this fact as some may be mistaken, but just someone who is dead set on getting a message across that we as humans have no right to harm others, especially those most vulnerable and in need of our protection. Oddly enough, it is a pretty hard sell.

For all those who have seen us grow from the beginning the take hit after hit that shrank our resources and cut off our vital programs, thank you for sticking with us on this journey. While I so rarely meet these people on the other side of social media, please know that your support, both financial and emotional, have been crucial to keeping this going against all odds. The animals we have saved and will continue to save are your successes too. Thanks for allowing us the opportunity to give hope to those who otherwise had no chance.

I’m well aware of the odds against getting a new clinic open while we have $100 in the bank at all times, but this isn’t negotiable and I will relentlessly pursue this goal because the lives we have all saved together in these 6 years rely entirely on having access to vets who can actually help rather than hurt them. My experience with local vets gets worse and worse over the years and I just cannot accept that our rescue family has only this option along with every other animal in the region subjected to their incompetence and low standards of care. Health care should never be a luxury for animals or for people and it will be a very cold day in hell when I give up that fight. I’ll ask anyone and everyone every day of my life for help until that goal is accomplished because it will take an army, rather than just me and some in and out volunteers like last time, to pull off having consistent and competent vet care in central Vietnam.

If you can help us continue our vital work in Hoi An, please donate, foster, adopt, volunteer, and INVEST in our clinic and shelter.

I’m currently working remotely in Paris while veganizing my lifelong best friend with triple negative breast cancer so she doesn’t die, so please feel free to stop by or let me know where you are in the region so we can grab a coffee or vegan cheese plate and shoot the shit about animal rights and veterinary capacity building projects around the world and in Vietnam. And vegan cheese. I can always talk about vegan cheese.