Why I Created The Animalist
Early in 2019, I pitched an article about the mental health of overwhelmed animal rescue workers and volunteers to a number of UK publications.
I received very little interest in response.
It occurred to me that while there is a huge appetite from the public for stories of animal rescues - short, uplifting tales that have become a staple of viral internet content - relatively little has been written about the people behind the rescues.
Our stories are important too.
They're important because much of our work consists of picking up the pieces left behind by the public at large, which, despite all its affection for rescue-related content, is chronically guilty of poor decision-making related to animals. These include decisions that are outright callous, like say, shooting a seagull with an air rifle, and decisions that are merely irresponsible, like letting your unneutered cat out to roam. Both are equally destructive - though those who indulge in the second kind rarely seem aware of just how much.
And they're important because we're struggling, and that should be acknowledged. As by comprehending the immense challenges that animal rescue workers face, you in turn comprehend the sheer scale of the problems of animal neglect, abuse, exploitation, and erosion of the natural world. Perhaps if you walked a day in the shoes of someone in rescue - even it is only through this blog - you'd understand why it's so important not to buy a puppy from Gumtree, or install netting that entangles birds, or get a cool looking exotic pet only to sell it a month later.
Because I don't believe that the average person is aware of the sheer number of calls, emails, messages and Facebook tags (oh, the endless tags) that a single charity, group, or individual involved in this field can receive on a daily basis. I don't think they're aware that we are perpetually overwhelmed, overworked, under paid, or in the cases of volunteers or 'independent' rescuers, not paid at all.
That's not to say that there is no lighter side. Those heartwarming rescue stories that have become so popular on the internet - well, rescue employees and volunteers not only get to experience them first-hand, but get to go through life knowing that they made them happen. And nothing energizes you like that knowledge - the relisation that this animal is alive because of me - and at times that seems to equip you with a near super-human level of endurance - an ability to go on when all your resources, personal and practical, are spent.
But this in itself is a double-edged sword, because you will soon find that nothing takes priority over saving a life. When your conscience and your work - voluntary or paid - are intertwined, inseparable, this blurs the line between job and moral duty, the latter of which is not bound by conventional work hours, does not care if you're exhausted, have no space to take in any more animals, or are out of money to feed them.
We are a community of people whose life savings have been eaten up by vet bills, who have not had a single night out for three months, unless you count midnight call outs for rescues, and whose phones vibrate non-stop when we eventually do grace a social occasion. We persevere despite never seeming to have enough funds, time or facilities to meet our workloads. And when these things are lacking, we are fueled instead by obligation, sometimes by guilt and often by caffeine, but foremost, by a belief in the value of lives that much of the world sees as disposable.
I started this blog to tell their stories - and ours.