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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Activism Down Under Part 2: The Aussies

As my last blog post explained, I was recently in New Zealand speaking at their national animal rights conference. Since I had flown that far already, it made sense to travel to Australia as well. I had never been there so I was looking forward to meeting activists with whom I had worked on various campaigns.

Before starting Food Empowerment Project, I was the Executive Director of a group called Viva!USA, and one of our campaigns we ran was against Adidas for their use of kangaroo skins for their soccer cleats.

Over the years, I have had the privilege of spending time with animals in a more natural environment at sanctuaries throughout the United States. It is truly a joy to be around animals like ducks, pigs, chickens, turkeys, cows, and sheep, especially since people often think of them as food. But observing them when they are allowed to be the individuals they are, indulging in their instinctual behaviors, well, it can be a life-altering experience. Yet one animal I had spent years protecting, and one I was unsure if I would ever see in person, is the kangaroo.

I was lucky enough to meet one of the activists I have been working with on behalf of roos: Lindy Stacker. Because I had never met Lindy in person, she brought along a special companion so I would recognize her at the airport. There is nothing quite like being greeted by an incredible woman/activist and an inflatable kangaroo!

Lindy took us to an orphanage where we met a baby wallaby and both Eastern and Red Kangaroos. We were able to touch them, and I even felt the tail of a Red Kangaroo hit my leg; his strength was amazing.

We also met another individual who deserves mention. His name is Howard Ralph.

Howard is a medical doctor, surgeon, aesthetician, and a veterinarian. He is all of these and, well, an incredibly humble and gentle man.

After some coaxing from Lindy, he eventually handed me a photo album wrapped in a pillow case.

I had anticipated seeing images of injured kangaroos whom he had helped heal. What I had not expected to see was the range of animals this man has sought to help and cure: the small frog whose leg was broken and he put a pin in to fix, tortoises whose shells had been cracked when they were hit by a car, the wombat with cataracts, as well as the snakes, kangaroos, owls, possums, koalas, echidna, bats, and more.

His thought and practice has been, if you can help humans with this experience, why not animals?

The pictures in his “bible” were of animals before, during, and after surgery.

Here is one story: A bearded dragon suffered a fractured mandible after being hit by a car. Under anesthetic, the fracture was pinned and, because the lizard wouldn’t be able to eat for some months while his fracture healed, an oesopitalostomy tube was inserted to allow him to eat until he was well again. According to Howard, the patient healed.

There is also the story of the brushtail possum who was taken to the vet and was going to be killed because he had a broken arm! Just because of a broken arm. Luckily, the vet’s nurse knew about Howard, and she took the possum to see him.

More stories and even images can be seen here:

Unfortunately, donations are difficult to send from the states, but Food Empowerment Project plans to do some sort of event to showcase Howard’s efforts and raise needed funds for his clinic, Southern Cross Wildlife Care, which truly embodies the belief that every individual matters. (Everything that is done at this clinic, including the work of Howard and Lindy, is done as volunteers; the clinic receives no government funding.)

The world needs more doctors like Howard Ralph. If they have the experience, they should put their talents into practice to save lives – all lives, big and small.

Of course, we need not be a gifted vet to help animals. We all have the power to impact their lives every day by choosing to keep them off our plates.

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