Let’s Talk About Sanctuaries

sanctuary
source: flickr

After writing the recent piece The Truth About Cats And Dogs, more than a few comments were made saying that there was no difference between people who ‘rescue’ cats and dogs and those who manage animal ‘sanctuaries’.

Is there really no difference or are those people who do have cats, dogs and birds trying to elevate their position further by comparing themselves to sanctuaries?

I believe that there are huge fundamental differences between keeping a pet at home, and animals being kept in a sanctuary.  To clarify things here before all sorts of assumptions are made, when I say and refer to a sanctuary, I am referring to those that are set up for the sole purpose of rescuing those animals that are used in animal agriculture. I am not talking about those sanctuaries that are nothing more than zoos. This also includes the ‘sanctuary’ that was referred to in the piece Appraisal of Good and Evil.

To begin with, visitors who attend an animal sanctuary, are under no illusion as to where the animals came from, and the conditions that they would normally be housed in, if they had have remained in the animal agricultural system. The same cannot necessarily be said for those who have cats and dogs.

If you took your ‘rescued’ dog out to an off leash area for him or her to have a bit of a run around, will you be able to talk to every single person that may see D-fer, that they are a ‘rescued’ animal, and that buying from a store or breeder is the ‘wrong’ thing to do when there are so many in a shelter up for sale?

Then there is the matter of the size of the ‘backyard’, that the dog has to ‘play’ in. Most people keep their ‘rescued’ dog in a standard suburban backyard, whereas an animal in a sanctuary usually has a number of acres to ‘play’ or roam around in. If the pet is a cat, the owner usually does one of two things. They either let their cat roam the neighbourhood and have an impact on the other animals there, or these animals are confined indoors for the rest of their lives. From this aspect alone, there is a huge difference between the two.

Next comes the amount of noise that an animal is able to make. An animal that is kept domestically is usually not able to communicate when and in a way they feel like, without being chastised by their human owner.  If the animals continue to make a noise, complaints can be made regarding this, which could possibly result in the animal being taken away from his or her owner.Whereas an animal kept on a farm is able to make as much or as little noise as they feel like.

Once again, this shows the difference between the two.

There there is the issue of the socialisation and social structure of the animals. Your average ‘pet’, is either forced to live in solitary confinement or with others that they may not necessarily get along with. Whereas the animals in a sanctuary get to live with their own species, and form their own social hierarchy. So, once again, there is a huge difference between keeping an animal as a pet, and those animals in a sanctuary.

Whilst there are still more areas that can be pointed out showing the differences between the two, I am hoping that this will be enough for those readers who are more open minded regarding this subject. Those who aren’t will undoubtedly find things where they claim they are the same, and use that similarity to continue keep other animals as pets.

If you do feel the need to ‘save’ or ‘rescue’ an animal, why don’t you donate that money to an animal sanctuary? Whilst I do understand that there won’t be the ‘status’ attached to it, by telling everyone that you have ‘rescued’ an animal, you will be doing a heap more for the animals. So long as the sanctuary that you are donating to promotes veganism.

If you feel that you just ‘have’ to spend time with an animal(s) to feel better about things, why don’t you volunteer your time to work at the sanctuary as well?

After all, we are doing this for the animals aren’t we?

This article was written by the founder of VeganPolice.com.au, Cameron Blewett.

Cameron is a long term vegan (25+yrs), and is passionate about veganism, and helping people to understand more about animal rights.

You can find Cameron’s other rants on his website, CameronBlewett.xyz

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3 Comments

  1. Many sanctuaries charge/encourage a ‘donation’ entry and entice ppl by saying they can meet and interact with the animals. So according to your definition they are all similar to zoos. It can also take a lot of money to care for a large farm animal. I have adopted rat and mice. At a rough guess I could provide 50+ rodents with care at same cost as a cow/pig/sheep/goat. You say sanctuary animals have their pick of friends. There may only be a few animals of each species so that is not exactly giving animals a large choice. Many ppl who do adopt/rescue do actually want companionship too. why else are many vegans adopting the most friendly of species. I wouldnt mind volunteering but nothing close to me and i dont know about volunteering somewhere that feeds animals to other animals. In the scheme of things, I don’t know why you feel the need to discuss this topic of all things. There are more pressing matters.

    • Hi Vanessa,
      It depends on the type of sanctuary, and what it does as to whether it is the same as a zoo or not.

      For example, Healesville Sanctuary is definitely a zoo and is part of Zoos Victoria, whereas Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary on Queensland’s Gold Coast is a theme park. I do not believe that the way that the animals are treated at Edgar’s Mission is consistent with the ideals of veganism, and those seeking an end to the exploitation of other animals.

      All of that aside, what do you think I should be discussing if I can’t discuss this?

  2. I don’t believe people were saying there was ‘no difference’ between those who rescue cats, dogs or other animals, and sanctuaries. What i think they were saying is that putting sanctuaries on a ‘good’ side, and those who rescue animals on a ‘bad’ side is creating an artificial fence between activities that are more related than they are different.

    For instance, as Vanessa said, some sanctuaries that you’d put on the ‘good’ side, encourage ‘donations’ – even on ‘open’ days – or more generally require fees. Do they have more interest in the animals they care for than zoos? They might restrict the contact people have with the animals in their care, and give them more freedom, but they will allow that contact – for a fee.

    Of course sanctuaries like this need money to run, but some are very money focused. They run very few – if any – events – that don’t ask for either donations or, more commonly, outright fees. Others rely more on donations – although of course these are more unpredictable.

    Vegans who rescue animals take on the financial burden – which can be significant – themselves. In this respect, you might even say they’re superior to these types of money focused sanctuaries.

    You state that while people are under no illusions as to where farmed animals come from and the conditions they’re normally housed in, this isn’t necessarily true for cats and dogs. Is it necessarily true for farmed animals? That is, do people really know where they come from and the conditions they’re normally housed in?

    If so, then that would defeat the purpose of some sanctuaries, which are set up at least partly to introduce people to other animals in person, hopefully let them know where they came from, and get them thinking about our use of animals.

    So i don’t think that people do necessarily know where farmed animals came from and the conditions they’re normally housed in. Given that cows raised for milk and flesh commonly get to graze outside in Australia, maybe some people even think they’re treated fairly well across the board.

    Then you talk about how people who see rescued animals such as dogs and won’t know that they’re any different to pets. True, but the example effect of an animal doesn’t override any substantive effect it has for the lives of these animals. That is, people not recognising them as rescues, while not ideal, doesn’t override their rights to life or a chance of a reasonable home.

    By that argument, there would be no point to vegans in society, since people can’t tell just by looking whether or not people are vegan either. Does that mean vegans should just give up and take up animal use again?

    By the same token, there are those sanctuaries that make it unclear what their position on animal use is. Yes, they may provide good homes for animals, but some don’t make it apparent that they’re against animal use, instead adopting philosophies such as ‘we just let people interact with animals, and don’t offer any guidance’ to ‘we let people interact with animals, and give them options from reducing their animal use to becoming vegan, but we don’t say what’s right or wrong.’

    So here they are in a position to have a clear influence, yet they may suggest that reducing use is a good option. Is that a good example?

    Next you talk about the space rescue animals have, the noise they’re allowed to make, and the socialization with other animals of their kind they might have. The initial question one can raise here is this: are farmed animal sanctuaries going to take in all the dogs, cats and animals that aren’t typically farmed and take care of them? If not, why are the lives of farmed animals apparently more important?

    That is, is your solution to simply kill all the animals – which number in the hundreds of thousands in Australia, if not millions (including fish) – that are abandoned or homeless? This would be very similar – albeit much broader – to the action of PETA, who kill the majority of animals that come into their ‘care.’ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nathan-j-winograd/peta-kills-puppies-kittens_b_2979220.html

    In terms of space, yes, animals may not have as much as desirable, but again, does this mean we should kill them? People living in slums with several people to a room may not have the ideal amount of space, either – should we kill them? In fact, animals that are rescued may have the chance of better care than those unfortunate humans living in the type of slums, or shanty towns, mentioned.

    A similar argument can be made for noise, although this isn’t an issue with many types of animals eg rats, mice, cats, fish. And of course there may be those rescuers that do have more land for animals such as dogs to roam around on.

    As for socialization, animals in sanctuaries are hardly in ‘natural’ situations. The number, sex and age of other animals of their species can vary. So when you say, ‘animals in a sanctuary get to live with their own species, and form their own social hierarchy,’ this is true to varied extents. For instance, is a social group of 3, the same as 10 or 20? And, of course, people that rescue animals may also have others of the same species, whether this be dogs, cats, rats or fish.

    Even when this isn’t the case, though, it gets back to the issue i mentioned previously: humans also live in conditions that are unfavourable – does this mean we kill them?

    As part of your conclusion you say the following: ‘If you do feel the need to ‘save’ or ‘rescue’ an animal, why don’t you donate that money to an animal sanctuary? Whilst I do understand that there won’t be the ‘status’ attached to it, by telling everyone that you have ‘rescued’ an animal, you will be doing a heap more for the animals. So long as the sanctuary that you are donating to promotes veganism.’

    Now this is an interesting point. While there is nothing wrong with donating to a sanctuary of this type, the idea that it doesn’t have any ‘status’ attached seems blind to reality. Attending sanctuaries is often a social affair, and a chance to snap yourself with the animals and share them with others, for example, on Facebook. You often can even ‘sponsor’ animals, so that you have a direct connection to a specific animal, which provides an easy talking point. Of course you can take a photo of yourself with a rescued animal as well, but to suggest that donations to sanctuaries – which sometimes provide public lists of donors – are free of the ‘status’ issues that can be tied to rescues is far fetched.

    Regardless, i like to think people have more going on that simply ‘status’ issues – if they have them at all – and your discussion of this trivializes the concern for other animals that both rescuers and those people that donate to sanctuaries have (although as sanctuaries typically accept money from people that aren’t vegan, you might ask what their level of concern is – is it, for instance, a kind of ‘downpayment’ while they switch to veganism, or more, ‘i’m not becoming vegan, but look after those animals’).

    Given my comments, you don’t provide any basis for your claim that donating to sanctuaries does a ‘heap more for the animals.’ By the way, does this include those sanctuaries that support things like Ban Live Export campaigns or the idea of monitoring animal users to see that they conform to regulations?

    A heap more – for which animals? Those animals that, for example, a farmed animal sanctuary won’t take, because they’re not farmed animals? How many vegan aquatic sanctuaries do you know? Or even vegan sanctuaries for dogs and cats? Or do you want us to preference farmed animals – which opposes the idea of equality? Or maybe you’re saying we should kill all the animals that can’t go into shelters, and just put aside the idea of a right to life?


What are your thoughts?