By Susan Crawford
If you have animals in your life, you know they are a constant source of unconditional love, comfort and joy. Sometimes what we give them in return hardly seems equal by comparison. And, when animals need their voices heard, there are many organizations that can help including a few that are located right here in the Calgary area.
The Rescue and Sanctuary for Threatened Animals (RASTA), is located just south of Calgary in DeWinton. Lucie Cerny established RASTA in 2001, with a commitment to the lifelong care of abandoned and abused animals.
RASTA advocates compassion for all animals through educational and interactive sanctuary tours. Lucie and her team of volunteers take all animals regardless of age, breed or size, which is undoubtedly the reason why they often operate at capacity.
She is often asked, what is the single most effective thing a person can do to help animals. Her answer is simple: don’t eat them. Lucie goes on to explain that the less animals that are consumed, the less suffering there will be.
Lucie and the team at RASTA endorse the “Meatless Monday” movement. Choosing to not eat meat on Mondays is as an easy step that everyone can take towards leading a more compassionate and conscious lifestyle. For your efforts, you not only help millions of animals, but the earth as well as your own health. She also strongly advocates that puppies are not products and promotes adopting pets from rescue organizations and reputable breeders.
Calgary Animal Rights Effort (CARE) was formed by Laura Johnson in 2007. The CARE group might be small, but it covers everything from rallies and demonstrations, to protests and outreach. CARE also lend support to all other animal-related groups such as Heather Anderson and the Daisy Foundation by attending local animal abuser court cases to help give the victims a face and a voice, in hopes of stiffer penalties for animal abusers.
Johnson and her members including CARE organizer Lisa Shaw often volunteer at local farm sanctuaries like Forgotten Farm, Free Spirit, RASTA, Big Julie’s, and Bear Valley. Their tasks have been broad and numerous, ranging from building and repairing fences and enclosures, laying sod, socializing and feeding rescued animals, to cleaning water troughs and shovelling manure. Volunteering with CARE also extends to local pet rescues such as Pound Rescue, AARCS, Pawsitive Match, and MEOW Foundation, with many members opening their homes and hearts to foster animals in need.
Their involvement in rallies is also quite varied and includes animals in circuses, seal/dolphin slaughter, and rodeos. According to Shaw, several members also went to Edmonton to support freeing Lucy the elephant with Bob Barker (www.savelucy.ca).
CARE is just a small group of local animal lovers doing the best they can to directly help animals in need and provide information to others. “We donate our time, money and resources to making the world a better place for all. We would like to see more people care and take action personally, locally and globally in support of animals,” says Shaw.
The main factor, admits Shaw, is awareness: “One must be aware in order to care”. She says that their group tries to spread awareness, and encourages people to educate themselves on issues that perhaps they never thought much about. Shaw notes that most people know nothing about the confinement, abuse and neglect that is standard practice in many businesses that profit from animal exploitation, assume it must be illegal, and consider the incidents to be very rare. Knowing the truth is the key in order to make wise informed choices.
“Every dollar is a vote and consumers have a lot of power. Industries that abuse animals won’t stop doing it until people stop making it profitable. People need to stop supporting them but obviously won’t if they don’t know there is a problem,” admits Shaw.
Another great way to help animals is by walking. Farm Sanctuary’s “Walk for Farm Animals” is a series of non-competitive walking events held each year in the fall, in cities across the United States and Canada. In 2012, nearly 5,000 walkers in 39 cities (including Calgary) across North American raised over $476,000 for farm animals in support of Farm Sanctuary, which operates three sanctuaries and runs the largest farm animal rescue and refuge network across North America. Over 8,000 animals who have been rescued from factory farms, stockyards and natural disasters have called Farm Sanctuary home, while almost 3,000 others have found safe loving homes courtesy of the organization.