For The Mothers


When I was a young girl I fanta­sized about having a baby.  It seemed like a natural urge as a teenager and through my twenties to have a child of my own.  Someone to nurture, protect and love.  Someone that was all mine.  As I grew older however other factors came into play and my logical side questioned if having a child was the best choice for me.  I had become so passion­ate about helping animals and making a differ­ence for them I was afraid of the distrac­tion that having a baby might create. In animals I had found others that needed nurtur­ing, protec­tion and love just as much as a child of my own.  The suffer­ing of animals is so great that they truly need all of the help that they can get.  I worried that if I had my own children I would neglect animals and the dedica­tion that I have to making a differ­ence for them.

In the end I decided to give in to my own desire to have a baby and after years of contem­pla­tion I took the plunge.  For those who don’t know me person­ally you may not know that I am expect­ing to give birth to my own bundle of love in a few short days.  Although I have not yet had the baby my fears of being distracted from animals have subsided.








My own pregnancy has drawn me closer to animals and magni­fied the sympa­thy that I have for those who suffer such emotional pains at the hands of humans.  Since I felt the first kick of life inside of me I have experi­enced my own natural instincts that come along with mother­hood.  The feelings that I have for the baby growing inside of me are the same as the instincts which animals possess: to love and to protect their young.  There is no doubt in my mind that the mothers of other species are fully aware of the life that grows within them and are as emotion­ally connected and protec­tive of their young as humans are.  For me there is nothing more heart break­ing than a mother having her baby taken away.  Whether it be a dairy farmer ripping away her newborn calf or a hunter shoot­ing a mother deer’s adoles­cent offspring in the wild, the anguish that these animals feel is indis­putable.  I have no doubt that these mothers are desper­ate to protect the life that they have created.  In the animal kingdom it is the mothers who suffer the most frequently.  Animals who are bred and raised for food on farms are repeat­edly forced into pregnancy only to have their babies taken away at birth.  Over and over again these poor mothers are forced to endure their worst nightmare.








I am a one of the lucky ones.  My heart brakes for the mothers of other species who have no control over those that steal and kill their babies.  I know that they love their babies as much as I do.  The evidence is obvious by watch­ing the relation­ships between mothers and their young, but now I actually feel the natural instincts that we all share.  I am as passion­ate as ever to help the suffer­ing mothers who are not as lucky as I am.  As a mother I am more devoted to making this world a more peace­ful and compas­sion­ate place for them.














I am sure that there will be moments in the months and years to come that I wish that I had more time to work for animals but I know that my devotion to animals will only grow stronger.  Being a human mother I have a voice and I intend to use it for all of the mothers that cannot speak from themselves.




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Drawing a Line on Compassion


I have often been asked, “why animals?”  It seems that some assume that those caring for animals care “only” for animals.  This is not the case with many of the wonder­ful people that I have met over the years.  In fact, most of the compas­sion­ate people that I meet do not restrict their compas­sion to only one direc­tion.  I have met so many people who are working to save animals as well as helping people and vice versa.  My answer is always that there is no limit to compas­sion.  My involve­ment in helping animals has given me the confi­dence to broaden my involve­ment in helping in general.  Compas­sion does not have to be bound to only one cause or one direc­tion.  Giving is conta­gious and the more one gives the more one’s heart will grow, making room for only more giving.


I came across a perfect example of a human being that knows no limits to compas­sion in Nanning, China.  As a young man Mr. Zeng was an artist and making a living through paint­ing tradi­tional Chinese art. He had already estab­lished himself as a talented and success­ful painter as a teenager, but he was driven to do more and to use his talents as an artist to help others.





In China those with disabil­i­ties are often viewed as unable citizens and are removed from society and insti­tu­tion­al­ized.  The disabled are usually removed from any formal educa­tion, normal society and their families.

Photo courtesy of Mr. Zeng

At the age of 20 Mr. Zeng met a blind man that surprised him with his knowl­edge and capabil­ity to distin­guish colours by touch and temper­a­ture alone. The fact that the blind find other ways to see was a new concept for him and sent Mr. Zeng onto a new path.  He set out on a crusade to show the world the capabil­i­ties of the disabled.  He decided to use his skills to teach the disabled how to paint.  He entered hospi­tals and insti­tu­tions that housed the disabled and contin­ued to learn just how wrong stereo­types placed upon the disabled were.  He found creative souls that were yearn­ing to learn and to express themselves.

In his thirties Mr. Zeng was inside an orphan­age for disabled children teach­ing them art.  A young deaf girl named, Yujun, partic­u­larly moved his heart.  She had no family and no hope for a future life outside of an insti­tu­tion.  She loved art and showed incred­i­ble talent under Mr. Zeng’s guidance.  Within a short time Mr. Zeng adopted young Yujun as his daugh­ter who today shares the joy that Mr. Zeng receives by helping others.



Today at the age of 54 Mr. Zeng contin­ues to teach art to the disabled as well as teach­ing others how to do the same. At a univer­sity in Nanning he teaches a course on special educa­tion.  He teaches his students the skills that they need to commu­ni­cate with the disabled as well teach­ing them to become respect­ful and compas­sion­ate teach­ers themselves.














While having dinner with Mr. Zeng it didn’t surprise me to learn that he is a vegetar­ian.  He told me a story of himself as a young boy who was forced to witness a chicken being killed for his next meal.  Mr. Zeng said that it broke his heart to watch an innocent animal loose its whole life for him and he has refused to eat animals ever since.  I took the oppor­tu­nity to explain the animal cruel­ties that are also involved in egg and milk produc­tion.  Mr. Zeng had never heard of “vegan­ism” and was unaware of the suffer­ing involved in creat­ing these animal products for our consump­tion.  Mr. Zeng simply replied, “I too shall try this lifestyle”.


My days spent with Mr. Zeng were inspi­ra­tional.  He is an example of a compas­sion­ate heart that knows no bound­aries.  His bright smile and positive energy makes all of those around him want to be and to do better.  The wonder­ful Mr. Zeng has many more plans for his future and intends to continue caring and sharing as far and wide as he can, in every direction.


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Simi’s Story


In many parts of the world pigs are consid­ered inferior animals.  In India this is no differ­ent. Pigs are left to roam the streets fending for themselves.  Mothers carefully maneu­ver their young piglets through traffic and away from people as they search for food.  Mostly the pigs in India are ignored and feared by people.  Animal Aid seldom receives emergency calls concern­ing pigs.  Occasion­ally however a kind person will reach out to Animal Aid to help a pig in need.  Simi was one of these pigs.

Simi was rescued off of the street in Udaipur, India.  She had been hit by a car and was seriously injured.  When the emergency team at Animal Aid brought Simi in she was unable to move her back legs.  At the hospi­tal she was put into a small dog kennel to restrict her movements and to give her time to heal.  After her initial rest period it was decided by the staff and volun­teers at Animal Aid to give Simi physio­ther­apy.  The result of physio­ther­apy on the paralyzed dogs at the hospi­tal has been very success­ful but this was the first time that a physio­ther­apy program would be attempted on a pig.  As a result of Simi’s size and general wildness five of the strongest staff had to work together to hold her down as others quickly massaged and moved her back and legs.  It was a painful and scary ordeal for all of those involved.  Poor Simi would scream in terror, snapping at us humans as we descended upon her daily.

She was a strong girl and her fear of us was making matters worse.  I decided that I must try to make this an easier process and I deter­minedly set out to make friends with this feral and intim­i­dat­ing pig.  Each day for the follow­ing few weeks I would sit outside of her kennel (with lots of food) talking to her gently.  Slowly she allowed me to touch her without shriek­ing in horror.  Soon I had her eating out of my hand and allow­ing me to gently massage her legs without needing to call in for back up.



This was my first relation­ship with a pig and as she learned to trust me I was learn­ing about her.  Her loyalty and affec­tion towards me grew to unexpected levels.  Soon she trusted me completely.  She would grunt when she saw me coming, wiggle her tail and roll over for me to rub her belly.  Soon the bond between us was just as one would expect from a beloved dog.  She loved me and I had fallen head over heels in love with her.  We would cuddle together as old friends as I would brush and massage her, even clean­ing her teeth.  After several weeks her mobil­ity started to improve and I was able to take her out of the kennel for short walks.  Animal Aid built a “room” for Simi where she could live safely away from the other animals, roll in her own mud puddle and bask in the sun.

Shortly after moving her into her new home we realized that Simi was pregnant! Now not only did Animal Aid have its first resident pig but a pig that was in labor.  After a gruel­ing 24 hours of labor we knew that Simi was in trouble and we would need to inter­vene.  None of the doctors at Animal Aid had any train­ing or experi­ence with pigs.  After quickly looking online for help it was decided that an emergency C-section must be performed.  The medical team quickly learned that pigs typically receive IV through the veins in their ears because of the thick­ness of their flesh.  Simi’s ears had been cut off as a piglet on the street signi­fy­ing that someone planned to catch her and slaugh­ter her for meat once she was bigger.  Since giving her IV was impos­si­ble the doctors had to use local anesthe­sia and leave her completely conscious as they sliced her open to remove her babies.

It was a terri­fy­ing day.  Almost all of the staff at Animal Aid was needed to assist in her emergency surgery.  I was Simi’s closest friend and kept her head in my lap, comfort­ing her through the entire, horri­ble ordeal.  I was so scared that we would loose Simi after she had made such a mirac­u­lous recov­ery.  After what felt like a lifetime Simi’s 3 still­born babies where removed from her, she was stitched back up and moved into a sterile room inside the hospi­tal build­ing.  Although she had survived through it all we were now even more worried than ever for Simi.  She slid into a serious depres­sion that even I couldn’t cheer her from.  For days Simi refused to eat and drink.  She was mourn­ing for her babies who had all died, her heart was broken and so was mine.  I spent my days sitting with her quietly, begging Simi to find the strength to recover and to live.




The decision was made that Simi needed to be moved as quickly as possi­ble back outside into the sunshine and mud where she was the happi­est before her terri­ble surgery.  Slowly Simi’s mood started to improve again.  Just as Simi was becom­ing her old self again I needed to leave Animal Aid and return to Canada  It would be the first time that I would leave India since Simi was rescued.  Leaving her was incred­i­bly hard.  I swore to her and to myself that I would return as soon as I could.

I kept my promise and I returned to India, Animal Aid and Simi 2 months later.  I couldn’t stay away. The prior­i­ties that I had at home could not out weigh my prior­i­ties at  Animal Aid.  It was upon my return that I learned so much more about the nature and person­al­ity of pigs.  As much as Simi had reminded me of a dog with her intel­li­gence, loyalty and ability to trust she was now showing me her other pig like traits of headstrong moodi­ness.  After my long journey back to Animal Aid I excit­edly ran down to see Simi in her pen.  When she heard my voice she swung her head around and ran towards me.  I thought that she was excited to see me, but in fact Simi was majorly pissed off at me for leaving and was charg­ing at me in anger.

I would be lying to say that Simi’s hateful attitude towards me didn’t hurt my feelings.  It was hard to see the anger in my old friend’s eyes when she looked at me and tried to bite me when I would touch her.  Even worse was where her rage was coming from.  More than ever I realized how strongly Simi bonds with those that she loves and how hurt she must have been when I left her.  From then on I never allowed our relation­ship to get as close as it once was and instead I focused on finding Simi new friends.














Over time Simi forgave me and once again welcomed my belly rubs, but from then on I was not going to be the only one that spent quality time with her.  Simi bonded with many of the staff and other animals at Animal Aid.  Once they got to know her loving and quirky person­al­ity they fell for her too.



One day Animal Aid rescued another injured pig.  His name was Howie.  He was just a few months old and also couldn’t move his back legs requir­ing time to heal and physio­ther­apy.   I instantly thought of Simi and how great it would be for them to share their lives together.  As soon as Howie was strong enough and able to use his back legs again we took him down to meet Simi.  The moment that we put Howie into Simi’s room she flung him up into the air with her nose and gave me the evil eye that Simi was so very good at.  Luckily I was able to catch poor little Howie before he hit the ground and had to endure more of Simi’s jealous rage.  It seemed that this might not be as easy as I hoped.  Over time we moved Howie to a place where Simi could see him regularly (through a fence) and hopefully get comfort­able with him being around.  Months later Howie had grown into a big boy and had regained full mobil­ity of his back legs.  He was strong enough to defend himself so we gave the Simi/Howie intro­duc­tion another go.  Simi insisted on being cranky but Howie was so excited to be with one of his own kind that he didn’t seem to mind.  Within a few days Howie had melted Simi’s cold heart and won her over.  Soon he was cuddling up to her, sharing her food and she was even letting him dominate her once in a while.  Simi was in love again.  Watch­ing the two of them together warmed my heart.  I finally felt comfort in knowing that Simi had found the life partner that she always craved.


For the next three years Simi and Howie would spend each day together roaming in the field, rolling in the mud and steal­ing food from the cows, donkeys and dogs with whom they shared their home.  Each night they would snuggle up tight together and fall asleep.









As the years passed Simi became a matri­arch of Animal Aid.  She was clearly the boss of the large animal yard and she always got her way.  She had grown into a big girl full of person­al­ity.  Her moods contin­ued to be her own and her devotion to those that she loved never wavered.

In the fall of 2012 after 4 ½ years together at Animal Aid Simi and Howie both caught some kind of bug.  They each had a fever and refused to eat.  Simi recov­ered within a few days but Howie contin­ued to get weaker and weaker.  The treat­ment that the medical staff gave him didn’t help and Howie’s condi­tion contin­ued to get worse.  Simi was healthy and her old self again, but sadly Howie never recov­ered.  Howie died of an unknown illness at Animal Aid on Septem­ber 29th 2012.  Within a few days of Howie’s death Simi stopped eating once again.  Although she didn’t appear to be ill Simi became lethar­gic and uninter­ested in food.   Only 6 days after the passing of Howie, Simi’s heart simply stopped beating as she lay in the shade missing her best friend.

The loss of both Simi and Howie is blow to the hearts of all that knew and loved them.  Simi was a tremen­dous life force and one of those special ingre­di­ents that makes Animal Aid such a magical place.  Simi was the first pig to call Animal Aid home and proba­bly the first pig to ever receive such medical inter­ven­tion, care and love in all of India.  We have learned so much about pigs from Simi.  Most impor­tantly she has taught us of the extreme zest for life and love that all pigs are capable of.

Although life on earth does not seem quite as full without Simi I take comfort in knowing that she is where she belongs, with her best friend.  Thank you Simi for coming into our lives and teach­ing so many of us just how special pigs are.




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The Curse of Cuteness




The Slow Loris is a seriously endan­gered primate that suffers from the curse of being too darn cute.  Their big brown eyes and cuddly soft fur have created a demand for them as an illegal but sought after pet.  Just because they are cute and soft does not mean that they want to be cuddled.  Slow Lorises are in fact, extremely shy, scared of humans and are happi­est when they are climb­ing their way through the jungle, hunting and living at peace with family members of their own species. Thousands of Slow Lorises are poached from their homes within the jungles of Indone­sia each year to fill a desire that we have to take them home with us.  This illegal trade has become a huge threat to the survival of the species.  In Indone­sia Slow Lorises are sold on the streets, in markets and even within city malls although Indone­sian and Inter­na­tional laws ban their trade. I encoun­tered several Slow Lorises at the markets in Jakarta that I wrote about in a previ­ous blog.

Slow Lorises are noctur­nal animals that naturally sleep during the day and are active during the night.  These shy little animals suffer terri­ble stress when stolen from their homes, thrown into small cages and exposed to broad daylight.  Because of their sharp and toxic bite captors often cut off their teeth causing infec­tion. Frequent infec­tion, their sensi­tive sleep­ing pattern and their specific diet make keeping them healthy in captiv­ity tricky. Many die before they have even been sold.





In Java, Inter­na­tional Animal Rescue is working to rescue these adorable but wild little primates. At their center in Ciapus they care for 100 Slow Loris that have either been surren­dered by owners or confis­cated from the illegal wildlife trade.  Here the animals undergo medical treat­ment, rehabil­i­ta­tion and social­iza­tion in prepa­ra­tion for release back into the wild.  The Slow Loris with their teeth intact are fitted with radio collars and are carefully released back into the wild under observation.

The work being done at IAR’s Java location is crucial to the survival of the species and could be their last hope.  During my time at the Caipus rescue center I was once again moved by Inter­na­tional Animal Recuse’s devotion and dedica­tion to saving animals and educat­ing the public on the plight of so many animals in need.




















If you want to help these beauti­ful creatures please:

–Support the work of Inter­na­tional Animal Rescue.

–Never keep a Slow Loris or any other primate as a pet.

–Watch and share the You Tube video:   Tickling Slow Loris — The Truth

-Sign the petition asking YouTube to remove videos of captive slow lorises.



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Eating on the Road



I am often asked what it is like to travel the world as a vegan.  Being vegan can come with challenges anywhere but I would never say that it is impos­si­ble or even diffi­cult.  Our planet is filled with an abundance of wonder­ful foods, none of which need to contain animal-products.  When on the road it can be diffi­cult to cook for myself so I often have to rely on restau­rants.  Before I head out to a new country I make a point of learn­ing some key phrases in the local language.   Right after learn­ing “hello”, “please” and “thank you” I learn “no meat”, “no fish”, “no eggs” and “no milk”.   More times than not people are happy to accom­mo­date the requests of the friendly foreigner and often step up to the challenge by making something extra special.  Often people around the world are intrigued by vegan­ism and want to learn more about the ethics behind it, the health benefits and even swap recipes.  Often by just order­ing a meal in a restau­rant I am able to spread some new ideas and ways of eating.





















I love experi­enc­ing differ­ent cultures and I am an advocate of the old cliché, “When in Rome do as the Romans do….” but I do not believe that being on the road is a good enough reason to forego ones ethics and it certainly does not justify allow­ing others to suffer to satisfy a cultural experi­ence.  In fact, there is more reason to not consume or purchase animal products when travel­ling.  So many countries around the world lack animal welfare laws and enforce­ment.  Without any regula­tions on how animals are treated it is often a horrific life and death for these innocent creatures.  I have travelled to numer­ous countries that have absolutely no regard for animal welfare, where free range and cruelty-free products are an unheard of western fantasy.  For those that may not be vegan or vegetar­ian but who do care about the lives of animals and are concerned for their well being it is impos­si­ble to have control over these things while travel­ling.  There­fore, it is more impor­tant for those of us who do not want to contribute to animal suffer­ing to avoid animal products in foreign lands.


When I am asked what it is like to travel as a vegan, I answer that it is comfort­ing knowing that I am not contribut­ing to the cruelty that exists in the countries that I am visit­ing.  Whatever effort I may have to go through to ensure that my food is cruelty-free is worth it.


When travel­ling I always carry a reliable jar of peanut butter for back up.


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Chinese Heroes

I went to China on a mission.

During the past several years I have witnessed many heart-wrenching images and videos coming out of China of horren­dous acts of animal cruelty on the inter­net.  Within a few clicks we have the ability to witness animals being skinned alive for fur and thousands of dogs and cats crammed into trucks on their way to slaugh­ter in China.  The graphic cruelty is often hard to take and has caused a hatred for China to brew among animal lovers.  I know I felt an overwhelm­ing anger for anyone that would treat animals in this way.  With my anger I would strike out within the cyber world.  Ultimately, my angry remarks and insults were doing nothing to help animals, only fueling the anger and hate that others were also feeling .  I found that the more angry and hateful I became the more helpless and sad I felt.

I realized that I was being reactionary and unfair.  I was judging a country that I had never been to and I was gener­al­iz­ing an enormous society that I barely knew anything about.  I was react­ing in a way that was against my own morals and I sought a way to change it.

Animals are suffer­ing on a massive scale in China, that is a without a doubt.  Dogs and cats are eaten in large numbers and animal welfare legis­la­ture is non-existent.  The method of slaugh­ter­ing dogs and cats in live animal markets and restau­rants is tragi­cally cruel.  Markets in China employ killing methods that leave both dogs and cats suffer­ing a linger­ing, violent death as they are either bludgeoned over the head, stabbed in the neck or groin, hanged, electro­cuted or thrown conscious into drums of boiling water. It is bad, really bad but I imagined that if there are compas­sion­ate people who are against this cruelty all over the world that some of them must live in China.

I went to China on a mission to find them and boy did I ever!  The kind-hearted and gener­ous people that I found in China have given me a new respect for the word “hero”.  These inspi­ra­tional Chinese devote their entire lives and incomes to saving innocent animals in a country where animal welfare is barely a consid­er­a­tion for many.  Their passion and deter­mi­na­tion moved me and in many ways changed me.  Each organi­za­tion that I visited deserves their own blog and much more but I will attempt to give a brief tribute to 6 of them here.



Profes­sor Paws: Chengdu, Sichuan

In China many children have never had the chance to touch a dog and parents often tell their children not to do so because they think that dogs are dirty or carry diseases.  Profes­sor Paws is a sector of the tremen­dous organi­za­tion Animals Asia that takes loveable canines into schools and various events to educate the children on how to look after and love dogs.  It doesn’t take long for the children to appre­ci­ate the warmth that animals bring to our lives.


One of the Profes­sor Paws celebrities



Profes­sor Paws” picnic for toddlers.



A future Chinese animal rights activist, thanks to Profes­sor Paws





Qiming Compan­ion Animal Protec­tion Center: Qiming, Sichuan                      

The Qiming Compan­ion Animal Protec­tion Center was founded by Qiao Wei and his wife Li Yanpin.  At their shelter they house 800 dogs who have been recused from the streets and from slaugh­ter for human consump­tion.  Adoption in China is not always a safe alter­na­tive for the dogs.  Many adopted dogs are not properly looked after, abandoned and end up back in the meat trade.   All of the dogs who live here will be safe from the street and from slaugh­ter but may never find an adoptive home.

The founders of the Qiming shelter, Qiao Wei and his wife Li Yanpin













Qiao Wei is respon­si­ble for saving the lives of thousands dogs in China






Nanning Stray Cats: Nanning, Guangxi                                                

Nanning Stay Cats was founded 4 years ago by a group of passion­ate young women.  24 year old Sun Lu is one of the 10 volun­teers who is dedicated to rescu­ing stray and abandoned cats off of the streets.   Once the cats are rescued the group gets them medical care, spays and neuters them, then houses them in either their small shelter or in foster homes until a reliable and safe adoptive home is found.


Volun­teer Sun Lu and a newly rescued cat



Nanning’s longest resident cat hoping for a home




Dr. Jen gives discounts for treat­ment to the rescued cats brought in by the volunteers




Sun Lu with two more rescued cats




I Save You: Wuhan, Hubei

Xiao Fan began rescu­ing dogs 6 years ago.  He started by rescu­ing one dog at a time off of the street, getting them the medical care that they needed then working to find an adoptive home.  Before long he realized that he needed to build a shelter because of the massive amount of dogs in need.  2 years ago Xiao Fan opened the doors to his newly built shelter which is now houses 200 dogs.  To date Xiao Fan is person­ally respon­si­ble for saving the lives of over a thousand dogs.  He holds down a full time job to finan­cially support the dogs as well as depend­ing on donations.  Xiao Fan is one of the most kind-hearted and genuine people I have ever met anywhere in the world.


Xiao Fan surrounded by his fans. Just a few of over a thousand lives that he has saved










It can be a crowded house especially when lunch is on its way




Every Satur­day local volun­teers come out to the shelter to help groom and care for the dogs




Volun­teers give love and support to dogs who have come from lives of only abuse




A volun­teer helping this rescued dog stay cool for the summer




Satur­day volun­teer group shot






Chong Qing Small Animal Protec­tion Center: Chong Qing City, Chong Qing

On January 15th 2012 a trans­port truck carry­ing 800 dogs to slaugh­ter, many of them already sick and injured was stopped by 200 volun­teers on a Chinese highway.  The direct action to rescue these dogs was organized by Mr. Chen, the founder of Chong Qing Small Animal Protec­tion Center.  It is at the 2 shelters that Mr. Chen and his wife Mrs. Deng founded that most of these dogs live today.  With a staff of 8 people they care for an aston­ish­ing 1200 dogs. Previ­ously, the couple ran a success­ful shop and business for many years before decid­ing to sell the business along with their home to devote their lives to saving animals.  If anyone is ever looking for true heros for animals that have an enormous capac­ity for compas­sion they need not look any further than Mr. Chen and Mrs. Deng.


Mr.Chen and Mrs.Deng the founders of the largest dog shelter in China



The shelter housing 900 dogs from above












Two rescued dogs typical of the type bred for human consumption













Handan Animal Protec­tion Insti­tu­tion:  Handan, Hebei

The Handan Animal Protec­tion Insti­tute is run by a group of caring and deter­mined animal lovers who are passion­ate about rescu­ing animals and ending the dog meat trade in China.  The farm-like shelter houses over 200 dogs, 50 cats, 2 cows, 5 goats, 1 donkey and 1 horse, so far.  It was in Handan that I was welcomed with so much love and generos­ity that I was beside myself.  This group of amazing people have the biggest hearts that I have ever come across.  Any animal in their care is a lucky one.  I support them fully on their mission to stop the suffer­ing of animals in China.

Working as a street vendor Wang Shu Yun spent years rescu­ing dogs in her home. She wouldn’t tell me how many she had but said that her neigh­bours complained endlessly. When she met Yu Hong Gang he agreed to help finan­cially and together they opened this wonder­ful shelter


One of the care givers that works full time at the shelter



Long term volun­teer Moi Moi giving love to a rescued paralyzed puppy




Luo Lu Lu, a beauti­ful woman inside and out. She is a regular volun­teer devoted to ending the suffer­ing of animals




The co-founder of the shelter, Yu Hong Gang is a energetic and passion­ate driving force behind making China a better place for animals




Zhao Hua spends every­day at the shelter leaving her old job at a restau­rant behind. Despite her family disagree­ing with her life choice to work for animals she is deter­mined to do all that she can to make their lives better.
















The Handan Animal Protec­tion Team



The thought of the suffer­ing of dogs, cats and other animals in China still breaks my heart and makes me angry.  But now I have a way to help them and so do you.  I have witnessed the work of these wonder­ful people who I now consider dear friends.  They are the ones that are respon­si­ble for saving animals in China and they are the ones who will end the cruelty.  Please support these Chinese organi­za­tions that are working to make China and the world a better place for animals.  It’s possi­ble to make a donation on all of the websites provided, unfor­tu­nately for those that cannot read Chinese they will be very hard to under­stand.  If you want to give and don’t have a Chinese friend to trans­late feel free to contact me and I can help to make sure that any contri­bu­tion gets into their needy hands.




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A Proud Parade


After two months in China I could feel the weight of oppres­sion, govern­ment control and the lack of freedoms weigh­ing on me like a lead pipe across my shoul­ders.  This was my length­i­est visit to a country where the govern­ment has such a restric­tive grip upon its people.  For me it was new and extremely uncom­fort­able.  As I said in a previ­ous blog my website was temporar­ily blocked in China within a few days of arriv­ing.  I assume that one of the thousands of Inter­net patrollers working for the govern­ment found my website too opinion­ated and not suitable for China.  I had to a purchase a virtual private network (VPN) to gain access to all of my web accounts and to the inter­na­tional uncen­sored news.


As I travelled the country I met so many want-to-be activists that were anxious to make the world a better place but felt bound within the restric­tive environ­ment in which they live.  I met many energetic, passion­ate, young people who are ready to stand up for animals.  They all were looking for feedback and advice as to how to move forward.  They told me that to protest is illegal in China, to demon­strate is illegal in China and to express any negative thoughts against the Chinese govern­ment will surely result in negative reper­cus­sions from the author­i­ties.  Their stories frustrated me for their sake and for animals.  Each NGO (non-government organi­za­tion) that I spent time with made a point of asking me to never portray the govern­ment in a negative light while mention­ing their names or work.  For them I will stop talking about the Chinese govern­ment now and move onto something much more pleasant.


Merely 24 hours after leaving China and arriv­ing on Canadian soil I was proudly march­ing down Toronto’s busiest street with thousands of others demon­strat­ing for love, peace and solidar­ity for animals.  June 2nd was Toronto’s 3rd Annual Veggie Pride Parade and it was the best welcome home ever!  For 2 hours the busiest street in Toronto was jammed with people of all ages, religions and races joining together to exercise their freedom of speech and express their desire for peace for all.  There were dancers, musicians, doctors, chefs, mothers, students and politi­cians alike all out to show the world that a vegetar­ian lifestyle is fun, healthy and compas­sion­ate.  It was just what the doctor ordered for my activist soul.


For my friends in China, you are my heroes.  Lacking the luck of being born into a society that exercises freedom of speech your obsta­cles are greater and your work even harder.  However, I know that you won’t give up no matter what restraints that you are forced to work under.  I have faith that one day the streets of China will also be filled with animal loving activists legally promot­ing peace and love.


















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Jakarta Markets




Jakarta is an inter­na­tional hub for export­ing exotic wildlife and birds.  Centrally located on the Island of Java wildlife dealers have many jungles within reach to acquire animals from.  Although Java itself is rich with rainforests and wildlife it also neigh­bours Sumatra, Borneo, Thailand, and Malaysia there­fore the oppor­tu­ni­ties appear endless for this dirty business.

I had been told that the live animal markets in Jakarta are a living hell on earth for animals.  I found nothing less.  Wander­ing through these busy markets I could not stop think­ing of how we are raping the jungles.  I imagined how the poach­ers must stomp through the forests grabbing any species that they find.  Ripping animals from their lush green branches and from their families.  Hurling them into dark sacks, hungry and scared only to find themselves days later in this scorch­ing and polluted market.  Nowhere on earth could be further from nature for these poor animals. In downtown Jakarta these recently stolen animals are cramped into filthy metal cages, covered in their own feces, kicked by passing children, breath­ing air filled with exhaust fumes and hearing only the sounds of honking horns and shout­ing humans.






















To make matters worse for these animals many of them are noctur­nal.  Animals like the Slow Loris, Flying Squir­rels, Bats and Owls should be sleep­ing accord­ing to their natural instincts but instead are on display inside this hectic market.  Often they are in a small cage pressed against another cell impris­on­ing their natural preda­tor and/or prey.  To make matters EVEN worse most of the animals that are for sale at this miser­able place are babies; fright­ened disori­en­tated babies who all should still be under their mother’s care.  It seemed to me that each fright­ened face was living peace­fully only days before.  Now thrust into the filth and chaos of Jakarta markets wonder­ing, “how in the world did this happen to me?”  Many of them already sick and exhausted proba­bly don’t even survive.


















It is easy to stand back and blame these “evil people” in foreign lands of ripping these innocent animals out of the wild and putting them through hell to make a buck but they are not solely to blame.  Most of these wild animals are traded and sold around the world.  They will fill our zoos and enter­tain us in commer­cials, films and on greet­ing cards.  If we finan­cially support any indus­try that uses wild animals we are employ­ing the poach­ers who rip these innocent souls from their homes, families and natural world.



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Healing Moon Bears




For many the main attrac­tion of a trip to China is typically a visit to The Great Wall, for me it is a visit to Animals Asia Founda­tion. Thus, my very first stop in China was to Chengdu to visit Animals Asia and their sanctu­ary for rescued Moon bears.  Since meeting the founder at an Asia for Animals confer­ence a few years ago I have been a huge fan of all that is Animals Asia and Jill Robin­son.  It was at that confer­ence that I first learned of the horren­dous act of bear bile farming occur­ing in China (and Vietnam).  On bear bile farms bears are confined in coffin like cages for their whole lives, having the bile drained from their gall bladders through a metal catheter.  The bears can exist like this for up to 30 years unable to stand or turn around.  Most or the bears are riddled with injuries, disease and defor­mi­ties.  The bile is in turn used in tradi­tional Asian medicine.  The cruelty involved in this practice is astro­nom­i­cal and so is Animals Asia’s devotion to ending it.  Jill founded Animals Asia in 1998 and since then has convinced 20 of main land China’s 31 provinces to become bear-farm free. She has also opened sanctu­ar­ies for bears in China and Vietnam and has rescued 361 bears from bear farms.

I was thrilled to get the oppor­tu­nity to witness first hand the work of Animals Asia and to meet the amazing rescued bears who live at the sanctuary.



The beauti­ful face of a happy moon bear.




Rescued from barbaric bear farms; days are now spent eating, playing and lounging.




For years Quantock rubbed his face against the bars in his tight cage leaving his face perme­nantly scarred.




At the sanctu­ary all of the girls find Quantock’s smooth face irresistable. He is one of the most popular bears with ladies.




Occasion­ally the bears take a break from napping to sit up and yawn.




Regular check-ups must be performed on the bears because so many have long term health problems due to the years spent on the bile farms.




The beauti­ful full black mane of a female Moon Bear..





These days the bears spend much of their time decid­ing where to relax.





Although the bears will only know comfort and love for the rest of their days it is impos­si­ble for us to how their past has emotion­ally scarred them.




Oliver was kept inside a small coffin like cage for 30 years. He body is deformed with his legs being much too short for his large body. So far Oliver has enjoyed 2 years of freedom at Animals Asia and loves the sunshine and rolling in the grass.




Each of the bears have lived through a horren­dous past on bile farms.  It was heart­break­ing to see so many of them still showing phyis­cal and mental scars but watch­ing their grace­ful and forgiv­ing manner was inspi­ra­tional.  What is equally as inspi­ra­tional is Animals Asia Foundation’s tireless and deter­mined work fight­ing Chinese bureau­cracy, tradi­tion and corrup­tion to end the suffer­ing and torture of these bears.  Thank­fully, Jill and all of those at Animals Asia are seeing results.  The organi­za­tion is well known through­out China and more and more people are in support of shutting down bear farming for good.


Jill Robin­son, founder of Animals Asia Foundation



Visit­ing the bears in China was definitely the highlight of my travels through the country.  I feel extremely privi­leged for the experi­ence and am especially honoured to have had the oppor­tu­nity to witness the true love and devotion that Jill Robin­son feels for these bears.  I have heard her speak on a couple of occasions but seeing her with the bears was truly special.  It is clear that she will continue the work that she started over 20 years ago and will not give up until bear bile farming is a thing of the past.  This gives me comfort.

Sadly, there are still over 10,000 bears impri­sioned on farms in China today, so the fight for their freedom is far from over.  Please check out Animals Asia’s website for much more information.


The Chengdu team




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From China




Since I was a child the thought of visit­ing China has excited me.  I fanta­sized of misty mountains, temples and forests filled with flower­ing trees and Panda bears.  I have always been attracted to delicate Chinese paint­ings depict­ing scenes of nature while China’s classi­cal music always soothed my senses and sent my imagi­na­tion to far off roman­tic places.

As I got older I began learn­ing of the other less roman­tic side of China.  I heard of China’s indul­gence in environ­men­tal destruc­tion, alter­ing and pollut­ing the planet. To make matters worse China’s reputa­tion for infring­ing upon human rights is one of the worst in the world.  It would also appear that China’s respect of animals and animal welfare is almost non-existent.



From across the world reports of China often made it sound like a cruel, repressed place and maybe not the ancient paradise of my child­hood dreams.  Through the years my thoughts on China have contin­ued to change and my desire to witness the land for myself have gone through varying degrees of inten­sity but China never fully faded from my imagination.

Recently, in response to some disturb­ing and cruel images coming out of China I have seen an increas­ing push to “boycott China”.  The term and the concept just never set well with me.  I completely agree with not wanting to finan­cially support a product that had to travel across the globe when it could have been grown or manufac­tured locally.  But to hold an entire country and its people respon­si­ble for cruel­ties or injus­tices preformed by a few is not fair.  I think that this term, “boycott China” may have got me think­ing, “its time to see China”.  I don’t believe that a country can be made up of only cruel people;  there must be compas­sion­ate people in China and I wanted to find them.  Unsure whether I would love or hate China I decided to head there after volun­teer­ing with  Inter­na­tional Animal Rescue in Indonesia.










Today, I have been in China for nearly a month.  I have witnessed the beauty that origi­nally drew me to this country as well as the ugly that pushed me away.  I have seen first-hand China’s filthy habit of clogging nearly every one of their great rivers with tremen­dous dams and mining massive holes into their mountains.  I have also seen great wind farms, thousands of solar panels and a major cities filled with only electric scooters.

I person­ally have felt the heavy hand of the govern­ment and lack of freedom that every one of China’s people live under every­day.  After only a few days in China my website was flagged and blocked, causing this blog post to take a lot longer than planned.  I have met several foreign­ers who have been detained and questioned by the police for no real reason. I have also spent serine days roaming through rice fields and living among gracious, ethnic minori­ties in the mountains, without a care in the world.











I have visited the roman­tic forests full of fragrant pink flowers, unfor­tu­nately most wildlife, includ­ing the Pandas has been cleared from the forests.  Sadly the only Pandas found in China now live within zoos and “breed­ing centers”.  I have dined with kind-hearted Chinese Buddhist monks who hold daily vegetar­ian lunches and dinners to anyone hungry.




I have seen heart-wrenching trucks crammed with panick­ing dogs (as well as pigs, chick­ens, ducks and cows) on their way to slaugh­ter.   I have seen animal cruelty and neglect on a massive scale.  I have also met incred­i­bly devoted people in China who are making amazing headway through educa­tion programs and rescu­ing animals, like those at Animals Asia and various dog and cat shelters (all of whom will get their own blog post here in the future).



















China has filled my heart with immea­sur­able sadness.  But I have hope.  There is change in the air. There is an inspi­ra­tional young gener­a­tion of Chinese that in spite of the incred­i­bly restric­tive society that they were raised in are driven to make their country and their world a better one.  This young caring gener­a­tion needs our help and support not our “boycott”.  The Chinese are proba­bly the most indus­tri­ous and ingenious people in the world and happen to have the highest popula­tion.  So if any nation has the ability to fix our planet’s great­est problems, its China.  I just hope that they will take on the challenge in a big way and succeed. Until then I will encour­age and support those trying.

Do I love or hate China?  Well the jury is still out on that one.  But I do know that it is wrong to judge and gener­al­ize an entire nation.  There are good-hearted people every­where in the world and many live in China.



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