By Meredith Ayan, Executive Director
SPCA International works to build strong partnerships with organizations doing important animal welfare work around the globe. This model brings strength to our sector and increases our impact. I am thrilled to announce a new partnership with Animal Wellness Action on a new campaign Kangaroos Are Not Shoes! This vital advocacy effort calls for ending the use of kangaroo leather in shoe manufacturing. I invite all animal welfare advocates to sign the petition and join us as we raise our voices for the protection of kangaroos.
The following Q&A is a conversation I had with Wayne Pacelle, the founder of Animal Wellness Action, about our work in Australia and the new partnership between our organizations.
Wayne Pacelle: We’ve
had so much alarming news in the last six months, and it seems that the
cataclysmic fires that burned Australia during its summer are a fading
memory. The infernos had enormous
effects across the continent, including on its animals. One scientist said that more than a billion
animals perished. But the underlying
causes of the fires are still there, and we may see more of these
macro-ecological disasters, including in Australia again. What do you say to animal advocates who don’t
consider climate change an animal welfare issue?
Meredith Ayan: Climate change is undeniably a huge
issue for wildlife. On both land and sea, it creates habitat loss, causes
massive declines in animal populations, disturbs ecosystems, and increases
the likelihood of disasters like this year’s catastrophic fires in
Australia, which killed more than a billion animals. Australia’s Great Barrier
Reef is also a
sobering example of the impacts of climate change. High ocean
temperatures stemming from climate change have destroyed much of the reef,
displacing its animal inhabitants. To seriously address animal welfare, we must
also seriously address climate change.
Wayne Pacelle: When
we respond to disasters as they are occurring, we cannot turn off climate
change — we just don’t have those kinds of tools. But it is not impossible to help the victims
of climate change, and that’s exactly what SPCA International did. Tell us a little bit about your response on
the ground and your efforts to help orphaned kangaroos.
Meredith Ayan: We are firm believers in supporting
and partnering with local animal organizations domestically and worldwide to
increase our collective impact for animals. In Australia, through the
generosity of our supporters, we deployed much-needed aid to the vulnerable
wildlife of Western Australia through grants to several partner organizations,
including Wildlife Care WA Inc., Friends of the Western Ground Parrot,
and Bluebush Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation. These organizations are true
experts in the areas in which they work and the animals that they serve and so,
our goal was to provide them with funding to carry out and expand the important
work they were already doing.
Our local partners on the ground reported that many
kangaroos perished trying to escape from the fires while others survived but
were left starving and dehydrated with burns on their feet and tails. Countless
young animals, including kangaroo joeys, were orphaned. Our grant to
Bluebush Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation specifically supported the
organization’s care and treatment of orphaned and injured joeys. Every rescued
joey must be specially rehabilitated and released back into the wild, which can
take about 18 months per animal. With Bluebush’s monitoring coverage area
spanning a million acres, Bluebush had dozens of rescued joeys in their care
during the fires and found themselves at capacity. We’re thrilled that our
grant allowed them to expand and accept more joeys by fencing a new two-acre
area and by supporting the cost of two much-needed water tanks.
our grant to Wildlife Care Western Australia, we supported the purchase of two
mobile water tanks and generators, and food supplies. This group covers
hundreds of miles per week refilling wildlife food and water stations, for
Australia’s iconic wildlife like kangaroos, on an all-volunteer basis.
Wayne Pacelle: Now
you are joining the Center for a Humane Economy and Animal Wellness Action in
its “Kangaroos Are Not Shoes” campaign to get the major athletic shoe companies
to stop sourcing kangaroo skins for their shoes. What is that?
Meredith Ayan: The “Kangaroos Are Not Shoes”
campaign is about raising awareness of a shocking but little-known animal
welfare issue: the commercial killing of millions of wild kangaroos each year
in their native habitats, largely for the sake of using their skin to craft
soccer cleats. Nike and Adidas have been manufacturing “k-leather” soccer shoes
for years, and Nike, specifically, has been caught illegally selling and
delivering these shoes to California residents.
We at SPCA International and many other caring
organizations and volunteers have worked hard to rescue and rehabilitate
kangaroos – a fascinating and beloved Australian national icon – after this
year’s devastating bushfires. It would be tragic for these animals to be
released back into the wild simply to be swept up in a mass cull and made into
soccer cleats and yet, at the moment, we know that this is a risk.
I think of Clover, a seven-month-old, orphaned joey, whom
our partners found malnourished, dehydrated and burned. Seeing her recovery
gave me hope amid overwhelming heartbreak as the fires took so many animal
lives. We cannot allow joeys like Clover to be turned into shoes, and we’re
glad to join advocates like the Center for a Humane Economy and Animal Wellness
Action to speak out for kangaroos.
Wayne Pacelle: In
getting to know you and the work of SPCA International, it’s clear that you
have a collaborative philosophy when it comes to dealing with other
groups. That’s logical to me, but many
other groups have a hyper-competitive attitude toward animals. Why do you embrace other groups and join with
them in so many efforts?
Meredith Ayan: Partnering with other organizations
is fundamental to our approach. We see our work as complementary and believe
that we can further our missions together, by sharing our learnings and
resources with fellow animal advocates.SPCA International supports animal welfare
efforts all over the world through financial grants that fund animal rescue
programs, provide crucial veterinary supplies, and education initiatives. Our
support builds the capacity and reach of grassroots organizations working to
improve the lives of animals across the globe, to help as many animals as
possible. We are dedicated to these partner organizations and to each and every
donor that makes our work possible. This approach has dramatically increased
the worldwide impact we’ve had for animals, including in Australia and other
parts of the globe. There is certainly enough work to go around and by working
together we are making each other stronger and better and, ultimately, saving