Sunday, December 26, 2010

My Column in the Waterloo Region Record

Hello Blog Pals,

Today my column on Animal Sanctuaries in Canada ran in The Record. I'm reposting it here. I hope you enjoy it!


Christmas is a time to think of others, including animals

  • By Andrew Hunt
  • The Waterloo Region Record

Opinion columnists, including yours truly, often focus on the negative.

Wars overseas, battles over WikiLeaks, political strife, economic uncertainty and threats of terrorism have recently been among the topics of contention on editorial pages.

Occasionally, a column will appear that reminds us of the splendid work being done by Canadian volunteers. In this Christmas season, men and women have donated generously to charities or worked long hours to help make life a little better for those less fortunate. In a few cases, intrepid souls have even journeyed to trouble spots like Haiti to do what they can to help.

These Canadians deserve our praise and thanks. But it seems to me that of all the unsung heroes, the ones thanked the least are those helping animals. Whether they volunteer at shelters or adopt animals in need of homes, countless Canadians have shown — over and over — that ours is a society that cares about animals.

Some of the most remarkable work is happening in so-called animal sanctuaries, which provide safe havens where animals can live healthy and happy lives.

Animal sanctuaries are all over Canada. Each sanctuary has its own focus. For example, right here in our midst, the Donkey Sanctuary of Canada, located near Guelph, offers an idyllic atmosphere for donkeys.

Why donkeys? The sanctuary’s website explains: “Donkeys are often abused and neglected, and, once no longer wanted, placed into an equine auction. Then, if a buyer is not available at the moment of sale, the animal is sold to a slaughterhouse.”

The Donkey Sanctuary has been a success story, thanks to its founders, Sandra and David Pady, as well as the kind folks who volunteer or agree to sponsor donkeys through contributions. The donkeys are not only given a second chance, but they get to meet the many visitors to the farm – men, women and especially children who go to the sanctuary on a regular basis.

This is but one example. There are so many others. Here in Ontario alone, we have the Ferret Aid Society, bird sanctuaries (Freedom Flights, Cherished Wings, Parrot Adopt and Second Flight), Rabbit Rescue of Ontario and Trails End Rabbit Refuge and various wildlife sanctuaries, not to mention safe havens for dogs, cats and other companion animals.

Right in our own community, there is an organization dedicated to sheltering turtles (Turtle Haven) and we are blessed with the extraordinary Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory (formerly known as Wings of Paradise).

Support is essential to the survival of these sanctuaries. Donations are especially welcome, though some may also need volunteers.

Up in the Arthur/Mount Forest area, the Ruby Ranch Pig Sanctuary, situated on 12 acres of land, is home to some lively personalities. Seeing these pigs in action is to witness these amazing animals as they are meant to live. They frolic outdoors, make friends with other pigs and humans, and most importantly, they live healthy lives, full of love.

Compare this to the millions of pigs born into dark and cold enclosed spaces, mutilated by having their tails cut and castrated if they’re males, and living short lives, packed together by the thousands before meeting a violent end.

Places like Ruby Ranch, and all of the other animal sanctuaries across Canada, provide us with hopeful stories that have happy endings. They give us a glimpse of how animals and human beings are meant to interact. The people who run them do so with few resources and rarely do they get praised or thanked. Doing whatever you can to help them is a wonderful way of giving back.

Andrew Hunt is an associate professor of history at the University of Waterloo.


  1. Good column, thanks to you for recognizing those who have chosen to move beyond the average limits of compassion and are extending those boundaries to include our voiceless fellow earthlings.

  2. A beautiful tribute for those that choose love & compassion over death and destruction for the lives of others!

    Andrew, many thanks for being here, and planting the seed of life...

    Peace & Health to All Life!

  3. How brave of you to think so highly of the animals when so many people don't. I wish all the killing and suffering would stop; I don't think it ever will but we have to keep trying. I donate to many animal rights groups and volunteer at the K-W Humane Society. While I have many interests, the protection of animals is my first love. Thank you for caring Andrew.