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Back You are here: Register for self-service experienceHome Social justice Animals Farmers aren’t the only ones suffering through the drought: Animal sanctuaries are also doing it tough

Farmers aren’t the only ones suffering through the drought: Animal sanctuaries are also doing it tough

Bessie-Blessed-Deep-Peace-300Parts of Australia are experiencing the worst drought in 50 years. With no government funding or cash injections, sanctuaries for animal rescue and rehabilitation in Australia are doing it tough. Across NSW and Queensland, these big-hearted carers need help, writes Mem Davis and Katrina Fox.

31 August, 2018

Support for Australian farmers struggling through the worst drought in 50 years is at an all-time high. Telethons have raised nearly $10 million and even the government has committed to supporting them financially where possible.

But farmers aren’t the only ones doing it tough.

Not-for-profit sanctuaries that require the same quantities of animal feed as commercial farms are struggling to stay afloat because these animal refuges are not eligible for any drought relief funds, as they are not farming businesses. There is no help for food transport which is now being sourced from interstate and no support for the huge amount of debt some of these people are experiencing, through placing the wellbeing of their animals ahead of their own livelihoods.

The object of each animal rescue sanctuary is to maintain healthy animals for the duration of their lives, and their residents range from native wildlife to ex-farm animals, each life valued by those who feed and care for them. 

While images of suffering farmed sheep and cattle have pulled on the heartstrings of many, those animals relying on a sanctuary or rehabilitation centre for care are in danger of losing their homes.

Sanctuaries are fighting to maintain their daily operations which keep their animals alive and healthy, long term. With the drought showing no signs of breaking, the expenses are rapidly rising.

Professor Steve Garlick, of the Possumwood Wildlife Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre, near Canberra, says their intake has doubled over the past months. Possumwood receives no government support for supporting and rehabilitating native wildlife, and is keen for the public to realise that Australia’s native animals are suffering just as badly as those on the farms. “Food alone costs upwards of $25,000 a year, with overall costs, including medicinal treatment for our sick and injured animals being around $100,000,” says Professor Garlick. 

Peanuts Funny Farm in Goulburn, NSW, is in a similar predicament. “We’re struggling with the doubling of hay bale prices and have been told by our local hay supplier he’s limiting sales to three bales per customer and they could runout for the first time in 16 years,” says property manager Mick Still. “Like the farmers if we can't afford feed for animals, our animals die. This is not an option as our love for the animals is the passion behind why we have a sanctuary.”

A Place of Peace animal sanctuary in Braidwood, NSW, is home to hundreds of rescued animals, saved from death and trauma. Founded by Billie Dean and Andrew Einspruch, this 20-year-old sanctuary only has two weeks’ worth of fodder left for the animals in their care. “I knew spring would be a tough time with fodder shortages and I did my best to prepare for that,” says Dean. “I wasn't expecting for the prices of hay to be as high as they are. The drought is terrifying. Like any farmer, it hurts your heart. You fight against depression and anxiety, and you live with an ongoing stress, especially as the hay shed empties.”


Above: Where Pigs Fly sanctuary in the Hunter Valley as it is now (top) with no grass to feed the animals and how it was 18 months ago. Photo: Where Pigs Fly.

Debbie Pearce, founder and president of Where Pigs Fly Animal Sanctuary, in the Hunter Valley, NSW, is in a similar position. “We’re having to buy in hay from Victoria, and our feed bills have skyrocketed,” she says. “We’ve had to rely on our own funds and the goodwill of others. Along with other farmed animal rescues, be it farmed animals or wildlife, we’re struggling too and the government needs to pay some attention to this sector of the community.”

Kate Luke, co-founder and vice-president of Little Oak Sanctuary, a not-for-profit registered charity, in Canberra, agrees. “Most sanctuaries can’t afford to buy huge quantities of feed, and we’re struggling to source any, especially as we’re competing against the same resources for farmers. Also, farmers are profiting from their animals as well as receiving financial assistance. The sanctuaries are not-for-profit, and we’re not getting any financial support at all.”

Luke also believes it’s important we consider the effect of drought conditions, and how they demonstrate an urgent need for change across Australian farming practices. “We need to acknowledge the impact of animal agriculture on our planet and take measures to effect real changes - rather than seeking band-aid solutions,” says Luke.

Some sanctuaries have set up individual fundraising campaigns and Vegan Australia has set up a fundraiser to help animal sanctuaries suffering through the drought.

Donate to Vegan Australia's Save a Sanctuary campaign:

Mem Davis is a freelance copywriter and singer-songwriter in Sydney, Australia.
Katrina Fox is the founder of The Scavenger.

Images: Top: Bessie and Blessed, permanent residents of A Place of Peace animal sanctuary in Braidswood, NSW. Photo: A Place of Peace.

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