• DAY 196: A (slightly late) HALF YEAR REVIEW – part 1

    Apr 09 2013

    Its (a little over) 6 months since I started this year-long project and I want to report on how things are going.

    Have I helped any animals? What have I learnt? Do you even care?




    According to my own statistics… (as Robert Mugabe said when counting his votes)… I have so far saved…

    12 dogs, 10 fish, 3 birds (9 rescued and 6 killed, oops), 255 snails and slugs.

    (for a detailed breakdown click here)

    It doesn’t sound like much. A man in China may have eaten this last month.

    But it IS positive and does prove that individually you can make a difference.

    Or does it?

    Everywhere I go I need the access, the help, and not least, the inspiration of others. People like Charl and Trevor et all. And, of course, all the money raised has come from YOU. (thank you)

    Unless you are administering mouth to mouth resuscitation to a polar bear on an empty ice floe its almost impossible to help without the help of others. We’re all interconnected. A butterfly flaps his wings in Hackney and a Big Mac collapses in Beijing

    The central premise of this book, then – how many animals can ONE man help in one year – is kind of screwed.

    BUT, paradoxically, the central premise of this book still stands. Precariously, but gloriously, like a tower made of Jell-o.

    We must INDIVIDUALLY go out and help so that TOGETHER things might get better. And if that sounds obvious then so be it. With others’ help I’ve helped and that feels wonderful – like a big group hug.





    It’s this: that it’s vital touch upon suffering. Strange as it sounds. We must expose ourselves to the problem.

    When you see a dog getting hit by a car you instinctively help. When you hear the whines from the next door street you stop to listen. When you read about it in the local papers you turn the page and eat some bacon.

    In the West it’s easy to protect ourselves from the harsh realities of animal suffering by distance and duvets. Out of sight, out of heart. In some ways the avoidance of suffering is

    But this can have it’s own painful consequences.

    It is terrifying the speed at which, on returning to England I retreat back into comfort and then the fridge and then emails and then a sort of moral standby mode.

    We calcify in everyday air.

    Conversely, when I’ve been confronted by the suffering of a puppy out in India or the death of a deer in Sussex it’s truly horrifying but it’s also motivating – life swings a great big foot in my butt and says: do what’s important. Help.

    If you care about something then the key requirement seems to be this: only connect. The rest will follow.





    I’m financially poorer.

    But am I emotionally richer?

    To my surprise I don’t feel a build up of horror or outrage (as much as I have felt those things). Instead, the sadness has led to some sort of softening. It’s not fireworks but I feel a shift.

    For a start I have a greater sense of alignment with the world (like the alcoholic who finally admits there’s a problem it feels weirdly helpful to face the issue of animal welfare straight in the eye). I have also become incrementally kinder to others and not just animals ( I actually help old people in the street rather than being amazed by their swollen ankles) and most vitally I feel more love for myself.


    I spent a number of years doing a Buddhist practice that involved telling myself I was loveable. I found it impossible. After three years I gave up

    I don’t think I’m a bad person at all but I seem to suffer from that strangely common affliction in the West where we think that loving yourself is akin to masturbating in the bushes.

    Last month I did the self-love practice again and a strange thing happened: I dissolved into tears. As I wept, I felt a tiny rush of love run through me. Perhaps it was my breakfast repeating on me but just perhaps, perhaps, it was because giving out something gives you back something.

    It does beg the question though – am I doing this year for me or for the animals?

    Both, I think.

    Post divide

    Mar 31 2013
    Li-an, poorer and happier than she has ever been

    Li-an: ‘This is the poorest I have even been but also the happiest’ 

    Every now and then you meet someone that reminds you of what compassion can do.

    Today I met a woman called Li-an at a dog sanctuary in Manila who has given it all up to help just a few dogs. 

    My year long journey is, as they say in the soccer world, a game of two halves.  On the one hand I find myself, almost daily, being dumped into a world of abuse and misery. On the other hand I come across examples of human compassion that attempt to redress the balance and show some hope.  Acid and Alkaline. I’m afraid the acid is still corrosive but the more people I meet like this the more hope I have.


    University educated

    Li-an works as a volunteer at a dog-sanctuary in the centre of Manila. She is a university-educated, proactive individual who had a promising career in journalism but she gave it up to help animals in the search for more meaning in her life. She even cut her hair short so that it woudn’t get in the way of washing and caring for the dogs.

    Li-an washing the dogs. Before she came they had never been washed.

    Li-an washing the dogs. Before she came they had never been washed.


    She had always wanted to help in some way and had spent a long time working with street children but felt that ‘ultimately animals are more vulnerable. They can’t grow up and get a job can they?’

    When Li-an first encountered this place she saw how 80% of the dogs were emaciated and often went without food for days when the funding ran out.  She responded the only way she could – by asking for food remnants outside restaurants. Then in turn she encouraged more volunteers to come and help,  and those people, inspired by her acts, have been doing great work too. Now, through her efforts more funding has come in.

    Para is the mascot of this dog sanctuary. His owner tried to kill him for food to celebrate his birthday, he had no money to buy something else. Para was rescued but his brother was no so lucky

    Para is the mascot of this dog sanctuary. His owner tried to kill him for food to celebrate his birthday, he had no money to buy something else. Para was rescued but his brother was no so lucky


    Pregnant dogs are tied up to  the gates of the sanctuary when they are not wanted.

    Pregnant dogs are tied up to the gates of the sanctuary when they are not wanted.



    Catholic principles.

    The sanctuary now does the best it can but it is still woefully underfunded. Many of the dogs here are rescued from the meat trade or other acts of extreme cruelty. The local Catholic mayor (our best friend as you know) has forbidden euthanasia which leads to piles and piles of sick dogs that they cannot afford to look after. In a place with high levels of cruelty and low levels of money the well-meaning Catholic principle of prolonging life is deeply problematic.

    Catholic principles are strong in the Philippines but this doesn't always work out well for dogs.

    Catholic principles are strong in the Philippines but this doesn’t always work out well for dogs.


    Finding happiness.

    Li-an now says she is the poorest she has ever been, ‘but also the happiest’. This is music to my often doubting ears. Whenever I meet people that help animals the question I ask- echoing the one I ask myself often – is, why do it? Why do they put themselves through the misery of seeing all that suffering?

    I gave Li-an all the cash I had on me right there and then, about $100. She didn’t want it, suggesting that she had no proof to give me that she would spend it on the right things. ‘I must buy food and then give you a formal receipt.’ Andrew helped me force the cash into her hand. Somehow I trusted her.  Somehow I knew she would spend it well.

    Andrew and Li-an with some dogs that are now much happier

    Andrew, from network for animnals (see link on right) and Li-an with some dogs that are now much happier



    Tomorrow: our final day to rescue some dogs. We still don’t have the tip-off we need from the police but we wait for a call at any minute.


    Post divide