Animal Protection > AR Interviews


Say No to Animals in Pet Shops

Interviewed by Claudette Vaughan
First published in Vegan Voice

David Casey talks to Jaz Simmons about his and June Bird's campaign to raise the profile of enslaved animals living in pet shops around Australia.
Q. How did your campaign against pet shop animals begin, where are you now with it and where do you want to take it?
A. The campaign began in January 2002, when my colleague June Bird started gathering the support of celebrities who opposed the practice of selling animals in pet shops. June enlisted me to build the campaign's website, and this led me to join June as co-manager of "Say No". The campaign has been going from strength to strength ever since, with a very successful rally in Pitt St Mall in Sydney, a nationwide radio advertisement and numerous media interviews. Our aim is to have legislation drafted that will render the sale of animals in pet shops and large-scale breeding of companion animals illegal.
Q. It's a subject not often tackled by AR activists, yet pet shops are hellholes for animals.
A. There are so many blatant injustices being done to animals almost everywhere we look, it doesn't surprise me that pet shops and breeding farms have slipped under the AR radar until recently. There have indeed been efforts made to rectify the situation in overseas countries, but news of these efforts is often overshadowed by more "media worthy" issues such as whale slaughtering. We were encouraged by the fact that the Netherlands is one country where the selling of pet shop animals has been banned entirely, thanks to the efforts of AR activists.
 
Q. Does your campaign have a humane education side for the public?
A. Public education is the crux of our campaign. Through our website and the media we are making people aware of what goes on, not only in pet shops themselves, but also in the breeding farms where the animals originate. Our Christmas advertisements, which stressed the notion that animals are not just throwaway gifts, are an example of our efforts to get people to think before they buy a companion animal. Impulse buying is a major part of the animal overpopulation problem. Not only are we telling people they shouldn't buy from a pet shop, we're also showing them that thousands of animals await their care in homeless shelters around Australia. We have a list of these shelters on our website, and we encourage all animal shelters and rescuers to make themselves known to us so we can refer people to them.
Q. Many fine voices have come out in support of this campaign, I believe.
A. We're delighted with the support we've received in the short time that our initiative has been in place. Sydney MP Clover Moore has been fighting hard for us in parliament. We also have a large number of celebrity supporters, including Lindsay McDougall from Frenzal Rhomb, Judith Durham from the Seekers, and Bianca Dye from Nova 96.9. The list continues to grow as word gets around, and celebrities have been invaluable in their ability to reach and influence large portions of the public.
Q. Will you be demonstrating outside pet shops?
A. Because the animal-selling pet shops are so numerous and widespread, we've found protesting outside them to be an inefficient means of achieving our objective. While we continue to encourage the distribution of our leaflets all over Australia, the kind of change we're aiming to effect requires very widespread public attention, and this can be brought about much more quickly with clever use of mass media.
Q. What will it take to get breeding laws changed in this country? It seems every second person I run into is breeding cats and dogs and even birds "on the side" for a bit of extra cash.
A. It would be nice if backyard breeders woke up and realised that animals aren't novelty sale items, but that isn't likely to happen in the foreseeable future. New legislation is the only way we're going to stop them and to get legislation changed we need the support of the voting public. Large portions of the animal-buying public are still ignorant of the implications of purchasing from pet shops, and as long as that remains the case, we won't have sufficient numbers to persuade the government to take action. Fortunately the vast majority of people we inform about the situation see the logic in putting a stop to companion animal farming and backyard breeding, and quickly become staunch allies. Once we have enough of them on-side we will be well equipped to lobby the government to make the necessary changes to legislation.
Q. How did you first get involved in AR issues?
A. Throughout my adult life I've supported animal rights with vegan dietary and product-buying decisions, and that support was extended to offering free internet services to AR groups when I became a web developer in the early '90s. Say No is the first campaign I've taken a management role in, and judging from the wealth of experience I've gained from it, it won't be my last! Campaigning can be a very tough job at times, but the rewards are enormous and I'd recommend that everybody give it a go at least once in their life.
Q. How can Vegan Voice readers help you?
A. By publishing this article, you're helping to inform a lot of caring people about our campaign. We encourage readers to check out our website at www.saynotoanimalsinpetshops.com and join our e-mailing list. For more information, our email address is info@saynotoanimalsinpetshops.com or write to us at PO Box 799, Bowral NSW 2576.