Species Unite is a collection of stories of…
Those who fight the good fight on behalf of animals. It is a collection of the stories of the people who are healing the world one creature at a time.
It’s also about following a thread. A thread that I am still pursuing…
In 2015, I met a dog named Snickers while I was volunteering at Soi Dog, the hugely impactful animal rescue in Phuket, Thailand. Snickers had been hit by a car and had trouble walking when I met him. Every morning after taking him from the large dog run that he shared with 25 other dogs, snickers and I would sit on a bench, watching all of his companions being walked around the rescue’s pond.
I only spent twenty minutes a day with him for a couple of weeks, mostly feeding him snacks while he rested his little head on my lap, but he left a big imprint. When I returned to NYC, I thought of him often and frequently checked in on the rescue’s website to see if he was still there.
Six months later, I noticed he was gone. I wrote to Soi Dog who informed me that Snickers had been adopted.
A few months after that, I noticed a post on Instagram from the vegan magazine, Laika: 4 small photos previewing the next issue. One of the photos was of a man and two dogs. I looked at it and looked again, and although the photo was tiny, I recognized Snickers. I turned to my sister-in-law and showed her the photo. She said I was nuts. But I had no doubt: we were looking at my friend Snickers.
I Googled the magazine’s website. The man with the dogs turned out to be a guy named Marc Ching who was involved in all sorts of rescue, but was featured because of his undercover work exposing the torture in the Asian dog meat trade.
According to the site, Marc ran a foundation and rescue in Los Angeles called Animal Hope and Wellness. I wrote to the organization and asked if one of the dogs in the photo was Snickers from Soi Dog in Thailand. “ A woman who answered the phone said, “Yes, it’s him, but we changed his name.” She told me that he was being fostered. I asked her if I could come and get him, she replied, “ He wouldn’t do well in New York, he needs a yard so he can lay around in the sun.” I was happy to hear that he was soon adopted by someone with a yard and plenty of sun. I wouldn’t see him again but I knew that a thread had been revealed to me.
So I followed it.
I flew to LA and met Marc Ching. He explained that he’d picked Snickers and a few other Soi Dog’s up on one of his trips back from Asia. He’d stopped by to meet the founders, John and Gil Dalley.
And he shared with me the horrors of what he’d witnessed by going undercover in dog slaughterhouses all over Asia. Though I’d met dogs rescued from the meat trade and knew it was a dirty business, until learning of Marc and his work, I’d no idea about the role of torture that defines so much of it.
One thing I think that many people forget when they are bashing the dog meat trade, although they should indeed bash it, is that we are not much better in the West. The way that we treat our factory-farmed animals is appalling, and torture and abuse happen every day at every single factory farm in North America. We spoke of this and Marc told me that I should meet Anita Kranjc to hear about her movement, the Toronto Pig Save.
Shortly after, I went to Cambodia to learn more about the dogs and then to Toronto to meet Anita. I continued to travel and meet the people who were doing whatever it took to lessen the suffering that the majority of the animals in the world are forced to endure by human beings on a daily basis. I met and stayed with Sarah Blaine and Katherine Connor, women who are fighting to help Asian elephants in Northern and Central Thailand. While learning of the Asian elephant’s plight, I met another elephant advocate who told me to talk to the brave and wonderful Suzanne Roy of the American Wild Horse Campaign, to hear about what we are doing to Mustangs in the American West, Suzanne then told me I should go to LA and meet Matt Rossell, a legend in the animal rights world.
It might sound overwhelming to go from place to place learning about the way animals are confined, tested on, abused, and killed; yet every time I’d learn of another travesty happening to animals somewhere, I’d meet another person or group doing incredible work, another person creating an island of hope.
In 2018 I started recording interviews with these people
Species Unite is the stories of the heroes I’ve met. Those who are in it, doing the work, changing the laws, risking their lives to go undercover, saving animals from horror and death or in many cases just allowing them a peaceful death, teaching all of us that one person can have enormous impact and that the only people that can stop the massive amount of unnecessary suffering that exists on this planet is us.