Voluntary Work Abroad for Animals
Volunteer to work abroad for your gap year, career break, change of direction, early retirement or just a vacation. Organisations around the world engaged in animal, wildlife and conservation projects need volunteers to work with them for at least a month to a year or more and you might find a niche working in animal rights (or more likely animal welfare). You travel about, live in a new-to-you environment, plunge into the local population and culture, pick up a foreign tongue. Altogether a treasured experience.
You may want to mix voluntary work for animal rights with animal welfare and conservation because few bona fide openings exist for purely animal rights work. An example of a good project that combines rights, welfare and conservation would be one that effectively rehabilitates animals stolen from the wild, say for the pet or zoo trade, back to the wild.
Search for Animal Rights Openings
So how do you find animal rights volunteer positions? You must search. One web site for example states, “Experience the magic of India while helping to promote animal rights.” Then goes on to say, "Working for an animal welfare NGO with a strong track record, you'll have plenty of chances to roll up your sleeves and get involved in spreading awareness about the care, management and nutrition of pets and homeless animals to all sections of Indian society." This NGO, however, is only one percent into animal rights. Still, this is a start.
Animal welfare and conservation are not the same as animal rights (se Compare Animal Philosophies). Therefore, when volunteering for an animal welfare or conservation organisation, take care that you will be active in some way for animal rights. Some bodies involved in animal welfare and conservation oppose animal rights. Conversely, some people in animal rights oppose and disparage animal welfare, taking the view that “Animal ‘welfare’ laws do little but regulate the details of exploitation.” (1)
Check Bona Fides
A volunteer drying a lost dog at a temporary animal clinic after a hurricane. (Photo by Andrea Booher, FEMA Photo Library / Wikimedia Commons.)
How do you check the honesty of an organisation? The only way is to ask them for a list of all (or say twenty) of their recent volunteers with contact details so that you can check their experiences. A effective organisation ought to be able to give you a list. They must send you a reasonably full list because if you get only half a dozen or fewer names the people listed may be associated with the organisation to say good things and there is no point contacting them for an opinion. If the organisation has ‘no time’ to send you a full list, or ‘does not do that sort of thing’, or makes up some other excuse, tell them why you want the list. If they still refuse then seriously consider dropping them flat.
What You Need
To be successful on your voluntary work abroad you:
- Need energy, enthusiasm and a real commitment to work hard to meet the mental and physical challenge.
- Should be able to adapt to circumstances if you find yourself working in isolated surroundings, possibly living in conditions you might consider sub-standard or primitive, out of touch with your family and friends, and experiencing many strange cultural differences.
- Should be able to commit yourself for several months, offer certain skills or expertise if a particular project demands it, and meet travelling costs, living costs and other expenses like administration, insurance and taxes.
Alternatively, instead of going abroad, you could opt for volunteering at an animal rights organisation in your neighbourhood. An example is People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals who advertise on their web sites for volunteers in their American and European offices. An organisation like this needs volunteers to assist in administration office work, participate in demonstrations and photo calls, carry out research for campaigns, pack parcels, distribute leaflets and undertake other duties as necessary.
While travelling as a voluntary worker in any kind of job, whether related to animals or not, keep an eye open for animal abuses that you can do something about on your own initiative. See Animal-Friendly Travel.
(1) Best S & Nocella A J (eds). Terrorist or Freedom Fighter? Reflections on the liberation of animals
. Lantern Books. 2002:12.
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