Posts Tagged Vets Beyond Borders

I Volunteer!

All manner of information has been published recently about the benefits of volunteering. As I appear to have a bit of time on my hands at the moment I thought I would give it a try. As part of the appeal of volunteering is to get out into the big wide world and do something practical I approached the State Emergency Service (SES) first up. I have long thought of putting my hand up with the Country Fire Authority (CFA), who do a fantastic job every summer, but my too close for comfort experience with the Black Saturday bushfires put me off that idea. Besides, the SES appear to offer more variety, cutting trapped people out of smashed cars, pulling trees off houses, etc. So I gave them a call and the woman I spoke with said she would pass my name on to my local representative. If they had not got in touch with me after a few weeks, call again. This did not strike me as the sort of organisation that was tripping over itself to get new helpers. I felt a bit discouraged with the lukewarm response to my offer and, needless to say, I have not heard a thing since my phone call.

Being a veterinarian I thought Birdlife Australia might be useful. I have experience with mist netting, bird banding and handling. I even joined up as a member. While I was pointed at a couple of subsidiary groups within Birdlife Australia the person I was suggested to email about volunteering my services has also declined to respond.

How about a nice conservation organisation? Unfortunately World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace and others are all based in Sydney, so I tried Friends of the Earth. I used to frequent their shop as a student to buy my groceries each week and I thought that a regular spot helping out there would be useful. I filled in their form, registered my interest and have heard nothing since.

I contacted Kiva, the microloan organisation, as they need people to vet their loan applications. Thank you for your interest. You have been placed on our waiting list.

Perhaps I should try something specifically veterinary? Vets Beyond Borders run several programs in India sterilising street dogs. Unfortunately these places have a “no euthanasia” policy, presumably on some kind of strange religious grounds (as an aside, my wife met a Cambodian Buddhist at her book club the other week. She was most surprised to discover that it was okay from him to eat meat as long as he did not kill it himself. An interesting loophole that can be exploited by any carnivores who are contemplating Buddhism). Recently I watched a program featuring Luke Gamble, a vet working with Worldwide Veterinary Services (WVS). He visited an animal refuge in India. The entire place was full of paralysed, emaciated dogs dragging themselves around on their back ends, with various limb ulcers that needed constant bandaging. The Dutch woman who ran the place refused to entertain the notion that most of these dogs were in constant pain, had no quality of life and should be euthanased. I don’t think I could work in that sort of hypocritical environment that promotes animal welfare without acknowledging that, sometimes, animal welfare can best be promoted through euthanasia.

I thought about volunteering with WVS. Unfortunately many of their placements require a significant time commitment, while others, like Earthwatch, expect you to pay for the privilege of helping them out. Is it not enough that I am prepared to forgo payment and cover my own costs without having to pay to work too?

Perhaps I am just being too picky but, I must admit, I have been quite surprised at the sort of lukewarm (ice cold) responses I have received. Most organisations appear more than happy to accept donations of money but seem curiously unenthusiastic about donations of time. Maybe I should just go and plant some trees?

Dr. F. Bunny



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Charity Begins At Home

But it does a lot more good outside the home. The trouble for me has always been how to decide which charities to support and which ones to ignore. There are so many stories of aid being wasted because of ineffective programs that don’t address the needs of local people or corrupt bureaucrats that use it to line their own pockets that I sometimes wonder if I should bother doing anything at all. But that is just being lazy and selfish. All it takes is a bit of research, diligence and commitment. And remember that aid does not always have to be considered in terms of money. Many charities desperately need volunteers to help with their various activities.

I watched a recent TED talk by Peter Singer entitled, “The Why and How of Effective Altruism” ( that helped clarify things for me.

One site he recommended is Give Well ( Give Well appears to be a group that reviews charities and recommends the ones they believe should receive support based on transparency, accountability, cost-effectiveness and a strong positive impact on people’s lives. At the moment they list only three: Against Malaria Foundation (, GiveDirectly (, and the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (

Another similar review group is Giving What We Can ( Interestingly their top two recommended charities are also the Against Malaria Foundation and the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, which gives me a bit more confidence that they may actually be worthwhile. They also have a second tier they call the “Opportunities for Leverage” group. These contain Project Healthy Children (, and Deworm the World ( While the dewormers didn’t make the top cut it’s hard to argue with a great name like that.

Giving What We Can is part of a group called The Centre for Effective Altruism (, which also contains 80,000 Hours (, a site that provides career advice for people who want to make a difference, and The Life You Can Save (, an organisation started by Peter Singer that encourages people to pledge at least 1% of their income to global poverty charities.

As a veterinarian this article would be incomplete if I did not say something about animal charities. Effective Animal Activism ( is a similar group to Give Well and Giving What We Can but they assess animal related charities. Their top ones are the Humane League (, and Vegan Outreach (

Unfortunately none of these charities focus on wildlife or conservation and are all very USA-centric, which makes it difficult for those of us who live in the rest of the world. For a more Australian view of the world you could try Everyday Hero ( They don’t appear to critique any of the charities but they have certainly come up with an impressive list crying out for your support, all 1640 of them.

In the end it all comes down to your own priorities, which is why I support Vets Beyond Borders ( The important thing is to make sure the bewildering array of “good causes” does not lead to inaction, because that would be the greatest tragedy of all.

Dr. F. Bunny

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