Animal Protection > AR Interviews

Humane Charities Australia
Helen Rosser talks to Claudette Vaughan
First published in Vegan Voice.

Q. How did Humane Charities Australia begin?
A. It originally began with a concern I had when approached to donate money to charities.
I was aware that the money I contributed might well have been funding animal experiments, which I was opposed to. Often I reluctantly gave a small amount because I didn't want to appear uncaring toward sick and disadvantaged people. I found it difficult to explain that I did care about the suffering of both human and non-human animals. It's very hard to say no when someone asks you to help sick or dying children through a monetary donation! I'm sure my former work colleagues considered me to be a callous person who cared for animals but not for people, which wasn't the case at all.
Last year I learned of a scheme in the United States called 'The Humane Seal of Approval', which seemed to address my concerns by promoting those health and medical charities that do not conduct nor support animal-based research. I later discovered that there was a similar scheme operated by NAVS in the UK called 'The Good Charity Guide'. I thought that we should have something similar here in Australia and wondered why no one had done it.
Of course, almost everyone involved in the animal movement was extremely busy working on a myriad of issues, all just as deserving. With the encouragement and support of a few close friends and after consulting with the overseas groups and people within the animal movement in Australia that have had some involvement in similar campaigns, I decided to do it myself.
Q. What is its goal?
A. Primarily it is a resource that people can refer to in order to identify which charities they can safely donate to without contributing toward animal exploitation. The underlying goal however, is to redirect vital funding away from animal-based research and to more ethical and scientifically valid research and health care. I believe the most powerful way to oppose animal exploitation is through the power of the dollar, and this is a way of doing just that.
Q. Can you recommend some charities to donate to, and which to avoid?
A. We currently have 21 charities listed with us. The most well known would probably be The Fred Hollows Foundation, Scope (formerly the Spastic Society), and Can-Survive. We don't name those charities that do conduct animal research, mainly because it's difficult to determine, but also because we try to focus on the positive. I've found that many people do not want to know about animal experiments. It's too emotional an issue for them to take on board. Rather than frighten them with the realities of what happens to animals, I believe we can achieve greater success by focussing on the good that people can do by supporting only humane charities.
You will also find that many of the charities listed by us are health care related rather than relating to medical research. This is because we consider health care for those in need to be just as important, sometimes more so, as making medical discoveries.
Q. It's an outrage how many so-called charities and welfare organisations fund animal experiments. Please comment.
A. It's just wrong! We already know that the major causes of sickness and death can be directly related to our choice of lifestyle, and so if our health departments genuinely wanted to reduce illness they'd be directing more funding into health education and particularly nutrition. Unfortunately, however, the public and our government continue to throw money at animal researchers in the belief that they will find miracle cures to enable us to continue with a destructive (and animal exploitative) lifestyle.
Generally speaking, the public is accepting of current practices in medical research. Aside from a small few who consider it unethical, most don't question the use of animals, but unless we speak out against this nothing is going to change. We can't just say that it's cruel; we have to say why. We need to make these researchers more accountable and I believe the best way to influence them is through our pockets, that is, through our choice of whom we donate to.
Q. What successes have you had so far?
A. It's very difficult to claim any successes in such a short duration. We were formed only last year. Our only real success would be the elimination of, or at the very least a reduction in, animal experiments. These however are long-term strategies. I'd like to think that the public response I have received so far could be considered a success. There are many people in the community who feel exactly as I did about donating to charities and they have expressed gratitude that we now have this resource available.
Q. Where are you heading with HCA?
A. I see HCA as being a benchmark that medical and health charities will look towards. Once researchers and institutions see that the public has a preference for donating to non-animal research they will need to reconsider their current practices. And I'm sure that once the public learns more about animal-based research -- about the scientific arguments and not just concern for animals -- they will oppose it.
Q. How can we help?
A. First and foremost, before you make a donation to any health or medical charity, ensure that it is a 'humane charity' (as listed by us).
Secondly, we need people to question their favourite charities and ask them whether they conduct or support animal-based research. If they answer yes, then explain to them that you will no longer support their work as it goes against your principles. If they answer no, then suggest they contact us to qualify for listing on our site. We need charities to look to us to obtain approval by the public.
Finally, be informed. In discussions with others, don't just say that animal experiments are cruel or wrong -- tell them why! Explain why they are ethically unjustified and how they produce misleading data.
If you are on the HCA supporter database we can keep you informed about what charities are added to our list, and with general news items about animal experiments and calls for action. You can join our support base by sending your name, address and email address to info@humanecharities.org.au.
Q. Many, many people want to know where their money is going. What are you offering people that is different from, say, ethical investments?
A. Donating to charity is very different to ethical investments. With charities you don't get a return for your money, except for the satisfaction of knowing you are contributing to a needy cause. What Humane Charities Australia offers is an assurance that people can donate to a worthy charity of their choice, but without compromising their own values and supporting animal exploitation.
I guess what we provide, then, are peace of mind, and a move towards a more humane future for both humans and animals.
Humane Charities Australia Inc -- Encouraging ethical medical research: www.humanecharities.org.au Compassionate Kidz! -- Introducing children to animal rights: www.compassionatekidz.org