As a small child, I always thought that “change” was obtainable. If something was wrong, the answer seemed simple: Just change it! Soon, however, after reaching adulthood, I was faced with the realization that “change” can be a difficult thing to bring into the world. During my college years, I began to explore what small changes I could personally make that would help improve the world, specifically in the lives of animals. I started to boycott products manufactured by companies that tested on animals, swore never to wear animal fur and skin, and started to dabble with the idea of going vegetarian, with the goal of someday going vegan. Still, though, I felt like I was in a bubble, a safe place where I could avoid anything disturbing or uncomfortable. I wanted to take a step outside my bubble and use my talents to help animals. Signing a petition electronically was not enough. I wanted to do more because I felt as though it was within my reach. Therefore, I applied to be an intern with PETA Asia in Manila.
Arriving in Manila was a bit overwhelming at first because of the traffic, language barrier, rainy weather, and average bustle of a large city. My nerves were automatically calmed when I met the two other interns and PETA employees. Everyone was so helpful and comforting. Over the course of my stay (just under four weeks), I was able to table at a concert so as to raise awareness about the campaign to transfer the elephant Mali to a sanctuary, write letters to editors of various media outlets, answer incoming questions from students about puppy mills and illegal pet shops, help make props for future protests, extract contact information for various media outlets abroad, and help stray dogs in the nearby city of Pasay by bathing them, washing their living areas, and bringing them canned food. And lastly, I was able to walk the beautiful Grace, a foster dog at PETA’s headquarters. Grace’s character absolutely amazed me: She had had such a horrible, depressing life before she was rescued, but now, she is as lively and charismatic as dogs come! She knew precisely how to play it in order to get a piece of vegan pizza from JiaYi (a fellow intern) … the whole slice, actually! Oops!
Although there were definitely days when I felt as though I would burst into tears at the inhumane treatment of animals, the majority of my days gave me a remarkable sense of enlightenment and encouragement. After interning with PETA, I feel more dedicated than ever to the vegan lifestyle, the well-being of animals, and speaking out against injustices toward animals (regardless of how small or large the matter is). The friends that I have made here will definitely last a lifetime. Although I have only spent 25 days with my fellow interns and office mates, I feel as though they are members of my long-lost family. It is so inspiring to be around others who believe in the same causes and display such a high level of passion in their work.
This experience has opened my eyes to the pain that animals endure on a global scale. It has shown me that staying inside one’s “bubble” is comparable to turning one’s back on animals. Anyone who claims to be an animal lover from inside a “bubble” has not seen the global scale of animal abuse—nor do they understand what it means to be an animal advocate. Going back to my childhood idea that “change” is obtainable—I think it is. It just takes a great deal of effort and perseverance. One of the main reasons I think change does not occur is because it is more convenient to be a spectator and rely on others to be the participants, but if everyone were a spectator, who would be left as participants? We all are given special talents to help make this world better. It is up to each of us to decide how best to use those talents. Because of my opportunity with PETA, I know that change is obtainable.
Posted by former PETA Asia-Pacific intern Ashleigh Day