Dear friend of ANIMALS 24-7:
Thank you for your support and encouragement during our first nine months online. Already we have reached and helped more people who care about animals, around the world, than I ever have reached and helped before in more than 45 years of reporting about animals and habitat, including 28 years of full-time information service to the humane community.
What you probably want to know right now, though, is “What does the squirrel have to do with it?”
Of course you care much more about the squirrel than about whatever I have to say, because you are a person who notices and cares about animals.
So I could tell you about the afternoon I spent, at about age 10, trying to understand the language of the squirrel who kept talking to me from the walnut tree above my head.
Truth is, the squirrel was probably saying “Nuts to you!”
But I felt certain that the squirrel had something important to communicate to me. I tried to explain to the squirrel that as a lifelong vegetarian, I did not eat squirrels, in hopes this would help the squirrel to be less afraid of me. The squirrel probably thought I was nuts. But he kept circling back around to say a bit more, and I kept looking up, trying to decipher his messages until my neck was sore.
I could also tell you that young reporters are often called “squirrels” by more seasoned journalists, because young reporters tend to be bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and waste a lot of time chasing after nuts. As a cub reporter I was no different. But I still tried to talk with and understand animals of every sort, and some of the “nuts” I chased after and wrote about were the people who founded and built the animal rights movement.
So what does the llama at left have to do with it?
That llama is a llama I helped to rescue, with my wife Beth, a few weeks ago, after we found him running, panic-stricken, in the middle of a busy highway at twilight. But I could not resist the chance to make a pun.
Many young people of my generation sought spiritual inspiration in far places, including among the lamas of Buddhist temples of the high Himalayas, but I found my inspiration among the animals of rural Quebec during 13 years as a farm and business reporter, moonlighting as hay hand on dairy and sheep farms, volunteer assistant to a deputy game warden, and sports columnist nicknamed “Jackass Clifton.”
Experimenting with neuter/return feral cat population control, long before the technique had a name, I was once even elected interim village dogcatcher ––and managed to rehome the two dogs I caught before a full-time replacement was hired.
My work took me into the facilities of every sort of animal use industry, from abatoirs and rendering plants to laboratories experimenting with xenografts. And what animals had to say to me, and to other humans, became more and more clear. Sometimes it was just, “Let me out of here!” or “Get away!” Often, though, it was simply “Don’t harm me and I won’t harm you.”
More and more, I felt that the animals were asking me to tell their stories, from the brook trout and crayfish afflicted by acid rain to the dogs chained outdoors in bitter winters and the veal calves, pigs, and chickens who would barely experience life, and would know only the worst of it, before being trucked to slaughter.
I found ways to spend more and more of my time on the animal beat, and eventually, to help develop first a magazine, then a newspaper, and now ANIMALS 24-7, to share the stories of animals and how we can help them with more and more people, whose choices of lifestyle and choices as activists can help to reduce the universe of animal suffering.
Your donations help to keep me and my volunteer news team––none of us are paid yet––on the job, translating and amplifying the voices of animals 24 hours a day.
Your contributions are essential, because even as we are reaching more people than ever before, our online news reporting has no other support base. Our work is wholly donation-driven, and while ANIMALS 24-7 operates on about 10% of the budget needed to produce a monthly printed newspaper, only about one online reader in 1,000 donates.
That puts our donors in unique company, among the few who understand the potential of online media and appreciate the role of ANIMALS 24-7 in finding, reaching, and informing people who care about animals worldwide.
Merritt Clifton, editor
P.S. –– Your $25, $50, $100, $500, $1,000, or whatever you can afford will be used carefully and stretched to the max.