Welcome to The Animals’ Inbox!
You can write to the animals, and they can write back!
The animals have written messages, and they’re hoping to hear from you…
* Please note that this project is now closed to responses.
This project aims to promote critical thinking around the treatment of animals in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Gary the Greyhound
Yeah, I’ve heard people say we like to run, that we greyhounds love to race. I probably would have agreed with them too, back when I was young, back in my racing days.
That’s all I knew back then - it was a hard, fast, competitive life.
Now when I reflect, though, I think it’s remarkable I made it this far. I’m one of the lucky ones. I got through it all relatively unscathed. There were close calls, of course! Actually, it was a leg injury that sent me out early... But I survived. I survived.
It’s hard, you know? Remembering. I’ve seen a lot of things in my time. Dogs - healthy dogs - racing one minute, in agony the next. Then: it’s all over. Of course, I didn’t always see the ending. A lot of the time, you just don’t hear from them again… At most, you might hear a rumour… And that could have been me. That could have easily been me.
Now that I’m retired, I’m able to enjoy life. I get to go out on walks; I get to curl up with the cat. And it’s given me a bit of perspective, you know? I’m finally able to see what I was missing all those years. People ask me if I miss racing. Not that they listen for a reply. And isn’t it funny? They ask if I miss racing, but they never ask if I miss the cages, or the long, hot trailer rides. They never ask if I miss my brothers and sisters, or my mum, or my friends - my dear, lost friends…
That’s what I want people to know. We aren’t here for you.
I see it all the time, the way you use us animals. We’re who you eat, we’re who you wear, we’re who you test your products on. You know, my owners - imagine that! imagine having owners! - leave the television on, all day, even when they’re not
watching it. But I’m watching: and I see the horses, racing endlessly. Animal exploitation, everywhere.
Yeah, I got through it. Just. I’m lucky my injury wasn’t worse! But it’s the young ones I worry about. How many of them are gonna be pushed too far? How long will they suffer for your entertainment? How many of them will die? Wanna bet on that?
They deserve to live their lives for themselves. They don’t deserve what they’re forced to give to this awful industry - and you don’t deserve to take it from them!
You say you love dogs. Maybe it’s true. Some dogs are loved, but not us. Not us.
If you wanted to let us run, you’d take us to the park.
Think about the young ones. They deserve better.
I used to breed greyhounds. Let me tell you, you wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for us. Don’t do it anymore, mind you. Enjoying retirement, myself. But I don’t have any regrets. It was good money, frankly. Not that it was only about the money - I wouldn’t have done it if the dogs didn’t like it. They would've hated having to sit around at home all day. What kind of a life would that be? You know it as well as I do, Gary, you would’ve been itching to get out and race! Well, what’s the alternative? No greyhounds? No dogs at all? Neither of us would be enjoying retirement if it wasn’t for the races!
- Richard M.
Thank you for your message, Richard. You’re right, I probably wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the races, and perhaps you wouldn’t be enjoying retirement quite as much as you have been. I can’t agree with everything you’ve written, though. I don’t think an end to racing means ‘no dogs’, and it doesn’t mean dogs who don’t race have to sit around all day. You and I both know New Zealanders love getting outdoors with us. You say you bred dogs, you made a decent amount of money from it, and you wouldn’t have done it if we didn’t like the life we were born into. Well, let me ask you this: how much of the sacrifice - the pain, the separation, the death - did you take on? Because we greyhounds bear a lot of it!
- Gary the Greyhound
Sylvia the Stoat
I don’t really have time for this, to be completely honest with you.
The only reason I agreed is because Philip said it would take two minutes. I thought, ‘Okay, then, I’ll give you two minutes.’ But frankly, this seems like a waste of time. It feels a bit beneath me, actually, writing to you humans. I don’t know what good it’ll do…
Angry? You bet I’m angry. Do you know how much effort it takes to raise three young children? All the while, I’ve got to worry about one of them getting caught, or accidentally nibbling something that’s been poisoned. And not just them, either! If anything happened to me- Hmp! I shudder to think what would become of my kids. God knows no one’s going to care for them if I don’t. You buggers certainly won’t, I can tell you that much!
Oh, yes, I know precisely what you think of me and mine. Do you know how I know? Because of all those bloody traps you keep setting. Do you have any idea how much suffering they've caused us? Do you? Or do you prefer not to think about it?
I know, I know, we don’t belong here - blah, blah, blah! Well, let me ask you this: do you know why we were brought here? Yes, I know you know you brought us here. But do you know why? Well, look it up! (Or, if you ask nicely, and catch me in a better mood, I might tell you in my next letter.) The thing is, we have as much right to be here as you.
And get this: the ‘damage’ you blame us for is NOTHING compared to the harm you humans do to the planet, and the mess you leave for the rest of us who call Aotearoa home. If any of us should leave, maybe it’s you lot! Wouldn’t that be nice?
You say you care about the natural world, but if you really cared, you’d change how you live - you’d stop eating meat, and you’d give up dairy, too. You wouldn’t ship those things, either! That’s what’s killing the environment; that’s what’s messing up the climate. Instead, you’d treat the land better, and return some of it to forest. But it’s easier to blame us, isn’t it? It’s easier to kill us than change the way you live.
Look, I’ve got to go and feed my kids.
All I ask is that you have a think about what I’ve said, okay?
I read your letter, and I agree that trapping animals isn’t ideal. In a perfect world, all of us would be able to live together in peace. I’m really sorry about what they’re doing to you, but if we let stoats run around, what will happen to our native birds? It would be unfair to let them die. They were here first, and they won’t survive if we don’t get rid of all the invasive species. Stoats don’t belong in Aotearoa. Your species will survive in other places, but our native birds have nowhere else to go. If they go extinct here, that’s it.
You’re right about one thing, though: we humans do cause a lot of damage.
I’m glad you agree that trapping us isn’t ‘ideal’. You’ll be pleased to know, I’m sure, that I don’t think it would be ideal if you were killed in a trap, either. What a shame you think you humans have the right to go ahead and set traps for us anyway!
It beggars belief that you call us ‘invasive’. We didn’t invade these islands. We were brought here, by you, and now we’re doing what we need to do to get by. Our arrival here wasn’t accidental, either. We were brought here to control the rabbits… who were also deliberately introduced by you, for hunting, but whose populations ‘got out of hand’.
You say you care about native birds, but what you don’t seem to appreciate is that it isn’t we stoats who pose the greatest threat to them. It’s you humans. So if you’re going to eradicate us, perhaps you should pack up and leave, too.
Frankly, I think you need to keep thinking.
Rea the Rat
Please, will you help me? I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important.
You see, I’ve been stuck in this cage, waiting, waiting - it feels like forever. I’ve been here most of my life, ever since I was little. Surely there must be something you can do?
I’m not sure where we are, exactly, but I’ve worked out that we’re in a university, somewhere in New Zealand. I’m sorry I can’t tell you more, it’s just that I’ve never been out of this room - or if I have, I don’t remember it. The room itself doesn’t give me many clues: everything is beige, and white, and metallic. Really, we could be anywhere.
It’s not that I’m in pain - not yet, anyway. My needs are taken care of. I get enough to eat, and they make sure I have plenty of water. The technicians are very careful - careful, but not caring. Except Jenny. I believe she cares. When she looks at me, she always seems so sad; and when she picks me up, she’s much gentler than the other technicians.
I wouldn’t be so worried if it wasn’t for what happened to the others. You see, there are more cages, on the other side of the room. They’re filled with rats, too. Some of my siblings are in there! I haven’t spoken to them in months, but I can see them.
Well, the other day, all of the technicians came in all at once. They took all the rats on that side of the room out of their cages, and left. It felt like they were gone for hours! When they came back, I could tell something wasn’t right. For one thing, not all of them did come back; and the ones who did return looked awful. Some were bleeding, and most of them were shrieking. Also, I’ve noticed that they don’t really look at us anymore - except for Jimmy. All he does is look at us. Constantly. Like there’s something he needs to say…
The other day, I heard Jenny talking to one of the other technicians about ‘ethics approval’. Apparently, the university’s ethics board approved whatever it is they’re doing to us! Can you believe it? Jenny asked, ‘But how does something like this get past them? Here in New Zealand, of all places?’ (That’s how I know we’re somewhere in New Zealand.) The technician just shrugged. I don’t think he thought the question was very important.
Do those people on the ethics board not realise that we rats feel pleasure and pain? Do they not know that we have relationships, just like they do? Do they not understand that we value our own lives, too?
Please, help me! Maybe together we can think of a way out of this.
I’m trying to be the bravest rat I can be, because I don’t want to worry any of the others. But the truth is, I’m terrified. I have no idea what they’re going to do to us next, or when they’ll do it.
I have a bad feeling that I’ll have a lot more to tell you by the time I write my next letter. If I make it back, that is…
Rea, I’m so sorry to hear what you and your siblings are going through!! What can we do to help? (I know you’re not real, you’re just a character, but surely there must be something I can do to help real rats who are in the same situation as you??) I’m looking forward to reading your reply. :)
Kia ora T.W. I’m really sorry to report that since Rea wrote her letter, I’ve learned that she was killed. It’s unclear how she died - it may have been in the experiment itself, or she may have been killed afterwards, when the scientists no longer had any use for her. (Often, rats like Rea are poisoned with carbon dioxide.) There are lots of things you can do to help rats like them, though. You can join the NZAVS (www.nzavs.org.nz), an organisation dedicated to ending animal experimentation. Also, keep an eye out on animal rights socials, as rescuers sometimes need to find homes for the animals they have saved.
Carol the Cow
Is there anything else I can say to you? Were my cries not enough?
I’m carrying my third child, and I’m overwhelmed with dread.
My first two babies were taken away within hours of me giving birth - the most beautiful boy you’ve ever seen, and a gorgeous little girl. I try my hardest not to think about them, because it brings me such grief… but of course, it’s impossible. They say my daughter is out there somewhere, but the rumours of what happened to my son are unbearable.
I was taken from my mother, too. I was two days old.
You know, I was so determined, when I was pregnant with my first child, that I would keep him. I couldn’t wait for him to be born! Of course, I knew what happens - it happens to all the babies - but I simply couldn’t imagine anything getting between us. When I saw his sweet face, I was so full of love for him. When they took him away, I… I….
I spend my days eating, and trying not to think. When they milk us, it’s a relief, in its way; but beneath that relief, there’s misery. And why? So you can drink milk? Because you can’t live without cheese? Sometimes I think I can’t live without my babies.
I dream about them.
Oh, yes, I have dreams. When I dream, I can smell them again; I can feel their warm, wet noses against my flank. I speak to them, then, in a language I have forgotten, where sorrow lets out none of its usual sounds, and there is only tenderness.
I have nightmares, too. That the nightmares are real makes them worse. Death, horrible death. The sort of death you humans sometimes say isn’t good enough ‘even for an animal…’ and which you inflict on us every hour of every day. Undignified death.
Do you realise that this is your doing - that you are the one who is doing it? When you buy my milk, you’re paying for my suffering. When you drink my milk, you’re drinking the brutal death of my hours-old son, and my unending grief for my baby daughter.
Some say there is hope. Some speak of sanctuaries - golden places, without pain. But I don’t believe in them. Not really. Not for me, anyway, and not for my children.
What do I hope for? What can I hope for? When I think of everything I’ve lost, death - even undignified death - seems like mercy. What else is there to hope for, really?
Is there anything else I can say to you?
Over the last couple of years, I’ve been cutting back on dairy, mainly because of our rivers, but also for my health. I keep hearing that the reason our rivers are becoming unswimmable is because of the runoff and all that. I’ve seen it, too. When I was a kid we used to go swimming in the rivers down here in Canterbury, but I wouldn’t get in now if you paid me! To be honest, I hadn’t really thought about the cows themselves before reading your letter. I always assumed you were happy enough; they say the cows here have it better than a lot of other places, grass-fed and all that. But yeah, I think I’m starting to get it now. It makes me want to try a bit harder, to be fair. I’m not sure how much good it’ll do, though. I mean, we export most of our dairy, don’t we? Or a lot of it, anyway. If we want things to change, we’ll have to overhaul our economy. I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
- Bob Murphy
I don’t know how much good it’ll do, either, Bob. And I don’t know much about the economy.
What I do know is that my baby will be born any day now. He will be born into a world that does not love him, a world that only wants to use him - and only if it can…
I don’t have the power to change any of that. If my miserable life has taught me anything, it’s that I have no power. That doesn’t mean your human systems can’t be changed. After all, they haven’t always been this way. But if I am right - if they can be changed - it isn’t us who have the power to change them. It’s you.
Is there anything else I can say to you, Bob?
Please excuse me - these final days, hours, minutes with my son are all I have left…
- Carol the Cow
* Please note that this project is now closed to responses.
This writing project was established by Philip McKibbin, with a grant from the Australasian Animal Studies Association.
Banner: Nursey (@nurseynomercy)
Greyhound: Photo by Juan Gomez on Unsplash
Stoat: USFWS National Digital Library https://digitalmedia.fws.gov/digital/collection/natdiglib/id/6188
Rat: Photo by Alexandr Gusev on Unsplash
Cow: Photo by Daniel Quiceno M on Unsplash