Liz Longacre and her dog Knish
I love animals; fluffy, feathery, scaly, furry – I love them all, and I hate that a lot of them are mistreated. Maybe it’s because I grew up with animals – a dog and 50 million fish – that I’m always looking for a way to help, but the nagging voice inside my head saying, “How can you help? You are only ten” is not helping. And it’s true. I am only ten.
Last year I saved a turkey from being eaten, and he lived out the rest of his life in my backyard. It left me with a warm fuzzy feeling that I had made a small contribution, and that I had triumphed over that nagging voice. Since then I have been looking for another way to contribute, which has led me to writing this blog.
As a project for homeschool, I interviewed Liz Longacre, who left her job as a lawyer to follow her dream of working with animals. For her honeymoon, she and her husband went to Thailand to volunteer at The Elephant Nature Park, an elephant sanctuary. This trip really opened her eyes to what animals in the tourist industry go through and she decided to do something about it. Her business, Your Time Travels, which she launched in November 2010, does four main things. It helps travellers to:
• mix animal welfare activities, like volunteering at animal sanctuaries, into their vacation;
• see animals in their natural habitat;
• go to vegan/vegetarian restaurants; and
• travel with their pets.
On a Wednesday afternoon I interviewed Liz via skype (with some “help” from my dog, Tali and her dog, Knish). It’s nice to think that anyone could have a conversation no matter where you are - Liz is in New York, and I'm in Accra, Ghana.
What’s you favourite animal?
I love all animals. I especially love having a dog as I grew up with them. I really do just have a love for all animals and I would feel bad picking just oneHave you ever been tempted to work with just one animal?
When I was thinking about what I wanted to do with my life I wouldn’t have minded dedicating to one cause, but for me, being broad is just as great. I want to spread a message of compassion for animals in general.Why did you decide to go to Thailand for your honeymoon?
I was working as a lawyer and I wasn’t feeling fulfilled and I wanted something with greater depth.
I was inspired by a book called Modoc that I read. It’s based on a true story about an elephant. It was one of the most beautiful and dramatic books I’d read. I became fascinated and read more and more. I just knew I really wanted to be around elephants; they are the most magnificent creatures. We had two weeks off from work and knew we could go a bit further afield so we decided to go to Thailand and volunteer at a sanctuary.What was the most eye-opening experience in Thailand?
Learning about what elephants in tourism go thorough. To witness the brutality they experience so they can entertain tourists was really upsetting to me
That experience has led me to this business .I believe that if people knew what goes on behind the scenes they would want to do something different.What was your favourite experience?
Probably volunteering at the elephant sanctuary with my husband.We met people from all over the world, from Africa, Europe and Australia. We took jungle hikes with the elephants and we even stayed overnight with them. It was amazing to see how gentle and smart they are.When and why did you become a vegan?
I was a vegetarian for twelve years, and I thought cheese was OK, but then I began to learn what went into dairy, and then the more I learnt, the more I realised there’s not really that much difference. When I learnt about the suffering that’s involved in the food production system, I decided I didn’t want to be a part of it. I couldn’t participate in something I didn’t believe in.
I’ve been a vegan for about a year.Do you find it difficult to be a vegan when you travel?
I find that it takes preparation and planning. If you plan ahead, do your research and find out where you can eat and make sure you have good snacks then it’s definitely doable.
I went to Argentina, which is known for its meat; people go there to eat the beef! I had a list of restaurants and I went to them every night. Other times I just made do and ate pasta or salad. But it’s really all about planning.How hardcore a vegan are you? Are you only vegan food-wise, or are you vegan in everything?
It’s very hard to be a perfect vegan. There are so many things that have animal products in them; even our tyres are made with animal products!
I’m constantly challenging myself to be the best vegan I can be. For example, I don’t buy leather shoes, I buy vegan shoes.
Those are my values and I keep trying to live by them.What’s your criteria for an animal friendly attraction?
If you want to see animals and learn about them, the best way to do that is through volunteering or seeing them in the wild. I don’t really support theme parks or even zoos. Some wildlife parks that rescue animals and then release them later are OK, but you really need to do your research and find out things like where do they get their animals? How do they treat them?
I believe the best way to learn is through volunteering or seeing the animals in the wildWhat’s your ultimate dream for your business, and what steps are you taking to get yourself closer to that goal?
I really want to be sending a lot of people abroad to have fun, amazing trips where they can celebrate animals, and come to understand the importance of acting compassionately towards them.
At the moment I’m growing the company, by adding new trips. I want to change people’s mindsets that you shouldn’t participate in everything that’s available. You can have an authentic experience by participating in a responsible way.
I’m currently working on a tour for a client to go on safari in Tanzania. It’s taking a while to build up the client base so my focus is mainly on marketing.If President Obama told you that he would change any one thing in favour of animal rights of your choice, what would it be?
I’d say it would be to reform the factory farming system that produces meat in the US. It’s really bad for animals, for our health and for the environment.
I really enjoyed talking to Liz (and Knish) and I hope that our paths will cross again some time in the future.
To learn more about her work, please go to Liz’s website or her blog or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you want to help animals, you can start by just spending some time researching if, say, the elephants in the circus coming to town are treated well and then making an informed decision if you really want to go, or by only buying free range eggs or volunteering at the local shelter or any number of other things, because you can make a difference in your own little corner of the world.