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In late 2018, after becoming aware of how animals are produced by the food industry, Teresa Gangnier, a grade school teacher living in Toronto, Ontario, was determined to make drastic changes in her life.
Her journey began by adopting a vegan diet. However, the more she learned about the dairy, and meat industries, the more perturbed she became. Gangnier felt that she, “like everyone else, had been conditioned into believing that animals died a somewhat humane death, and that eating animal by-products was... necessary for survival.”
For Gangnier, changing her diet was not enough to quell the newly-minted anxiety she grappled with. In February 2018, she joined the animal rights group, Anonymous for the Voiceless, and kicked off her new life as a hands-on animal activist. In turn, she “no longer felt like a victim,” and found a way of “retelling the narrative of animal agriculture the way it needed to be told.”
During this time, she taught her students about “compassion and respect of other living beings” by co-founding a Meatless Monday club. In which, pupils were able to learn and produce plant-based recipes once a week.
While this proved to be rewarding, Gangnier noticed a palpable “disconnect from the living, breathing, breathtaking world of animals,” in her inner-city classes. She also experienced push-back from the parents of her students, and fellow teachers, making it difficult to make as much of an impact as she had hoped.
Deciding to lead by example, Gangnier opted to take a less traveled path; a path to convey to her students that “animals are valuable, important, and worthy of our time and help.”
She left a home and career in pursuit of dedicating herself fully to six separate animal sanctuaries spread out across the globe. She states, "I decided to take the year off, and devote myself exclusively to animals during this time, through volunteering and activism."
Her students can track her journey on a map of the world, and learn about the places she has visited. They also hear about the animals, and the stories behind their rescues through videos and photos sent by Gangnier. Or, depending on the time zones, have the option of contacting her through video chat, to get a day-in-the-life update of her progress, and the animals she cares for.
Alpaca and Horse Farm–Sweden
The voyage began in July 2018 when Gangnier travelled to Sweden, to volunteer at an alpaca and horse farm with no official title. There, the founder's future goal is to develop an equine assisted therapy for children with post traumatic stress disorder.
Gangnier chose this as her first location, because her ideals lined up with that of the owner's, and she enjoyed "being around the animals." It proved to be a logical first step, as the future of her pilgrimage would not always be so quaint.
El Paraiso Del Burro–Spain
Next stop, Spain.
El Paraiso Del Burro is a sanctuary for donkeys who can no longer be cared for by their owners. According to the website, it is a place where the donkeys can "rest in a quiet environment where they receive the care they require."
Here, Gangnier worked on the farm in exchange for room and board.
Winter 2019, Gangnier headed back to her home province, Quebec, Canada. There she worked at SAFE (Sanctuaire des Animaux de Ferme de L'Estrie), a sanctuary dedicated solely to farm animals.
Founded in 2016, SAFE has been a refuge for animals who narrowly escape the meat industry. There, Gangnier worked hard around the farm; she cleaned pens, brushed, and fed a variety of animals, and got first hand knowledge of how a sanctuary was run and maintained.
She stayed on the SAFE farm, where she was offered room and board in return for her services, until the winds changed in the direction of New Zealand.
The Black Sheep Animal Sanctuary–New Zealand
The Black Sheep Animal Sanctuary in New Zealand specializes in providing a safe space for abused and neglected animals. They take in a variety of species from cows to rats. They're a vegan sanctuary that raises money through donations, and by running their own second hand shops. According to Gangnier, "the animals ended up being well cared for at the end of the day."
Soi Dog Foundation and Phuket Dog Pound–Thailand
In Thailand, Gangnier split her time between two dog sanctuaries. The well-known Soi Dog Foundation, and the lesser-known Phuket Dog Pound. The latter of which she saw as a mandatory endeavour, saying she "couldn't actually leave [the dogs]" as there is a small volunteer to dog ratio, and "they really need the help."
At both Soi and Phuket, volunteers focus on maintaining the dogs and their kennels, with a strong emphasis on socializing the animals for future adoption. Many of them come from abusive environments, or the dog meat trade in neighbouring countries, such as Vietnam.
When her year of travel was nearing its end, Gangnier decided that her journey was not yet over, and continued to do the work that was most fulfilling to her.
Over the course of the summer, she will be, once again, volunteering at SAFE Sanctuary.
She urges anyone who feels like they have a "moral obligation to respond to animal suffering to research animal sanctuaries/shelters/charities nearby them, or anywhere else in the world, and just offer to volunteer and help out."
Follow her journey.
You can follow Teresa's journey through her Instagram account: @la_tere9.