Running a sanctuary for rescued animals probably seems like the world’s best job.
Whilst incredibly rewarding, the job is also incredibly tough, asking for 24/7 attention and a huge financial commitment to boot. That is why we have so much admiration for a guy like Brett, who puts his heart and soul into the important work of giving animals a second chance.
Brett runs Big Ears Sanctuary and we chat to him about the sanctuaries beautiful animals and his role in this incredible piece of Tasmanian paradise.
So Brett, how did the sanctuary get its start? What inspired it?
We started the Sanctuary after a trip to Egypt in 2003/04. We were horrified by the brutality and disregard shown to the animals there and decided that with our newly purchased and back hoe, that we could put it to good use as a Sanctuary. This is how it began. We took in a few donkeys, then a steer and some goats and it hasn’t stopped. The level of need for a Farm sanctuary is huge. We decided to focus on factory farmed animals, including rabbits.
Tell us about your most memorable rescue story?
In 2012 we had the amazing opportunity to buy out a meat rabbit farm that was up for sale. We received donations from other concerned parties and went and bought the place out and closed it down. We ended up with 300 rabbits of all ages, including pregnant mums and all the cages etc, which we use for educational purposes now.
It was a huge undertaking, not only in terms of room for these animals but the vet checks, de-sexing, and vaccinations for every single bunny. To this day we have approximately 20 of the ex-meat rabbits left after the majority of them lived their lives here at their forever home.
What don’t people realise goes into running a sanctuary?
People don’t realise that it is a 24 hour, 7 days a week job with no set hours. It is physically, emotionally and financially demanding. Rain, wind, cold, hot weather etc, the work must go on with the animals well being always at the forefront of your thinking.
One side is the constant loss of animal friends over the years. Being a forever home, we develop deep relationships and friendships with these animals. Once they get old and sick it is the hardest thing to have to say goodbye.
What is the most rewarding thing about running a sanctuary?
Seeing animals enjoying being a part of a herd, mob, pair or whatever with their own kind. It is the joy of seeing an animal being free of chains for the first time. It is seeing an animal learning to trust after years of not trusting. The biggest enjoyment is seeing animals behaving as nature intended, seeing a bunny run and binky for the first time because he has room to run, seeing a cow join a herd for the first time and sits down in amongst them so they can keep watch while he finally gets to have a rest that he hasn’t had before. It is seeing the feral cat you caught, starting to trust you and knowing that you have saved a life and those of many other animals out there, seeing disabled animals receive the pain relief and medical treatment that makes their life far more bearable and enjoyable. Seeing wool overburdened sheep get a sheer for the first time in years and run and jump so high because they finally can etc.
Other good outcomes are talking to visitors who finally make the connection between all animals feeling pain and wanting to live and the alternatives of food available that do not harm animals.
What can people do to support BES?
The best way to support Big Ears is through a financial donation or animal sponsorship. We really do need financial support as it takes a lot of money to run a Sanctuary. We have no paid positions at the sanctuary, everyone is a volunteer including me and my wife the co-founders. All money donated goes towards the medical, feeding of the 550 animals that call Big Ears home.
Where do you hope to see the sanctuary in the next 3-5 years?
We hope to expand our education program side of the work we do. We have a fully functioning Education Centre now and are able to educate school groups. So far we have focused on the younger groups to try and make the changes at the earlier end of the spectrum. We also wish to ramp up our work with the disability clients that we do. We work very closely with the local community and many of our volunteers come from a disability background. We hope to build a toilet for disabilities clients.
What other organisations inspire your work?
We admire the work by Tas Animal Liberation
Who else should we be keeping an eye on that’s doing great work for the animals individually?
Kristy Alger works both individually and as part of groups within Tasmania. She is a powerhouse for Tasmanian animals.
Best vegan eatery in Tassie?
Can’t afford to eat out often but believe that Veg Out and Lotus Vegan Thai are very good.
Who should we interview next?
Brett, thank you so much for sharing the wonderful story of Big Ears Sanctuary. The work you and the team do is so important, and to know you are giving these beautiful souls a second chance at life is incredible.
Guys, if you can please go and support this wonderful sanctuary and the work Brett and his team do. To find out where you can support, visit them HERE.
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