Animal Rights and Rescue Group founder Barbara Steffensen, with two of her little residents, is presented with her award by Natalie Dougherty, a volunteer with the Supreme Master Ching Hai Association.
Animal Rights and Rescue Group founder Barbara Steffensen, with two of her little residents, is presented with her award by Natalie Dougherty, a volunteer with the Supreme Master Ching Hai Association.

Shining a light on animal welfare

When it comes to showing others compassion, particularly abused and unwanted animals, Animal Rights and Rescue Group ARRG founder Barbara Steffensen shines.

She established the no-kill organisation in 1995 on the smell of an oily rag and with a small crew of animal-loving volunteers. Today, ARRG cares for around 1500 animals a year but continually struggles to find enough money to keep its doors open.

On Wednesday Barbara was presented with a Shining World Compassion Award and a very welcome cheque for 10,000 US dollars from the Supreme Master Ching Hai International Association.

Barbara had set herself a target of raising $50,000 by the end of the year to stay afloat, and the donation brings her total to $25,000.

She said that while seeing a rescued animal’s happy face was reward enough, having someone praise ARRG’s work was just the sort of extra motivation volunteers needed.

“It’s a great privilege and honour to be sought out and given this award –words can’t really describe what this kind of recognition means,” Barbara said. “Our small band of volunteers work so hard and it can be a heartbreaking job, so this is a huge boost for us at a critical time, both for our morale and our financial situation.

“A Council Ranger said to me the other day it would be like going back to the Dark Ages if we shut down, but I think people just get used to us being here. What we really need now is community support to get us to our financial target.”

Barbara said her foster carers were the backbone of the organisation.

“Our animals go into foster care in private homes which is a wonderful system because many of them have been abused and are frightened,” she said. “Being in someone’s house gives the animals the chance to adjust and be socialised before they are found a permanent home.

“Our work is all about trying to solve this problem – we can’t just take in more and more animals. We need to educate people to stop unwanted animals being born and make people understand that if you bring a pet into your home it’s for life.”

The Supreme Master Ching Hai International Association was established in 1985 by philanthropist Supreme Master Ching Hai and local volunteer Natalie Dougherty said the organisation regularly gives awards and money to “shine a light on people doing good things around the world”. The organisation lives by the motto, ‘go veg, go green, save the planet’.

“Livestock production is the number one cause of global warming and accounts for over 50% of all greenhouse gas emissions,” Natalie said. “If you don’t eat meat you don’t contribute to deforestation, and the whole process of getting the meat to your plate – refrigeration, transport costs, the grain and water they are fed etc.

“Switching to a vegan diet does more for global warming than switching to energy efficient lightbulbs, recycling and ceasing all transport.”


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