19 June 2024

Church’s animal welfare project goes ‘hands-on’

Reverend Dennis Webster, Keith Mc Dougall, Janine Mc Dougall and Rosemary Homewood of the Gisborne parish animal welfare group. Picture: supplied by Janine Mc Dougall.

Jenan Taylor

25 July 2022

Members of a church animal welfare group have increased their environmental knowledge and skills because of their farm animal and biodiversity project.

The Anglican Parish of Gisborne Animal Welfare Group’s efforts to help farmers plant shelter belts compelled members to have to learn about the local ecology, recently.

Co-convenor Janine Mc Dougall said the group, which was inspired by the Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals in the United Kingdom, has raised material aid for companion pets and wildlife networks, and undertaken some advocacy work, since 2016.

This year, they added the care of farm livestock and wildlife biodiversity through supporting the construction of shelter belts to their aims.

Ms Mc Dougall said the project came about because group members had grown increasingly concerned about the impact of land clearing on wildlife habitats, and the plight of farm livestock in climate change-induced bad weather.

“Being close to a rural area, and hearing reports about sheep dying in the cold conditions, or seeing cattle in the field on a really hot day, we wanted to make a small difference,” she said.

A local government grant and generous donations had helped them get the effort moving.

Read more: Doing the work of Jesus by opening church doors

But the exercise had been a learning curve, as none of the members had had experience with farms or with what grew well in the Macedon Ranges, Ms Mc Dougall said.

“We are very small and so apart from appealing for financial and material donations, had never ever had the resources to be really hands-on before,” she said.

With the help of the nursery and a Landcare group, they researched and then sourced the best tube stock for farms in the Macedon Ranges area.

Ms Mc Dougall said the response from the farmers had been very positive and they had had the opportunity to hear of some of their struggles with recent storms in the area, when they delivered the tube stock and guards to them.

She said the animal welfare group was continuing to assist with local pet and wildlife shelters and felt heartened that their efforts to raise awareness about the plight of animals were reaching more people than ever.

This was particularly the case with their appeal for donations for companion animals of homeless people, Ms Mc Dougall said.  

But the group was still facing assorted challenges, she said, including from people who did not see its work as being a priority.

“It’s not always easy. They think we should be caring for people’s needs first. It’s about stewardship, and stewardship is reflecting God’s nature, which is love,” Ms Mc Dougall said.

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