In this world, there are individuals who want to change things, and therefore they decide to live in a different way. They decide to follow the rules of the heart, of love and justice. And to do that, they are ready to give up not only the so-called pleasures of the table, but also the comfort and beauty of a pair of leather shoes, the warmth of a wool sweater, the softness of a silk scarf. They are ready to work every day of every year, sometimes waking up at night, for something called a dream, a dream of a better world. Love, love for all the living beings on earth.
Since I started working with Roger Olmos, and since we published together SENZAPAROLE, I couldn’t help getting in touch with animalism, anti-speciesism and veganism. We started with this first book, followed by AMIGOS, the second one, and then all of our chats and discussions during fairs, we shared books and films… and even if I didn’t go vegan, it was important for me to get to know the truth and become aware of the consequences of any of my actions, even the simplest like going to the grocery.
And as they say, one thing leads to another: I went to Milan to discuss about a second tome of SENZAPAROLE dedicated to farm animals, to be made in partnership with the Rete dei Santuari di Animali Liberi in Italia (Free Animal Sanctuary Network in Italy), and I met Sara, the president of Vitadacani and Porcikomodi, as well as spokesperson for the Italian sanctuary network. From that day on, we have been keeping in touch and I have chosen to share her words here, with you, and to tell you about her, the Free Animal Sanctuary Network in Italy and MiVeg.
“I used to have a dog named Toby, who accompanied me since I was eight until I was twenty-four or twenty-five. His snout was like a German shepherd’s, but he was short, he looked like a sausage. He was a chewing lapdog, hard to handle, but he had a wonderful character. He knew what he wanted, he was independent and had a strong personality, but he was also very attached to our family, and especially to me. Every day he walked me to school, in the countryside of Pianoro – those were different times, when dogs were loose on the streets. He used to wait for me outside, looking at me through the window from time to time, and when the school day was over, he would pick me up and take me home. I remember that the day of my first communion there was no way of keeping him out of the church, he would always find a way to sneak in. He was extraordinary. I have loved all my dogs, but I’ve hardly found another dog with the same intelligence and personality. And, since every encounter you make in your life teaches you something, Toby taught me what it means to live with animals and to love them. When he died, I was heartbroken, after two days I even became allergic to dogs and it took me years of therapy and alternative treatments to recover and be able to live in the same house with three dogs today…
I went vegetarian at thirteen. I was in England for a study trip, and while I was cutting the meat in my dish, I saw it bleeding, proving it was alive before. I was already sensitive to this issue, I had seen the first demonstrations in Milan, I had been volunteering in some dog shelters and refuges… small things. Thirty years ago it was not common to be vegetarian, I didn’t know anyone else who made my same choice, but I was lucky enough to have wise parents who listened to me, as they did for many other choices I made in my life. Since I was a growing child, they were worried and they decided to take me to a nutritionist, in order to deal with things in the best possible way.
I took part in almost every animal rights campaign, and shortly before 2000 I went vegan. It was a natural and necessary evolution. Inevitable. And when my mom asked me But why it has to be you? I answered If I don’t do it, who will?… I have always thought that if no one is going to do it, then it’s up to you. I believe in taking action and in personal involvement.
What came after was born almost for fun, in a spontaneous way. I was a senior in grammar school, and in Italy the Law of 14 August 1991, n° 281 had just been enacted, forbidding euthanasia for dogs in shelters. Until that moment, when shelters were full, dogs were put to sleep, and this still happens everywhere else, but Italy led a juridical revolution, becoming the first country to ban it. That law established the obligation to create a lot of facilities, and so, along with two classmates who had been volunteering with me, we designed one. We didn’t want it to be a kennel, because that is not very different from a prison. We wanted to revolutionise the concept of shelter, creating a “park shelter”, a totally open-air place designed not only to provide animals with food and treatments, ensuring their basic livelihood, but also to take care of social aspects, relationships, playtime, and rehabilitation. We wanted this shelter not to be an ugly place to end up in, but a container for projects. We kept volunteering in different facilities, we started saving the first farm animals and sent them to stables and other shelters who could take care of them because we didn’t own one, and meanwhile I got my degree in Literature. The State University of Milan offered a master course in non-profit organisation, it was one of the first master courses in Italy, with a scholarship of about 8/9 months. I was selected, and I became part of the first non-profit class of the ISTUD, a business school usually dealing with the for-profit world. So, I studied budgets, management, etc. for social and non-profit organisations. At the end of the course, you could do an internship at some non-profit organisations or they helped you find a job, but I said I already had a project I strongly believed in, and that I wanted to make it a real and steady job for the volunteers already taking care of it. They offered me another scholarship from a European programme aimed at developing a project with the help of a profit manager. A cash prize was offered to promising projects, and we won it! At that time, the amount of the prize was ten millions of lire, and that allowed me to found the cooperative Vitadacani. It took some time, but in 2005 we launched the Parco Canile (Park shelter) in Arese, our first facility and one of the first shelters in Italy founded by volunteers and not by the municipality. In 2006 we inaugurated another Parco Canile in Magnago and right after that the Porcikomodi sanctuary.”