A brief Q&A with our new campaigner, Josey Sharrad
Although, you’ve just joined IFAW Australia, you were previously in the UK office for nearly 12 years. What campaigns did you work on?
When I start IFAW UK in 1999, it was as a campaigner focusing primarily on the hunting with dogs campaign – a long-standing effort to ban the cruel sport of hunting wild animals, foxes hares deer and mink, with dogs. While the UK considers itself to be a leader in animal welfare internationally, the fact that this barbaric sport was still allowed was a real anachronism.
Moves to ban fox hunting started in the early 1920s and it took almost 100 years of campaigning to put the final nail in the coffin. IFAW launched its campaign back in 1989 and then joined forces with the RSPCA and the League Against Cruel Sports in a coalition to put an end to this cruel sport. It was a hard-fought, relentless and exciting campaign – at its heart was exposing the inherent cruelty involved.
IFAW’s hunt monitors braved the fray to gain footage of foxes and deer being chased to exhaustion and then torn apart by dogs and hares being set upon by two dogs and ‘coursed’, often ending up in a literal deadly ‘tug of war’ between the dogs. This compelling evidence was presented to politicians, the media and the public and underpinned the case for the ban. With the majority of MPs and public onside, democracy won out in the end and after a long-fought, highly political battle, the Hunting Act was finally passed in 2004.
I also worked on the campaign to protect elephants from the ivory trade. Unfortunately this barbaric practice is on the increase, with soaring demand for ivory in China and the Far East. Poaching levels are sky-high, pushing some elephant populations, particularly in West and Central Africa, to near extinction. It’s easy to think that this is another continents problem, but it’s all of our responsibility to protect elephants for future generations. While the UK and the European Union may seem far-removed from the African plains, both have a powerful role to play in international ivory negotiations. Sadly, they are not doing enough, fast enough to protect elephants.
What was your biggest win at IFAW UK?
It has to be the ban on hunting with dogs. I will never forget the sense of excitement; disbelief and pride sitting up in the House of Commons chamber watching the Hunting Act receive its Royal Assent on 18th November 2004. It was a momentous and historical moment and I felt privileged to have played a small part in the long-fought battle to bring an end to the years of cruelty inflicted upon Britain’s wildlife.
What would you like to achieve during your time at IFAW Australia?
Like the UK, Australia’s wildlife sadly faces so many threats – from habitat loss, disasters and climate change to car accidents, hunting, dog attacks and disease. Wildlife is often forgotten and in my role I would like to bring about some real awareness, protection and provision of care for the amazing array of unique and precious native wildlife that Australia is lucky enough to have.
What influenced you to move across the world?
I visited Australia in February this year and totally fell in love with it. I’ve always wanted to live and work in another country so when this opportunity came up to continue working for IFAW it was perfect.
Favourite place visited in Australia so far?
That’s the hardest question so far! Australia has such a diverse and beautiful landscape I’ve loved so many places I’ve visited. The Daintree rainforest stands out as a truly magical place. The way the reef joins the rainforest, a remarkable meeting of two World Heritage sites is breathtakingly beautiful – and teeming with wildlife. I was lucky enough to see a cassowary (affectionately nick-named Elvis by the locals because of his big quiff!) drinking from a watering hole in the middle of the forest.
What is the most pressing animal issue we’re currently facing in Australia? What you’d like to see done to try and solve it.
An even harder question! Sadly there are so many issues facing animals in Australia – every day since I’ve been here I hear about another threat to a species. My focus is on native wildlife and I want to talk to carers and vets and get their feedback on what IFAW can do most to protect wildlife. Wildlife is often overlooked when a disaster strikes. People tend to think wild animals can fend for themselves but they are often just at as much risk as other animals and humans. Although this is improving in some areas, there is a lot more to be done in terms of preparation and expert rescue and treatment of wild animals affected by disasters in Australia.
Any pets of your own?
Sadly no, although I adore dogs and grew up with them and was very happy to find out I would be sharing office space with two gorgeous dogs at IFAW.
Most rewarding animal moment?
Helping rescue the Thames Whale – we had done a training course with British Divers Marine Life Rescue on inflatable whales a few months before a real whale was stranded in the Thames. The poor whale – a juvenile female northern bottle-nosed whale – swam up the river in January 2006, the first time the species had been seen in the Thames. Its normal habitat is deep water (700 metres) and the Thames is around 5 metres at most.
The poor creature was battered from bumping into ships and debris and totally disorientated, dehydrated and exhausted. We sighted the whale from our office window and were called upon to be part of the rescue team. Donning dry suits and wading into a freezing, filthy Thames, we attempted to rescue the whale, under the spotlight of international TV crews and circling helicopters. We managed to get the whale onto a barge and take her out to the estuary. Sadly the rescue effort was ultimately unsuccessful and she died before she was able to be released. It is always difficult trying to make the best decision for animals in these situations but I believe that we were right to try to rescue her and I felt privileged to have been a small part of that rescue effort. The public and media attention in this whale was astounding and demonstrated just how much people value these beautiful creatures and I hope this inspires people to take action to help protect whales from the many other threats they face including whaling, ship strikes and ocean noise pollution.
What do you do in your spare time?
I love yoga and have joined a local studio. I did belly dancing classes in London and am hoping to find a teacher in Sydney so I can continue doing that. I’m a total chocolate addict and have just started making my own raw chocolate to subsidise my habit! I love walking and am looking forward to exploring the many beautiful walks around Sydney – a great way to spot wildlife. And I love the sea so am looking forward to going whale watching and would love to learn to surf. And exploring the bars and nightlife in Sydney of course!