My name is Justin, and although I was born in Canada, I grew up in New Zealand. I now live in Edmonton. We had a cat growing up named Samson. I remember him being really little and cute, but when he got sharp claws and teeth, he wasn’t so cute. He would try to sleep next to me, but would take up too much space, so I would make him get off the bed. I wasn’t responsible for looking after any of his needs, my mom handled that.
In New Zealand, when you are driving on highways, you always see sheep and often dairy cows in the fields, so I was always reminded of the agricultural aspect of animals. This was a huge difference I noticed when I moved to Canada; maybe because of the amount of land/space here, you don’t see nearly as many farm animals. In university, friends would have to go back to their farm to help during lambing season, and would ask other friends to come help.
Another huge difference moving to Canada is the wildlife. In New Zealand there are a lot of native birds, but that is about it. When you go hiking in New Zealand, you don’t have to worry about potentially coming across a bear, like you might in Jasper. We don’t have squirrels in New Zealand! When I moved here, my sister and I were obsessed with squirrels. We would just sit and watch the squirrels eating bird seed out of bird feeders.
The kiwi is symbolic in New Zealand. It is a flightless bird that has a strong cultural significance to the country – we even call ourselves ‘kiwis.’ The kiwi is a symbol, and it gets used on the branding of sports teams and other national teams. They are nocturnal, so I’ve never seen a kiwi in the wild, just in a zoo.
Pets are a big commitment, and I sort of view pets like they are going to take over my lifestyle (like Samson taking over my bed) and I don’t think I am ready for that.) Friends and family have pets, and it is interesting watching them go through training and see their bond form.
I am a lab technician and we use animals for research. I do believe that animals have a place in research as long as the 3 Rs are followed – replacement (is there an alternative to using animals?) reduction (can the number of animals being used be reduced?) and refinement (ensuring they have the best quality of life possible). Coming from a research perspective, particularly studying infectious disease, I think it is important for young people to understand the concept of One Health. We need to look at things (like human disease) not just from a human perspective, but from a whole ecosystem/globe that covers humans, wildlife, domestic animals, plants and the environment. All of these things impact human health and human populations.
The human population is growing and encroaching into forests and other areas, and interacting with different wild animals, which can create spillover with new diseases, or a monoculture sort of crops (instead of diverse forests) which changes the way that wildlife interacts with the land. It is important to think about animals from a global perspective. We are all interconnected and a change in one area can impact another.