Helping the Street Dogs & Cats in Bali Indonesia | An interview with the Founder of Sun & Sage
Updated: Jun 27
Travel For Change Founder Cherie asks Aron, the Founder of Sun & Sage -Ethical Vegan Clothing about his work with the dogs and cats in Bali. The situation of stray or abandoned dogs and cats on the island of Bali Indonesia has reached a crisis point - with an estimated dog population of over 500,000 from a Government survey back in 2018.
Currently, there are too many homeless dogs and cats to rescue and foster and much of Aron's work is directly caring for them on the street. His work also includes going out to local areas of the community, treating the animals with medication and assisting them with food and water.
Aron is passionate about his work and engages in positive and compassionate conversations with the local people on how they can help care for the animals and treat their common skin conditions with simple yet effective medication. 15% of all purchases made from his ethical clothing line Sun & Sage go directly to the costs of providing care and Aron volunteers his time and money to his work wandering the streets and the markets, visiting the vet and sourcing ongoing support for the animals who require daily love and affection. Read on to learn more about Sun & Sage.
How did you get started with your idea to help or why do you feel like you should help the animals?
It's a long story really. I first came to Bali Indonesia in 2012, when I was volunteering for an animal welfare organisation. When that finished, I ended up working in Bali, but not in animal welfare anymore. I still couldn't bring myself to drive past dogs and cats in need, so would always stop and give them food and take them to the vet. It became quite frustrating though as there were so many animals and so much money was being spent on vet care, medicine and bills. Some months I'd spend hundreds of dollars on rescue animals and I'd be in serious financial trouble. I thought to myself 'I have to do something different if I want to keep rescuing animals'.
At the same time, there was this massive rise of veganism. I saw a whole new awakening happening and these people were so very passionate that it also helped to inspire me to do whatever I can to promote the vegan message. So, I had this idea - what if I can fund my animal rescue efforts, as well as creating a clothing brand that has lower impact and giving vegans clothing that they can be proud of wearing! I'd previously met a clothing designer who had told me all about how clothing can be made ethically in Bali. I'd seen lots of vegan clothing before, but much of it wasn't transparent with how it was being made. I wanted to do something different - I would show how the clothing is truly made and create a brand that was in line with the vegan ethos of causing as little harm as possible!
My personal vegan story is a little different. When I was 10 and a teacher told me, I was eating animals for food! I literally couldn't believe it was true. I felt lied to by everyone. I was taught to love animals, yet I was eating their bodies? I thought of my dogs, pet chickens, my mum's horse and all the animals I loved so much. That afternoon I got home and told my mum I won't eat animals again. And I never did. It was a few years later when I worked as a helper on a farm that I saw the devastation of modern egg farming. I went off eggs after I turned up one day to sort them, but the chickens had all disappeared. I started to research standard practices and I was horrified with the things we do to animals for food... so finally I become a vegan!
How do you think other ex-pats can appropriately help the animals in Bali?
I think anyone visiting Bali can help. Even if it's just buying food or going a little out of your way to help them. I believe many people see the dogs and cats and don't know what to do and end up having a sense of guilt. It's overwhelming as every street seems to have an animal that needs help. It is hard to know where to begin. I'd recommend just doing what you feel is right. I usually feed the animals and give them a little medication on the street if I can.
The shelters are so full here and dogs are quite streetwise. So, unless it's a defenceless puppy or severely injured animal, I'd say to try and help them on the street instead. If the animal needs urgent help, you can organise an ambulance from either an animal shelter or a local vet to come and get them, although of course, the costs need to be covered.
Is there a success story you can share with us that might inspire someone?
It's not the biggest transformation story, but my favourite rescue would probably be Lizzy the Beach Dog. I'd managed to finally have a day off and was sitting drinking a beer in a beach bar. Over in the distance, I saw this puppy rolling around in the grass. I went over to give her obligatory strokes and I realised she was rolling to try and scratch her head, which by now had become a massive wound.
I'd taken her to the vet for treatment and she got so much better. The sad part of this story is also the happy bit. I couldn't find her a forever home and I cannot take any more puppies in my own home, so with no other options, I took her back to the beach and vowed to check on her each day.
She was so friendly and loving, I was worried she'd go up to the wrong person. But since then, she has grown into this beautiful Bali dog, who is now famous for giving people kisses on Keramas Beach. All of the people at the beach bars love her. Check out the video I made below!
She lives a life of such joy now!
What do you think is the best way to raise awareness of this issue in 2020?
The issue itself is so complex. There are religious, cultural, financial and educational issues that have all combined to create a lot of street dogs. I don't think the blame can be pointed anywhere, but instead; we can focus on doing what we can to help animals that need it. I like to think that showing compassion to animals in all parts of life is a great way to help others.
For example, with the markets I go to, I have conversations with the local women about why I'm doing this and how it will help the animals. Many people appear to think animals are a lost cause and that they can't be helped. Showing them otherwise means they can change this one step at a time!
For me, I feel that promoting a vegan lifestyle is the solution. More and more people who become vegan will help veganism to be normalised and more accepted, which will attract even more people to try it. I hope by creating an online following as well as getting the clothing out there, I can help vegans to be proud of what they believe in and get into more daily conversations with their friends and family.
I'm excited to see the growth of veganism. I still remember when all I could eat on a meal out was a baked potato with beans. Now, there are so many options and it's never been easier or more affordable to be kind to animals through our lifestyle choices.
What are the main activities you do with the donations or funds you raise from your products?
Generally, I don't accept donations. The reason for this is because I truly want to link animal rescue directly to veganism. I believe that promoting the clothing line and getting it out there is a great way to do that! For example: my non-vegan friends have said they want to support my brand, but feel they can't because everything we produce is a vegan brand. That concern of theirs has enabled me to open incredible conversations about why rescuing dogs but paying for other animals to lose their life is such an internal conflict.
If I were to make things purely charitable, it would remove the vegan element or message; which to me is one of the most important parts for creating change. Even if people aren't vegan themselves, perhaps they can give something to their vegan friends who are supporting this cause, who knows if that might spark something in them, or give them a new mindset.
Check out the ethical range of vegan t-shirts & tote bags available for purchase online today! If you would like to learn more about the street dogs and cats that Sun & Sage support or the clothing line please visit the website here and the Social Media accounts below.
Travel For Change is grateful for the opportunity to raise awareness of key issues whilst promoting amazing people who are working to help others in the local community.