Loss is a hard reality that all animal lovers have to face; whether it is the passing away of a beloved companion, or the death of animals worldwide due to exploitation and extinction, it is a reality we cannot avoid.

World Animal Remembrance Month reminds us to take a moment to reflect, acknowledge, and respect this form of grief.

The companions we lost

The journey of companionship with animals is made up of shared moments and cherished memories – the good times, the silly moments (lots of them!), and the unconditional love. Unfortunately, having to say goodbye to them is part of this journey too. The bond shared with them is a unique one that enriches our lives in numerous ways, so losing it causes a profound pain.

Coping with the loss of a pet is a deeply personal experience, and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. A coloured collar, a paw print, or even a favourite toy tucked away can all be tangible and painful reminders of a shared bond. But healing begins with acknowledging our pain and embracing our memories, so cherishing these mementos can help us through this moment.

Grief is a complex emotion, and it is not uncommon to feel unable to give love to another pet, or to feel guilty for doing so. Moving on, seeking joy in another animal’s presence, can feel like a betrayal. But in our hearts, we hold the power to honour our departed companion by extending the love we once shared to others in need: the act of giving another animal a home is not a replacement; rather, it is a tribute to the profound impact our lost friend had on us. With time and sweet memories, the pain will transform into a bittersweet reminiscence of the joy our friend brought into our lives, giving us an everlasting inspiration to keep on loving and helping animals.

Exploited lives

During World Animal Remembrance Month, we are called to remember not only the joy of our companions’ lives but also the lives overshadowed by exploitation. Every year, many innocent lives are lost to cruelty and animal exploitation across the globe: from the dog meat trades, to animals enduring the harsh conditions of circuses, and the dark underbelly of wildlife tourism.

These animals are deserving of our remembrance and action. It can be very disheartening and troubling to think about the reality of many fellow creatures being treated cruelly, but doing so is the first step to prevent the loss of many more lives as well as honouring those that have already been lost.

By learning about exploitative practices, advocating for stricter animal welfare laws, and boycotting unethical entertainment activities, we can be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves. For this reason, during this special month it is all the more important to lend our hand to organisations that work towards ending exploitation. In supporting organisations like IAPWA, we reaffirm the values of compassion, respect, and protection, working collectively to shape a world where the significance of every life, be it furry or feathered, is acknowledged and cherished.

Vanishing and extinct species

Every year, hundreds of animal species are added to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. As of September 2023, more than 3,877 species are listed as critically endangered  (meaning they face a very high risk of extinction in the wild), and as many as 6,060 are endangered. The possibility that so many unique creatures may disappear forever is deeply saddening, as is the thought of all those who are extinct already.

In remembering these vanishing species, World Animal Remembrance Month also urges us to confront the impact of human actions on the planet. This reminder underscores the pressing need to participate in conservation efforts, for even the tiniest bit of support can help safeguard thousands of animal lives and the delicate balance of life our ecosystem rests on.

The importance of remembrance

In a world that constantly rushes forward, taking a moment to remember and reflect upon the lives of animals that have passed away is an act of compassion that extends beyond our immediate emotions. This month is more than just commemoration; it is a call to action. By remembering cherished companions and those exploited or endangered, we renew our commitment to a more compassionate world.

Remembering our companions, though often painful, highlights the beauty of our bond with animals. Grief becomes a catalyst for action as we honour their memory. Similarly, reflecting on exploited and vanishing species prompts us to challenge cruelty and advocate for change. Organisations like IAPWA stand as allies in this struggle.

World Animal Remembrance Month prompts us to remember, grieve, and commit to animal welfare. As we commemorate the animals we have lost and stand up for those in need, we lay the foundation for a future where every life, no matter how small, is treasured.

Written by: Greta Solinas
IAPWA Volunteer