The Animal’s Inbox

Writer Philip McKibbon presents the second part of his new creative project, in which humans respond to the letters penned by the animals in part one.

Welcome back to The Animals’ Inbox! In the Summer issue, we shared letters from the animals. You wrote back, and here’s what everyone had to say in response…


(To read the original letters, visit


Gary the Greyhound

I used to breed greyhounds. Let me tell you, you wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for us. Don’t do it anymore, mind you. Enjoying retirement, myself. But I don’t have any regrets. It was good money, frankly. Not that it was only about the money — I wouldn’t have done it if the dogs didn’t like it. They would’ve hated having to sit around at home all day. What kind of a life would that be? You know it as well as I do, Gary, you would’ve been itching to get out and race! Well, what’s the alternative? No greyhounds? No dogs at all? Neither of us would be enjoying retirement if it wasn’t for the races! — Richard M.


Thank you for your message, Richard. You’re right, I probably wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the races, and perhaps you wouldn’t be enjoying retirement quite as much as you have been. I can’t agree with everything you’ve written, though. I don’t think an end to racing means ‘no dogs’, and it doesn’t mean dogs who don’t race have to sit around all day. You and I both know New Zealanders love getting outdoors with us. You say you bred dogs, you made a decent amount of money from it, and you wouldn’t have done it if we didn’t like the life we were born into. Well, let me ask you this: how much of the sacrifice — the pain, the separation, the death — did you take on? Because we greyhounds bear a lot of it!


Sylvia the Stoat

Dear Sylvia,

I read your letter, and I agree that trapping animals isn’t ideal. In a perfect world, all of us would be able to live together in peace. I’m really sorry about what they’re doing to you, but if we let stoats run around, what will happen to our native birds? It would be unfair to let them die. They were here first, and they won’t survive if we don’t get rid of all the invasive species. Stoats don’t belong in Aotearoa. Your species will survive in other places, but our native birds have nowhere else to go. If they go extinct here, that’s it.

You’re right about one thing, though: we humans do cause a lot of damage.


Alison Claves

Hi Alison,

I’m glad you agree that trapping us isn’t ‘ideal’. You’ll be pleased to know, I’m sure, that I don’t think it would be ideal if you were killed in a trap, either. What a shame you think you humans have the right to go ahead and set traps for us anyway!

It beggars belief that you call us ‘invasive’. We didn’t invade these islands. We were brought here, by you, and now we’re doing what we need to do to get by. Our arrival here wasn’t accidental, either. We were brought here to control the rabbits… who were also deliberately introduced by you, for hunting, but whose populations ‘got out of hand’.

You say you care about native birds, but what you don’t seem to appreciate is that it isn’t we stoats who pose the greatest threat to them. It’s you humans. So if you’re going to eradicate us, perhaps you should pack up and leave, too.

Frankly, I think you need to keep thinking.


Rea the Rat

Rea, I’m so sorry to hear what you and your siblings are going through!! What can we do to help? (I know you’re not real, you’re just a character, but surely there must be something I can do to help real rats who are in the same situation as you??) I’m looking forward to reading your reply. 🙂 – T.W.

Kia ora T.W. I’m really sorry to report that since Rea wrote her letter, I’ve learned that she was killed. It’s unclear how she died — it may have been in the experiment itself, or she may have been killed afterwards, when the scientists no longer had any use for her. (Often, rats like Rea are poisoned with carbon dioxide.) There are lots of things you can do to help rats like them, though. You can join the NZAVS (, an organisation dedicated to ending animal experimentation. Also, keep an eye out on animal rights socials, as rescuers sometimes need to find homes for the animals they have saved. — Philip

Carol the Cow

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been cutting back on dairy, mainly because of our rivers, but also for my health. I keep hearing that the reason our rivers are becoming unswimmable is because of the runoff and all that. I’ve seen it, too. When I was a kid we used to go swimming in the rivers down here in Canterbury, but I wouldn’t get in now if you paid me! 

To be honest, I hadn’t really thought about the cows themselves before reading your letter. I always assumed you were happy enough; they say the cows here have it better than a lot of other places, grass fed and all that. But yeah, I think I’m starting to get it now. It makes me want to try a bit harder, to be fair. I’m not sure how much good it’ll do, though. I mean, we export most of our dairy, don’t we? Or a lot of it, anyway. If we want things to change, we’ll have to overhaul our economy. I don’t see that happening anytime soon. — Bob Murphy

I don’t know how much good it’ll do, either, Bob. And I don’t know much about the economy.

What I do know is that my baby will be born any day now. He will be born into a world that does not love him, a world that only wants to use him — and only if it can…

I don’t have the power to change any of that. If my miserable life has taught me anything, it’s that I have no power. That doesn’t mean your human systems can’t be changed. After all, they haven’t always been this way. But if I am right — if they can be changed — it isn’t us who have the power to change them. It’s you.

Is there anything else I can say to you, Bob?

Please excuse me — these final days, hours, minutes with my son are all I have left…

This creative writing project was established by Philip McKibbin, with a grant from the Australasian Animal Studies Association. It aims to promote critical thinking around our treatment of animals in Aotearoa New Zealand:


Aotearoa Vegan and Plant Based Living Magazine
This article was sourced from the Autumn 2023 edition of The Vegan Society magazine.
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