The Executive and founding members of Sentient began their work together as animal advocates in 2004, when Adele, Katherine and Rosemary met during their undergraduate training as veterinarians at the University of Sydney. All three undertook this degree to pursue a lifelong passion for animals and commitment to improving their wellbeing. They soon became active members of VSAW (‘Veterinary Science for Animal Welfare’), the faculty-based student organisation, and formed its executive committee in 2006 and 2007. Over these two years they conducted campaigns against the live export and whaling industries, led a student critique of the draft national Model Codes of Practice for the Welfare of Animals – Pig, and liaised with veterinarians, animal scientists and animal welfare organisations to host a range of seminars. These encompassed issues facing wildlife, companion animals, birds, racing greyhounds, pigs, farmed bears in Asia and exported livestock, as well as presentations on animal behaviour, equitation science, humane alternatives in veterinary training, animal rights and the role of veterinarians in the animal welfare movement. Throughout this period Matt provided constant support through his shared commitment and his expertise in marketing and management.
Since graduation, the four have remained friends. Strong bonds were formed by being directly confronted with animal suffering and learning firsthand how societal forces are biased towards the needs of powerful ‘stakeholders’ over those of vulnerable animals. Balancing this was a shared conviction that change is possible, and recognition that a new social justice movement was taking place, reflected by shifting consumer choices and the work of other professionals, such as the burgeoning field of animal rights law. Reminiscing about their student activist days led to the idea of some renewed joint effort and finally, to grappling with the core question - how could they facilitate veterinarians to independently play their role as leading animal advocates in this movement towards a world where animals are treated with empathy and respect? This was the impetus for forming Sentient.