Most people would find creepy crawlies, well, creepy. But not Manny Salvador. Having been fascinated with invertebrates since he was a child, the multifaceted lawyer would eventually share his home with animals that aren’t your usual pets — these neither barked nor meowed.

Salvador’s background in keeping exotic animals began when he was in college. He was caring for fish at that time, but after losing most of them during tropical storm Ondoy in 2009, he decided to try his hand at raising critters with at least six legs. Soon, he found himself looking after several tarantulas, centipedes, scorpions, and other insects.

For him, his hobby of keeping unusual animals was just that — a hobby. “In all of the hobbies I get involved in, I never tried to make money from them because I don’t enjoy that aspect. The same is true for arachnids and insects,” he replies when asked if he has ever sold any of his pets.

From exotic pet keeper to animal ally

Recently, however, Salvador has been giving away most of his creepy crawlies. Last year, his view on animals changed after watching the award-winning documentary Earthlings. This, along with the eye-opening film What the Health, prompted him to go vegan in late 2017 and extend his circle of compassion to all living things. “I believe that animals do not exist on earth for the use of humans,” he says.

Keeping exotic animals brought up an ethical dilemma for Salvador, which was why he decided to find them new homes. Since they are not endemic to the Philippines and were raised in captivity, they cannot be released into the wild.

“It’s a slow process because I want to make sure they go to someone who won’t exploit them for money,” he explains. “Instead of keeping animals, it may be much better for me to use whatever knowledge I have gained about arachnids and insects to campaign for conservation and to perhaps simply enjoy them in their natural habitat.”

Earlier this year, he spoke about the importance of transferring captive wild animals to sanctuaries at The Official Animal Rights March in Manila. He also regularly advocates for the rights of animals regarded as food by participating in events such as the Cube of Truth and Metro Manila Animal Save vigils.

 “Because of years of brainwashing and mental conditioning where society has deemed it proper to use animals, there is clearly a disconnect. How can one justify loving a cat or dog while at the same time paying someone to slaughter a pig for food? It just doesn’t make sense.”

Threads of the same web

Salvador realized that being kind towards animals is good for humans, too. Though health was merely a secondary reason for him to switch to a plant-based lifestyle, he has since shed some extra pounds and his blood pressure has vastly improved.

Not one to perpetuate the stereotypes that vegans are angry and don’t care about humans, he adds that he has become more compassionate not just towards animals but also towards people. “Many misconstrue being vegan as being more concerned with animal rights rather than humanity but that is very far from the truth. Most vegans I know are equally concerned about humans and animals and this concern is what I believe prompted them to become vegan in the first place.”

Out with the old

Just as spiders shed their exoskeletons in order to grow, Salvador believes that we need to shed our old beliefs and evolve into more compassionate and caring individuals. “Science has proven and technology is such that we do not need animals in our diets and industry to survive,” he says.

Whether it’s a tarantula, a dog, or a pig, all creatures big and small deserve to be treated with respect.

This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s February 2019 issue.