Alden Boon

President of Voices for Animals Derrick Tan on Animal Activism, His Past and Sacrifices


For as long as he can remember, Derrick Tan, President of Voices for Animals, has always had a natural affinity with animals. Today, he has made it his life’s mission to rescue, rehabilitate and rehome animals in need. At his shelter, he has over a hundred rescue animals under his care. This is his story.

What were your aspirations when you were younger?

I didn’t have big dreams – most children dream of becoming pilots or doctors. My parents were hawkers, so I was inspired to be one too. They used to sell all kinds of food, from beehoon to bak kut teh. My contribution was being a taste tester (laughs). My parents would work long hours, so I used to cook meals for myself and my sister.

When was your first experience with animals?

Whenever I visited my grandmother’s place in Malaysia, I’d get very excited when I saw the free-roaming chickens, turkeys and cows. After my parents folded their food business, my father became a crane operator. He’d bring me to the construction site where many stray puppies were. I begged him to let me bring one home, but he always said no. Every day, we’d go to a nearby chicken rice stall and I’d ask the owner for the spare, unwanted parts. I’d happily tote a big bag filled with chicken parts and feed the hungry dogs.

Being that they were strays, were you not afraid of them?

Not at all. I was curious and fearless. When I was young, I thought that all dogs were harmless. There’s a scar on my face — I got it when I was petting a stray dog that was eating. He just clawed me and got me in the eye. I have so countless dog bites on my body.

You joined a gang when you were a teenager. Tell us about that.

I was fourteen years old, and I went to a skating rink with my friends. The rink was also a gang’s hangout place. The members recruited us — I think they just wanted to strengthen their number. I didn’t think joining a gang was wrong; I thought it was fun making so many new friends. I began dabbling in glue-sniffing — it was the cheapest drug available to us. I got a little nauseous inhaling it; it wasn’t the feeling I thought I would get. Then I moved on to marijuana; again I didn’t get the high I was expecting. I just got very hungry and could not stop munching on snacks. Eventually, one of my friends introduced me to ecstasy. I wanted to throw up, but when everyone else around you is high, you can’t help but go along with it. I just became giddy.

I’m drawn towards animals. I feel a sense of happiness when I’m around them. When I’m having a lousy day at work, when I feel stressed, I just need to sit on the floor and my dogs will surround me. There is this sense of peace. I don’t have to vent my frustration; this is my outlet.

Inverted Comma Bottom

You also had a brush with the law.

My friends and I were just out and about when we suddenly stepped into the territory of another gang. The latter began gathering their members and they were armed with rods. A fight broke out. I ran as fast as I could away from the danger. When I reached home, I was so happy that I wasn’t caught. Then, I got a call from the police: my friend J had given my name up. I was in handcuffs when my father just happened to return from his shift and saw me. He handed the pack of rice he had bought for me to the officer and told them to let me eat. Seeing his look of disappointment was a wake-up call. It was freezing at the detention centre, so I was shivering all the time. I was also very frightened as I overheard my friend in the other room being interrogated. He kept shouting, ‘I really don’t know!’ I was questioned on many things, from my gang affiliation to the identity of my boss. Luckily, when the police were satisfied that I wasn’t involved in the fighting, I was let off.

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Alden Boon
Alden Boon is a Quarter-finalist in PAGE International Screenwriting Awards. When he's not busy writing, he pretends he is Gandalf.