How snow throws a magnifying light on animal neglect and our humanity….
The last few days was akin to someone turning high powered flood lights on the extent of animal cruelty that exists in this country. And where there is mass cruelty, there is a nationwide spirited rescue response where volunteers navigate the elements to alleviate hunger, thirst or distress. True heroes not acknowledged enough. It is through their lens we see so much we actually don’t want to know about. Yes, part of us wants to pretend all is OK.
It’s hard to appreciate the pretty white blanket that converts our familiar world into a magical wonderland! You worry about the horses with no feed or water, and you think about all the dogs chained outside, and you pity the feral cats with no place to call home. You even worry about the cows, for good reasons in some cases.
Thursday was both fulfilling but equally exhausting. With a curfew of 4pm, time seemed to run away from us, as we tried to get to as many horses and cows as we could manage. There were many who are etched in my memory: the two thin mares who didn’t come to hay or nuts, who stood on barren land; they didn’t know what it was we brought. The herd of 15 who live in a mass swamp. Getting hay to them meant passing through a real obstacle course of tyres, walls and fences. I’m thinking of the two week old foal here: the owners aren’t. Then there were all the horses standing on picture perfect white landscapes untouched by hay! And finally the cows, crying out for someone to feed them. We did; we just didn’t have enough. It’s never easy to hear that the owner has lots of hay. That’s wonderful if only he gave it to his cows; he won’t because these cows are just number makers. You do what you do all the time in these cases: you call the department and the next day….they are still there still crying for feed. Our bucket left for water taken. Their calls, their sounds of hunger linger in your mind.
It’s funny listening to the radio as you navigate slippy roads and the snow covered motorway – to get to animals who might not make the bad weather with nothing to eat; you listen to people with cabin fever and so bored, they are hoovering shelves and drawers. I crave boredom!! I wish feelings of compassion and care for animals that most of us have gave birth to action to do something when we actually see neglect: it doesn’t for a lot of people. They care but just not enough to move them from their home comforts. A bucket of water can save a life; simply breaking ice takes away equine frustration: seeing water but not able to drink it.
Yesterday, I resorted to begging a farmer to be compassionate. He would not let me climb a fence to get to three donkeys hiding in a ditch. Your mind excavates deep into your word bank to find words that might reach him, that might move him, that might gain his permission to pass. Nothing worked! And so we left and went back that night. They were happy to see feed coming as they slowly moved out of their ditch on their overgrown hooves. The welfare officer from the donkey sanctuary seems powerless to bring about positive change for these animals.
This week, with the help of an amazing horse rescue, a difficult enough rescue was made possible with them on board, along with a friend who was determined to win a battle with a resistant little boy. He had to be ready to leave when his transport arrived: he was. There were tears in his eyes provoked by fear and the unknown. I cried when I watched them leave. Their life of trying to survive was over; now they will live life – the life they are entitled to, where all their needs are provided for. Needs that their owners never would fulfil. Never.
I’m not sure how to end this blog. How can you be positive about the state of animal welfare in this country when you read that a well established rescue like Limerick Animal Welfare post on Facebook that after ringing the department and the guards about mares with nothing to eat, one locked in a shed with no access to hay or water – yet those authorised bodies never came.
Right now, I’m looking out at snow slow to leave. I can’t wait till the thaw comes and the whiteness gives way to green again. A few people have asked for help – it’s overwhelming, but it gives hope, that amidst the apathy, there is empathy.
Sometimes you begin to come undone, sleep is stolen from you, and your thoughts swing from one field to the other. And then there is your personal life that screams ‘what about me?’ – the part that craves patience and understanding from friends, and love – yes love! You want someone to wrap you up in so much unconditional love. Love gives us both comfort and courage. Rescuers need both in abundance. It’s hard when people quickly withdraw it when you need it most for the animals! Accepting that is the battle.
Yalom did say ‘love is an executioner of pain’ and in the case of animals – if they are loved, they will never suffer. Perhaps none of us would.
(The pictures show me feeding a foal with the owner and his kids. They brought the feed yesterday! I brought the hayledge.)
With thanks to Linda & Siobhan who braved the elements with me! And lots of gratefulness to my friends who bought hay x