Sometimes you just want to be wrong. In terms of rescue, you want someone to say, ‘Catriona you’ve got it wrong! The horses you feed – well they have owners who do care; department officials do their best to enforce the law, and that welfare inspector didn’t tell that consistently cruel owner that he’s happy with his animals.’ Yes, I’m not good at being wrong but in this case I crave to be just that: WRONG.
You see, I’m not! And you know how we can prove the first two points? I could stop feeding the horses I feed and week by week record their body score as it fades in front of me and record the lack of response from the department as they waste away. But I, like many other feeders and rescuers, can’t let it get to that point of no return. How do you withdraw food and water from a starving animal? If you know, tell me! There are many cases I’ve reported where I can’t get feed to. What has happened here? Dead bodies and bones tell you.
This week a ‘thinking outside the box’ friend took a huge worry from me. Feeding in a certain field meant late night visits and a ferocious fear of being caught by a farmer who just didn’t want hungry donkeys to be fed. He didn’t even own them! These donkeys were visited by a welfare inspector attached to The Donkey Sanctuary. Many visits later he told me he could do no more. Even though nothing had changed for these animals. This inspector told me they would die if they were facing a long winter and if I wasn’t feeding them. The same person told me, now that it was Spring, they had a fighting chance. This is the same person who told the owner he had no concerns. This is the person who told the owner he had the same problem with other women wasting his time as he did with me. Wasting his time by reporting neglected donkeys. One person: two very different sides. Fooling the feeder and clapping the back of the person starving his own animals. An owner who let a cow bleed to death without providing the poor animal with veterinary care (which was her legal entitlement). She died bleeding for three days. Death saved her. This case was reported to the department. Nothing happened the owner. I had to take one of his ponies from an area where possible death faced her, if left here. He sold an emaciated pony to a family who had no field or means to feed her. He didn’t care. He cares about money. The appetite for it is insatiable.
If feeders and rescuers in every town and city withdrew their helping hands – we would show up an apathetic and grossly irresponsible department of agriculture. Their negligence would be magnified rather than covered up by us. We are the lens to look through if you want to see the state of animal welfare in Ireland. Having a few proactive department vets/inspectors dotted around the country is not good enough for the amount of horses starving to death or suffering terrible abuse in every county in the country.
Back to this week’s rescue. Yes, my friend stepped in and did his best for these donkeys. My forever imprinted memory was when he pulled up with them at the side of the road and I opened the door. One of them shuffled over to the door and I said ‘it’s over now, sweetie’. Yes, it’s what magical moments are made of. He (Jack) pressed his face against mine and stayed like that until his fosterer arrived. We were no longer in the dark together but in the bright beautiful daylight where I didn’t have to look over my shoulder and he didn’t have to follow a dark silhouette carrying his hay.
No, I’m not wrong and I’m doing the right thing. Why can’t the people paid to care just do the same?
Tonight I’m thinking of Storm, the latest newcomer on the feeding programme. His body etched with the invisible words: neglect. Someone threw him into a soggy patch on the side of the motorway. They didn’t care that no grass will ever grow here and they cared less that directly across from a constantly busy road are two mares who stay put by their feeder. Storm wants to get to them. I leave plastic tubs when I can in these fields as I can fill a lot of water into them. If not I leave a few plastic containers. Yesterday when I was feeding, what remained of the tubs was the twine I used to tie them to the fence. Yes, someone denied their own horses water. No, you never get use to it.
Now to the positives! Today my amazing rescue friend, Helen, sent me a video of Brogan. I rescued Brogan as a foal from a heartbreaking existence. Today I looked at a stunningly beautiful mare who bares no resemblance to the little girl who waited at many different fences and gates – waiting for help to come. It did.
Thank you to everybody who helped this week. This week donkeys are eating grass, playing in their field and hungry horses are being fed. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs outlines the stepping stones to self-actualising: becoming who we are meant to be. At the bottom is the need for feed and shelter – without these, we or they can never move to the next stage and the stage after that – each one leading to the peak of the hierarchy: ‘to self-actualise’. How many owners are denying their horses their right to grow into healthy, happy, and confident horses? Too many to comprehend.
My friend gifted me with a book that I’ve found terribly hard to put down at times this week. Titled, Love her wild, it is both comforting and immensely thought provoking. The lines attached reminded him of the donkeys when I was reunited with them!
I cherish them.
Thank you for reading. x