I recently watched the Animal Rising promo video as their group made their way peacefully through the Grand National crowd, side by side with race goers. There were so many blatant contrasts jumping from the screen. It became easy to pick sides.
The bubble pink T-shirts are a good choice of branding for this spirited group: it’s eye catching: summery and cheery rather than brutal black which can often help demonise such groups further – perceptually speaking. Walking in the same direction were the racing punters: frisky for a flutter, a day out, and the more learned knowledgeable racers hungry for turf. Fascinators hanging on for dear life on up-styles and down-styles. Ties knotted by more experienced hands that start to come undone after a few jars. Peacock-type preening and plucking in preparation for this grand day.
As both groups made their way in: the certainty of feet walking for cause to create a commotion in converse and well-worn boots; feet in tanned shoes and hard to wear heels walking with them… there for the horses but souls apart. All walking together.
And then they are off: Girls in trainers… those in their pink identifiable t-shirts squirm with every jump whilst their opposites roar ‘go on go on…GO ON!’ Go on to cross the line or to die: the Russian Roelette of the most dangerous race in the world as salivating race-goers cling to their betting slips and roar… ‘GO ON!!!!!!!’ Eyes on the prize boys, not on the horses that fell on the first fence. Not on the black screen now being pulled out, not on the eyes of the horse who stares down the barrel of a gun.
And then came the fingers of blame and your rational mind is perplexed – always perplexed by people who demonise a person or people who simply want less suffering and no deaths. How can people who want less suffering and deaths be demonised? Rising: the very word should have the crowds cheering ‘yes yes, go on….save lives….stop the suffering…’ But they don’t. They just don’t. Because if we try to reduce the suffering of the voiceless: we reduce income for another; we take a ‘sledge hammer’ to culture and culture is the ‘grasping at straws’ when fact rubbishes every argument to keep cultural practices going that cause suffering and even death. Straws are often the hardest thing to pluck from a gripping hand and a rigid mindset.
I was interviewed this week and before the interview I wondered have I anything new to add that I already haven’t said. And then I thought about TD Michael Healy Rae saying that people who are against animals suffering are against everything and stand for nothing. Let’s break that Healyism down:People who don’t want a protected animal running for its life after being torn from its habitat; greyhounds only kept to win and if they don’t win shipped off to horrific places with no welfare in place or shot for a fiver; or people who don’t want unweaned baby calves shipped for days and weeks at sea crying for their mothers; people against a terrified goat being put high above a festival crowd for days, and people who want to help save our environment. I would argue they stand for a lot.
And then I thought about a time in my life when I worked on very upsetting child protection cases where I would advocate for young people to be removed from places where they were at high risk or advocate for them to get more supports. Yes, I would get praise for my work from people in sectors who would rubbish the work I do now. Like some Guards who make light of animal welfare or in one case where two female guards tried to convince someone I know that ‘there is something wrong with animal rescuers, they are not right in the head!’ The same two Guards who believed a tiny dog on a huge heavy chain sleeping in his own pee and poo was fine. Their ‘right in the head’ is questionable. A Guard owning the dog did not help my cause to get him out.
Yes, there is something about animal welfare that ignites something really ugly in people and whilst it is understandable for some-it is a puzzle as to why a lot of people sneer and rubbish animal advocates, lovers and rescuers. What is that about?
The thing is this: if the world came undone in the morning, it would be people like those in Animal Rising: selfless, motivated by alleviating suffering, so brave and empathetic, who are the types you’d want in your corner. And if MHR was hoisted up on metal scaffold in a heatwave like that poor goat in Killorglin at The Puck Fair, it would be people like those in Animal Rising climbing up to bring him to safety regardless of all he says to rubbish the cause of those against suffering. Yes, it is this type of mindset that is trying to find ways to morally mend our world. We should be all shouting: ‘Go on, go on, you can do it!’