Friday, 27 April 2018

Animal Magic


'Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to.' Mark Twain

‘For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons.’ Douglas Adams

'Unlike humans, animals do not breed beyond what the land can sustain' Laura King

'Respect animals more than people. We're the ones messing up the world, not them.' Anon

'A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself' Josh Billings

'Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened' Anatole France

'The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.' Mahatma Gandhi

'Why be mean to animals when they treat you better than people?' Anon

'The question is not, Can they reason? nor Can they talk?'
but Can they suffer? Jeremy Bentham

'We patronise the animals for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they are more finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other Nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.' Henry Beston

'I think I could turn and live with the animals, they are so placid and self contained;
I stand and look at them long and long.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition;
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins;
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God;
Not one is dissatisfied-not one is demented with the mania of owning things;
Not one kneels to another, nor his kind that lived thousands of years ago;
Not one is responsible or industrious over the whole earth.'  Walt Whitman

'Any person who is cruel to animals is a threat to humans' Anon

'When humans act with cruelty, we characterize them as 'animals' yet the only animal that displays cruelty is humanity.'  Anthony Williams

Inspired by a like-minded friend, I was going to write an essay about 'speciesism' but then realised that most of what I had to say about animals could be found in the form of  peppy and pithy quotes, even if I had to write one myself.

There might just be one more to be written for the biblical-minded among you. When the bible gives us 'dominion' over the animals, does that mean 'guardianship' or 'tyranny'? Without wishing to be critical of the big G, I've always felt it's a real shame this was left open to the interpretation and humanity of a flawed and often self-serving man.

I start off this blog with a clip from Johnny Morris's Animal Magic TV programme, a staple of my early childhood, but now condemned by the PC brigade (who else?) for its 'anthropomorphism', even though dubbing the animals with Johnny's silly voices was used with the best of intentions to evoke empathy and understanding in young children. Plus who's to say Johnny was that far off the mark in guessing what the animals were thinking? He had after all devoted his life to working with animals and trying to communicate with them. We now have people who define themselves as 'animal communicators' or 'horse whisperers' etc - badges Johnny would never have dreamed of claiming for himself. 

On the subject of animals with human characteristics, anyone who's ever owned a pet knows how much they like to 'join in' with human elements of life and how you can even take a chicken into your home and it will develop its own characteristics and 'personality' as individual as that of any human being of your acquaintance. We all exchange knowing smiles at tales of how a pet can tell the time when you're coming home, recognise the engine of your car as you turn in, know what time it is for food, walks or play, know when you are upset and need a comforting nuzzle or a companion on your bed all day long to stroke when you are ill. Animals don't care how you look, how successful you are (as long as you keep the food supply coming), what age you are, what car you own, what your marital status is (though a secondary fan in the house is always a good thing!) or any of the other triviata that your fellow humans may judge you for. They care only about their relationship with you. A late poet friend of mine wrote a lovely poem about what a hero he was to his dog (reproduced further down).

I find it sad in the extreme that we have had to battle on several occasions in our so-called civilised 21st Century society to retain the legal protection status of 'sentient beings' for animals, paltry as that protection is when translated into real life. How brainless would a human being have to be not to recognise the difference between an animal and a sack of flour? Not to recognise that animals can feel fear, suffering and pain as much as any human being can, irrespective of whether they can read Shakespeare, complete a crossword or drive a car.

We also know the following about animals that we didn't necessarily know in the past:

  • That sadists and serial killers often start their career on animals and then move onto human beings. Therefore any animal cruelty detected in children needs to be nipped in the bud. I suggest animal appreciation and care classes need to be compulsory in every school, not least when so many homes break up nowadays and the pets are often the first to suffer or be abandoned, leading to even more misery on the childrens' part, who have enough to contend with in dealing with their parents' break up.
  • Child abusers are known for targeting jobs and careers which will expose them to children and most of these areas are now well-monitored requiring DBS checks. Likewise a lot of animal abuse has been exposed in abbatoirs, vivisection labs and chicken plants so a similar monitoring scheme needs to be introduced with lifelong animal ownership/working bans imposed on those found guilty. All animal slaughter facilities need to be covered with CCTV with more inspectors on the ground making unannounced inspections.
  • When people's lives get busy or tough, animals are often the first to suffer.
  • Far too much meat is imported leading to live export cruelty. Those who eat meat need to insist on locally sourced and ethically-produced meat with a checkable provenance. This will also benefit their health as well as animals as cheap meat contains high levels of adrenaline, chemicals and even cancers which have been cut out as part of the preparation process. When animals live in a high-stress environment and are subjected to short and brutal lives, all the stress will remain at cellular level in the meat to be consumed by the human or pet it is processed and purchased for, increasing cancer and other risks.
  • I would like to see a ban on all cartoon animals advertising their meat or animal products in advertising. If ever there was an abuse of anthropomorphism, this is it at its most obscene, yet strangely no one seems to be doing anything about it. Turkeys do not vote for Christmas as they say.
  • There are effective alternatives to animal experiments which may hasten medical progress but as long as the heads of pharma companies are allowed to lobby and influence governments and the law, these will not come to pass as they have had these cruel practices written into law, irrespective of efficacy and side effects to humans.
  • Many animal experiments are both cruel and pointless and many companies copy the same experiments for product development rather than sharing data for 'commercial reasons.'

So now that most groups of human beings have been recognised and granted legal rights and protections accordingly it is high time it was the turn of the animals in my view. They give us so much, yet take so little and they utterly rely on us for a voice and enforcement of what few rights they have.  What protection they have is woefully inadequate to guarantee them even the basics of food, shelter and a life free of fear and pain. 

Ode To My Dog by Brinsley Sheridan

To my dog I am no mortal man, no failed frail human being.
To my dog, I am all powerful, all-knowing and all-seeing.
I’m the centre of his universe, his raison d’etre, his quest,
My words he does not challenge, my will he does not test.

I’m his Mozart, and his Sartre, his Rodin, his Van Gogh,
His Herman Hess, His William S, his Tolostoy and Nabokov.
I’m his Buddha, his Confucius, his Marx, his Mao Tse Tung,
His Rousseau and his Russell, his Adler, Freud and Jung.

My simple tricks with stones and sticks outshine Houdini’s guile,
I summon him with Caruso’s voice and Mona Lisa’s smile.
I unravelled relativity while holing out the ninth,
Penned War and Peace and, with idle ease, designed the Pharoah’s plinth.

I’m his Steve McQueen in ‘Bullet’, his Bogart in ‘Casablanca’,
More debonair than Fred Astaire, and a better disco dancer.
I’m his Rolling Stones, his Beatles, his REM, his Crowded House,
His Superman, his Batman, but never Mickey Mouse.

He trusts me without question, that to me, it seems,
I’m all my childhood heroes, and all my adult dreams.

World Day for the End of Speciesism

Date: August 25, 2018
Place: All over the world
More Information: See the list of events and list of marches
The goal of the World Day for the End of Speciesism is to denounce the unjust ideology that makes the barbarity of raising and killing billions of animals for our pleasure—a needed change. Join a march to  take a stand against the injustice being done to animals, which has become one of the most important social debates of our time. Our relationship with animals is based on speciesism. By analogy with racism and sexism, speciesism refers to an ideology that considers the lives and interests of animals as insignificant just because they are of a different species. Speciesism is untenable because humans are not the only ones to feel emotions and suffer and therefore we have to respect the lives and interests of the other sentient beings who share this planet with us. 


Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Capital Crime - poem




I used to love London but find my heart broken anew each time I visit it these days as more and more of its historic heart is torn out. Photographs on this posting illustrate just one example of the recent loss of a landmark building, which not even listing could save in the face of corporate greed. Regent Palace Hotel was once Europe's largest hotel (1,028 rooms) and a listed example of art nouveau in the heart of Piccadilly Circus.

Capital Crime

Attacked and beaten to death by a gang of wrecking balls
And mechanical creatures with pulverising jaws
Confident hydraulics with killer pincers
Crumple windowframes. Tear flesh wounds in the walls
Excavators scoop out any cowering cellars
‘Hello. Is that the Police?
Come quickly. London is being murdered
By monster machine thugs.
Quick, Quick, there’s no time to lose!’
Buildings minding their own business
Which can’t fight back, are under attack
History is becoming history
Robbed of its ancestry
Everything is a site
Even the sights.
Sold off to the highest bidders
To leave only property developer winners
The skyline is now a sighline
Give the tourists refunds
There’s nothing to see here!
London is undone
©LS King 2018

New building below with the b/s name of Quadrant 3, Air W1, as if it were some form of alien spacecraft that landed. Perhaps it is...

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Blitz Memories

This month I set the following exercise for Hove Writers. Write a story as told to you by a 3rd party. Could be a friend, relative, colleague, client etc, but do change the names if necessary.

Here's mine.

When my father was a boy of about eight he had to walk to and from school during the Coventry Blitz.

One day he made his way to Cramper's Field which he had to walk across to reach his street in Coundon.

A burly Air Raid Warden took his arm and escorted him across the Green telling him ‘Keep your eyes on the path son!’ My father took a sneaky peek and saw that rows of air raid victims had been laid out on either side of the Green.  He noticed a familiar sports jacket among the prone figures and realised it belonged to their neighbour, Mr Browett.

When he got home, all the windows had been blown out but half of next door was missing. His mother’s new curtains still hung at the kitchen window. miraculously undamaged.

One day my father was kept off school. He later overheard the grown ups talking and learned this was because a bomb had hit a graveyard near his school and blown bodies up into the air which were hanging from the trees and telegraph wires.

Another time he met his mother at the local Bingo hall after school and they started walking home together. As they turned into their avenue, his mother suddenly grabbed his arm and insisted they walk round the block to enter the avenue by the other end. This was quite a detour and my father remembered feeling annoyed. Within an hour they heard that an unexploded bomb had been found at the other end of their avenue and his mother’s instincts had potentially saved them in the darkness (no streetlights allowed). My father’s street had quite a lot of hits as the German bombers mistook the primary school behind his street for a factory and often dropped bombs there, which would miss their target and hit surrounding houses.

On a lighter note one house in his street had a hit which caused the piano to shoot out into the middle of the street. No one was killed as the occupants were at work, but another neighbour went out into the street after the All Clear and started playing the piano sparking an impromptu neighbourhood knees up.

Then there was the lady who was envious of the fancy new hat her neighbour had just purchased on the black market (new clothes being on ration). During one air raid, the hat was blown clean from her neighbour’s bedroom into hers directly across the road! Sadly it was too bomb-damaged to wear, though she put the remnants of it on anyway and everyone laughed, except the hat's owner, who was apparently furious.

One night my father and his parents, along with thousands of others, walked to Kenilworth, a village about six miles away to take shelter. My father said it was like watching a firework display seeing the city burning in the distance with rockets whistling before they hit, but then his father completed the Anderson Shelter in the garden and he and his parents would go there if the air raid siren sounded. A bank manager and his family across the street tried to fortify their understairs cupboard and were all killed in an air raid.