DAY 396: THE END
This year is now over.
It has been horrific, sad, inspiring and deeply transformative. I can say with hand on fast-beating heart that you readers and supporters have helped hugely on an otherwise exhausting journey.
It may seem strange that a year of (trying) to help animals takes 396 days but to delve into the world of suffering means the earth moves around the sun ever so slightly slower.
The days have been long, the nights, dreaming of pigs in spanish intensive farms, longer.
In the past 396 days I have (tenuously) saved:
16 domestic animals (dogs mainly – UK, India, Philippines)
18 farm animals (by not eating meat)
22 fish (as above including some interventions in Vietnam
7 birds (it would have been more if I hadn’t killed a few. Bugger)
12 weird and scary animals (you’ll have to read the blog)
255 insects, slugs, snails (do these count? Well, they are sentient)
If you want to see more about how this might not be entirely true…but actually could be, please click here
My total haul is fairly small. I am left with a pig’s bite mark in my leg, an even larger hole in my wallet and a sadness that trails me like a winter shadow.
But then there is Mango – the dog who you will be glad to know is coming home from the Philippines in three weeks thanks to your support.
Since the beginning of this year around 65 billion animals have been consumed by humans and many many more killed by us through other means: hunting, city expansion, pollution, global warming, neglect, simple cruelty – the list goes on.
And yet there are people working against this, so much more bravely than I ever could – the likes of Trevor, Avis, Kartick, Gheeta, Ira, Charlotte, Liz, Julia and Alberto as well as organisations like Network for Animals, Compassion in World Farming and WSPA and so many more who I can’t mention here – they show us that there is hope. I want to thank all of these people and those I can’t mention from the bottom of my heart. And then I want to thank you for your generous support – emotional and financial. But also of course Ann – who has stood by me so patiently and with so much love and who tomorrow I marry (again!) in our US wedding (her family is from America so this is where the big ceremony is)
My efforts during this year – misguided at times, naive at others, indulgent perhaps but always heartfelt I hope – are my own small attempt to swim against a tide. I don’t feel I have done much but then I never expected I would. But I also feel I have done what is more important than anything. I have had the opportunity to reconnect with animals. This has been a luxury but a necessity too. My guiding mantra – which will accompany me to my grave – is E. M Forsters: ‘only connect’.
That connection is most easy to make in the eyes of the animals I have photographed. Images of suffering speak directly to us in a way that logic and argument don’t. Many of us know that animal suffering is wrong. But most of don’t KNOW it deep down so that we act on it. Until we see it. Until we really SEE it.
Many people will say – why animals? What about the starving children in Syria (you f**cking wanker)?
But , as you know, it is neither one, nor the other. It is both. We are all animals and we all suffer. But we humans have done our best to forget this, and so have denigrated the other animals to a position where we repeatedly abuse them. For that reason my mission has been to help those OTHER animals. While the separation between us and other human groups can be devastating, it is of a different order entirely to the rift we feel (or don’t feel) to other animals.
It goes without saying there are a huge number of people on this planet who love and care for animals.
But there are too many that don’t.
The overwhelming consensus is that animals are for us to USE and it will, I fear, be many centuries before this filters down. It is NOT simply because most countries cannot afford to be compassionate. It is the new found middleclass in India, for example, who are often treating their dogs the worst.
Perhaps the most shocking realisation over this year, aside from understanding the sheer scale with which we humans abuse other animals, is the power of normalisation.
The way in which are culture tells us it is NORMAL to think of animals as separate and lower. This process is our greatest and most silent enemy. It is so NATURAL to eat meat. The fridge with the bacon is SO NICE AND WELCOMING.
If you accept your culture, as we normally all do in one form or another, you have to accept that in another culture you might be a wonderfully charming sexist and racist that thought Jimmy Saville a good TV presenter. This is neither bad nor good. We are all products of our upbringing and to generate the escape velocity to free ourselves from the gravitation pull of the norm requires considerable energy.
You can argue about many of my actions or opinions in this blog but you cannot argue with the transformation I have felt. At times the process has been sad, often it has been painful, but I have felt a strangely subtle shift towards a greater connection and openness that is ultimately rewarding. I feel more content with myself in a way that I only hope will feed into my recovery from a life-long lingering depression.
But the transformation is not complete and will probably be a lifetimes work. I am stepping onto the path of veganism but without the certainty I feel about vegetarianism. I am ashamed to even admit it. Why? Why am I not more certain?
I have also learnt that the process of reconnecting with animals is neither linear or logical. It is a heart unfolding, and we each have different folds made over many years. Yes, you can read Peter Singer and understand the logic, yes, you can watch Earthlings and see the horror, but ultimately the shift comes from a complex combination of your beliefs, your culture, your compassion, your independence, your lifestyle and many other unknown factors.
The purpose of this year was not to moralise or even persaude. It was certainly not to prove myself a worthy person. I had thought it was simply to tell you my story in the hope it might enlighten your own.
But if I am being brutally honest, the purpose of this year was to save something of myself. If I had gone to my grave not trying to do something very small to help animals I would have lived an un-whole life. To connect with animals is also to connect with ourselves.
I love animals a little bit more. I think I even love myself a little more too.
Bug the dog