• DAY 396: THE END

    Oct 26th

    Martinmango

    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.

    Filming myself watching the documentary Earthlings.

    Filming myself watching the documentary Earthlings.

    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.

    Hooray!

    Mango - rescued

    Mango – rescued

    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)

    An ex-dancing bear at the wonderful sanctuary of Wildlife SOS in India

    An ex-dancing bear at the wonderful sanctuary of Wildlife SOS in India

     

    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.

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    The eyes have it

    Wildlife SOS

    Wildlife SOS rescued monkey

    Mango

    Mango

    bearraid-3

    A chained monkey in India

    A stuffed leopard in unceremonious garb and elephant tusk - seized contraband at the Wildlife Crime Unit

    A stuffed leopard in unceremonious garb and elephant tusk – seized contraband at the Wildlife Crime Unit

    Galgo against a wall

    A rescued Galgo in Southern Spain

    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.

    Charlotte with Ete. From a hunter's hands to a carer's, thank you Charl!

    Charlotte with Ete. From a hunter’s hands to a carer’s, thank you Charl!

    Steve Trewhella and Derek Davey, two people more skilled than me at saving wildlife

    Steve Trewhella and Derek Davey, two people more skilled than me at saving wildlife

    The wonderful Avis from ARK, in Kerala, India, doing so much for street dogs.

    The wonderful Avis from ARK, in Kerala, India, doing so much for street dogs.

    The dog sanctuary in the south of Corfu. Those that don't fight each other are allowed to roam free, the others are kept in well managed enclosures.

    The dog sanctuary in the south of Corfu run by Marjorie

    Julia and Alberto waiting by the side of the motorway. And waiting. And waiting

    Julia and Alberto waiting by the side of the motorway. And waiting. And waiting

    Peter Singer, philosopher on animal rights

    Peter Singer, philosopher on animal rights

    But there are too many that don’t.

    bear paws are especially prized in the illegal wildlife trade.

    bear paws are especially prized in the illegal wildlife trade.

    martinreturn_16

    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.

    Cordelia - the 'cow-dog'. She was almost totally blind

    Cordelia – the ‘cow-dog’. She was almost totally blind

    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.

    BHEM41 / Iceland

    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.

    shelf

    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.

    With Charlotte's wonderful galgos

    With Charlotte’s wonderful galgos

    Who knows.

    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.

    This little pup was too terrified for me to touch it. He was found abandoned and we can only guess about his life before rescue.

    This little pup was too terrified for me to touch it. He was found abandoned and we can only guess about his life before rescue.

    What about us?

    What about us?

    Baby hedgehogs suffer too. Me holding a rescued hedgehog in the centre

    Baby hedgehogs suffer too. Me holding a rescued hedgehog in the centre

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    IMG_5857 lady_08

    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.

    Grrrrr!

    xmasblog_02

     

    Get moving!! Bug and moose enjoy the snow.

    Get moving!! Bug and moose enjoy the snow.

    Moosebrocolli bugfaceBug the dog



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    24 Responses to “DAY 396: THE END”

    1. Truly inspirational.
      I am a volunteer and the treasurer of an animal society in Greece and have seen such abuse and atrocities it has been unbelievable. I can only imagine what it must have been like in some of the countries you visited.
      Your last two paragraphs really struck a cord and I think must be true for nearly all who deal with the welfare of animals.

    2. Well it’s been an emotional journey following you but I can honestly say WELL DONE! From the bottom of my heart a big THANK YOU for devoting your time, energy and emotion to enlighten yourself and us as to the plight of ALL animals out there! Xx

    3. Dear Martin, a big THANK YOU fro what you’ve done! I trust your efforts have been heard by someone out there. I, for one, have heard them very well. I already loved all animals before ‘encountering’ you, but I now love them even more. I arrived here via the Galgos, a very sad reality I didn’t even know, and from then I followed you every day. You gave me a lot of information on things I didn’t know, and very recently you made me discover Earthlings, a documentary I didn’t know. I shared your blog with as many people as possible, hoping that more people might become like us, so that this world would be a better place.
      Now a question: What’s next for you? Of course you will have to go back to your beloved ones, to your life and to your profession. But, what will you make of all this? Will you still publish new posts here? Have you thought about writing a book (with your photos of course) and have it published? In any case, I wish you all the best for everything, you are a special person and I admire you for what you’ve done, your year to help required a lot of courage and energies. Best wishes, Marco

    4. well done martin, i expect you will go on helping for ever. happy wedding day and thanks for all the animals you highlighted.

    5. Dear Martin

      Well done. It’ll be very strange not clicking on to your blog and joining you with your challenges. I have a lot of admiration for what you have done.
      Have a happy wedding day and good luck with all your projects (keep us posted!) Moose and Bug will be glad to have you back (and not forgetting Anne!)

    6. Hi Martin,
      thank you for all of your hard work and heartache in keeping us informed with your blog. I have many days opened your pages – sometimes with dread, not knowing what I was about to read – but always with a great admiration for the work you have been doing. Good luck with your wedding day, I very much look forward to reading your book on Galgos (hoping!).

    7. Thanks Martin. It’s been great reading and learning with you. Thanks for loving and including the fantastic Galgos so much! Have a great wedding party, From me and Max my greyhound

    8. Beautifully heartfelt and witty journalism. When is the book out??

    9. well done Martin – so in awe and amazed at all your hard work. you are talented and inspiring. best wishes to you

    10. Thank you Martin for sharing your year(and a bit)with us. I have learnt so much, and really admire all you have done. Hope there is book to accompany this blog! Wishing you and Anne a wonderful wedding day x

    11. Thank you so much for all that you have exposed me to over the last year.I too started following you at the time you were with the galgos(I’ve owned rescued greyhounds for the past 10 years), I backtracked to the beginning and read all your posts.It encouraged me to return to vegeterianism.I stopped eating meat once before for several years but became overwhelmed by all the obstacles and emotions and found it easier to ignore my feelings that it was wrong,and that nothing would ever change anyway, so why bother. Reading about you voicing all of your thoughts, and going through many of the same “why do it” feelings that I’ve gone through ,plus seeing all your soulful photographs, made me realize that although things probably will never change that much on the whole, I DON’T have to be a part of it.My ultimate goal would be to become totally vegan, but that seems way too hard right now. One day at a time.
      Please let loose and have yourselves the most wonderful time at your wedding!!!Both of you deserve it!! Best of wishes to you as you continue on your journey towards a more peaceful, contented, and happier life.

    12. I also want to thank you for publishing this blog. I, too, found you from the galgo connection, went back and read the blog from the beginning and have been following it ever since. Your journey echoes mine in heart, although you have been braver than I. I’ve been doing what I can for galgo rescue from the comfort of my home in the USA, but I became so serious about the effort that I am planning a trip to Spain next year. Like many of my galgo friends in the US, I am planning a “kennel vacation”, which means I’m taking holiday time from my paid job to volunteer in a rescue kennel for a week instead of doing a beach vacation with my husband. I’m very sure that the trip will include some crying, but I am tough enough to work and cry at the same time. I don’t know if I will bring a dog back with me, but even if I don’t I’m sure I’ll bring something powerful and heartfelt home with me – conviction to continue the fight!

      Slowly, tediously, and with the miracle of how the internet is shrinking the world, I do feel that we are making progress in animal welfare around the world. Without the internet I would have never heard of galgos. Without the internet, I couldn’t volunteer time for fundraising and public education about them. Let’s all stand together and do what it takes to fix this!

    13. “Many centuries”–oh no Martin, I hope not! This was my summer of finally looking over the wall and seeing the truths of meat and factory farming, and your words & pictures helped push me along to where I am now–somewhere between vegetarianism and veganism. (Still eating fish, feel badly enough about that so it may go along the wayside eventually too). I found your blog reading about the cat and dog food markets in Asian countries. Because of the internet, and comments comparing eating dogs to eating farm animals, I started reading about factory farms and dairy calves and chickens stuffed in cages and pigs living in gestation crates and if that’s not enough, the deliberate cruelty some workers inflict on these poor animals. And as you said, the sheer immensity of it. I am still dumbstruck at the decades it took to make me realize what was going on. I guess the idea that unpleasant things were going on concerning meat was tucked away in a rarely visited corner of my brain. Your sense of humor observing life makes reading about these sad things easier and may perhaps ease people into wanting to learn more without making them quickly click away to a less challenging topic. Sometimes people dip a toe into the water and either pull it out and run away or venture in deeper, not everyone can jump right in the deep end. Thank-you for putting yourself so much into this subject and letting us follow along. Happy wedding ceremony and sincere wishes for a very long and happy life together.

    14. Just discovered your website TONIGHT and spent an hour going through days 70 something to 135 something. I will find time to read the others. I admire you.

    15. Do ladies love animals more than gentlemen? I’m asking since I noticed that most commenters here are ladies.
      I’d love to hear your (Martin’s) and your (readers’) opinion, thank you 🙂

    16. Congratulations Martin on all the wonderful work you have done this year, (with, of course, the support of Ann – who I am sure has been your rock).I am so looking forward to the book. Please keep us all informed as to when it is likely to be finished (or even started???) and when it will be published.
      All the very best
      Love Odette x

    17. thank you Odette, and thank you so much for putting me in touch with your very inspiring mother. I hope you are well and I hope we stay in touch. Avis or you are always welcome to stay here in London if you need a place. I will be in touch with her shortly to see how things are going. Only now just back to dry land after weddding/honeymoon and work travel

    18. Martin…it has indeed been an honour to follow your year! I thank you for all the stellar effort you have put forward in your travels and blog entries…well done my friend…..I too, like your other readers….look forward to your book!! PLEASE keep us posted as to where we can purchase! I absolutely will be adding your book to my library! Thank you again Martin and to your family for ‘loaning you’ to us for the year! Cheers, Valerie 🙂

    19. Martin – Thank you for what you did…and undoubtedly what you will continue to do – on behalf of animals. I have followed your journey in bits and pieces throughout the year. There were times I couldn’t bear to read your posts as they brought the suffering so close but I was always heartened to know someone cared so much as to undertake this journey. I wish you luck in the future. And with your veganism! I have been vegan for 3+ years and it has had a profound effect on my life – in more ways than I could have ever imagined. I hope the same proves true for you. It’s a beautiful and profound thing when one’s actions align with one’s values…and so rare when we can directly reduce suffering in the world, simply through the choices we make. Blessings to you and your family.

    20. Thank you so much for sharing your year with us. You “walked the talk” with humour and compassion. It was great meeting you at FBM and best of luck.

    21. Martin, I cannot believe that time has flown by so quickly.
      I cannot thank you enough for all the work you have done and the awareness you have raised.
      For you (and Ann) I am glad this year/project is over. (Although it surely won’t be in you mind and heart that soon.) So happy you were overall left physically unharmed (despite the pig-bite – that will heal hopefully)
      I was a little left astray by supporting local animal care/cat advocates recently but my mind was with you as well.
      A small Xmas-donation will make its way soon to you.
      I said it before and I mean it: You are a true hero!
      (The pic of Moose and Bug in the snow is amazing!)
      Please consider turning all your experiences and photos of the past year into a book. I would definitely buy it.
      Bless you and kudos from Vienna,
      Martina

    22. Martina, you have been our greatest supporter!! Thank you so much for your continued care. I will start writing the book very soon. I had to take a few months off to rest and get some distance. I hope you are well and have a lovely xmas. thank yuou!!

    23. I smiled and shed tears reading this post. What an inspiration you are. Like Martina, I hope you think about publishing a book on your year of helping animals. I would definitely buy it!

      All the best ~ xo

    24. Dear Martin,

      I finally caught up after some months missing your blog updates and I can’t say enough good things about your journey. I just want to say you are a true inspiration and I wish your year had been filmed as a documentary, maybe another time?

      I still have the picture of Cordelia and I will never forget reading about her and the imagery and words portrayed so vividly and heartbreakingly, when you wrote about that sweet little dog, though I never met her she will always be close to my heart.

      Thank you for all you have done for animals and I also loved the update for Mango and I’ll be reading the blogs that I missed in between.

      Best wishes, stay great!

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