• My new book about Spanish Hunting Dogs

    Jul 24 2015

    I’m still busy writing up this blog as a book but had to take some time out to earn some proper money and complete some outstanding projects – one of which is a longstanding photo project documenting Spanish hunting dogs (galgos and podencos). If you remember I encountered these beautiful dogs and their harrowing story early on in my year to help and could not help but photograph them. The result is a new book which hopefully will help raise awareness.

    The photos are intended to be beautiful but not deny the ugliness of these dogs situation. It’s too easy to take sweet pictures, its too obvious to take grim pictures. I hope this treads a path between.

    The project has already been seen in the International NY Times, Sunday Times, BBC and many magazines around the world and has been on show in Paris and New York.

    Hardback, 112pp, 300 x 260mm - it's a large coffee table book

    Hardback, 112pp, 300 x 260mm – it’s a large coffee table book, Kehrer Verlag publishers

    If you would like a signed copy of the book – 10% of the money raised so far from sales goes to the charities where the dogs were photographed then please buy here

    BUY THE BOOK

    The book shows both the rescued dogs but also the landscapes in which they are typically abandoned.

    Some examples of spreads.

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  • DAY 396: THE END

    Oct 26 2013

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    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

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    Wildlife SOS rescued monkey

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    Mango

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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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    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!

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    Get moving!! Bug and moose enjoy the snow.

    Get moving!! Bug and moose enjoy the snow.

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  • DAY 380: WATCH ME WATCHING ‘EARTHLINGS’. HAVE A LOOK AT SOMEONE LOOKING AT SUFFERING

    Oct 10 2013
    Filming myself watching the documentary Earthlings.

    Filming myself watching the documentary Earthlings.

    For those of you who don’t know, the documentary ‘Earthlings’ is the movie that turns people to vegetarianism.

    And it’s not about Jamie Oliver making a quinoa salad.

    It shows, without blinking, the unadorned horror of the many ways in which humans are capable of abusing their power over animals – farming, vivisection, hunting, pet ownership…the list is far too long to bear and the scenes portrayed too gory to look at directly for any length of time.

    I’ve been promising but failing to watch this film for weeks.  The reasons were obvious – I didn’t want to face it.  But now I have.

    I wanted to share something of this with you without forcing the images upon you. So rather than write about it, I thought I’d film myself watching it. Some of these portraits look contrived but I can assure you I was far too distressed to care about the camera. You are watching pain that is once removed.

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    What is the point of watching ‘Earthlings’ if it’s so awful?

    No doubt it would be possible to make a movie of the awful way some human’s treat humans. Or the way animals eat animals.  Surely this is a sort of extremist shock tactic that doesn’t help a reasonable debate on animal rights.

    In some ways that is true. Plenty of slaughter houses are not as awful as those shown in graphic detail here.

    But when you consider that two the key reason why animals suffer so much at the hands of humans is because of the twin effects of IGNORANCE and DENIAL then a short sharp shock of reality is eminently justifiable.

    In one scene it shows how cattle who collapse after days of transport in India have raw chilli rubbed into their eyes to get them up. If that doesn’t work they break their tails.In some ways the movie is as brutal on the viewer – this is a movie to open people’s eyes. Not nice, but effective.

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    Two lessons.

    Two main feelings from watching (other than horror)

    1) UTTER ASTONISHMENT at the way humans can separate from animals. The DISCONNECT was grand-canyon-esque. A man cuts the head off a living dolphin, another saws into a fully conscious cow….how?

    2) A SENSE OF CERTAINTY that for those of us that care it is our absolute duty to KNOW.

    If you have any compassion for animals then you owe it to yourself as much as to the animals to at least educate yourself as to what is happening. You don’t need to watch the movie or see any gore but you need to at least give your heart a chance to connect to the misery that you might be able to help. You can then choose to act or not. But you cannot go through life not knowing.

    If you have the strength, please watch Earthlings for free:

    Watch the movie 

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