What picture pops into your mind when you hear the term 'animal rights activist'? Some young, pierced & tattooed wastrel with dreadlocks? Someone who needs to get a bath and a proper job and stop messing around with protests and placards and stuff?
How about a frumpy, dumpy, middle-aged woman who makes jewellery in her spare time? Not quite the stereotype, is it? But I have now joined the Hunt Saboteurs Association, and in the eyes of some of the redtop tabloid media, that makes me a lefty animal rights campaigner.
I never set out with the intention of joining the sabs. I've always had an interest in animals and wildlife and have always hated hunting and animal cruelty. As you will know if you have read my earlier posts in this blog, some friends & I went on the Stop The Badger Cull march in London on 1 June, and ever since then I have become more and more concerned and worried about the way this country is treating its wildlife. I've written to my MP about it [not that it did any good and he is still gung-ho for the cull] and I've emailed the Prime Minister's office, with the same result - nothing. I've tried talking to the NFU, but they just banned me from their Facebook page. I read the news about the cull and try to publicise it as widely as possible.
All pretty tame stuff, huh? So what was this 'final straw' that turned me into a raving lefty activist? It was seeing pictures of unspeakable cruelty towards crows on a farm in England that also has a business running shoots. I can't begin to tell you how horrific this act was, and how deeply upset it made me. I find it unbearable that anyone could inflict pain and torture on a defenceless bird in this way, and all to protect a bunch of other birds so they could be slaughtered by men with big guns. And so I gave the sabs my money and I joined them.
I may not be able to get out into the field but I can support those who can. And I can continue to write to my MP and his colleagues to try to get across the disgust and revulsion felt by me and by hundreds of thousands of others to the wanton destruction of British wildlife. I don't expect the PM to listen - after all, he's upset that his bad back stops him going out slaughtering deer on his Scottish holiday - but that doesn't mean I shouldn't tell him anyway.
Being against the cull does not mean that I don't care about the bovine TB, the cows that are slaughtered and the distress of farmers losing their animals. But slaughtering the badgers in reprisal will not stop bTB. they're not even going to test the badgers they kill, to see whether they were carriers. There are no badgers on the Isle of Man, but they do have bTB - so how can that be? And there are badgers in Scotland, but the cattle there are bTB free. In Wales they vaccinate and don't slaughter badgers. There are alternatives but in England the Government and some of the farmers will not even consider them. bTB rates have been falling this year and have fallen again this month, without the cull - why not try to see what caused the drop, and work with that?
The petition against the cull is now the largest e-petition ever. Have you signed yet? If not, here's the link http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/38257
And if even frumpy middle-aged women are joining the sabs, things are much, much worse than the government realise.