Friday, 2 January 2015

Be the change you wish to see in the world

Gandhi said that. It is a good quote. It is no use sitting around grumbling about the state of things if you don’t do something to change them.

But how do you do that?

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.--Arthur Ashe.

I like to spend New Year’s Day doing a little of all the things I hope to do in the year. Usually this involves some creative stuff (Yesterday I did some sewing and card making) and some music (I practiced three Welsh tunes on Tallulah the ukulele which prompted Spiderman to casually remark how good it was sounding which just made my heart bloom with joy).  I  cooked delicious food (we had roasted parsnips and carrots for lunch!) and we had black eyed peas with cornbread and kale in the evening for good luck and prosperity in the new year.  We read some books and watched some comedy in the evening as well.

Those where all things I did for myself, but what could I do for others?

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.--Anne Frank.

I heard on New Year’s Eve about an annual event that made my blood run cold. Every year on New Year’s Day the Carmarthenshire Hunt MFHA (Masters of Foxhounds Association) ride their horses and hounds into town for a parade before going out to hunt. While the Hunting Act was introduced in 2004 which banned the hunting of wild mammals such as foxes, deer, hares and mink using dogs in England and Wales, it does not  cover the use of dogs in the process of flushing out wild mammals nor does not affect trail hunting where hounds are trained to follow an artificial scent (usually fox urine).  There is always a worry that the ban will be lifted. Our current Prime Minister David Cameron has said that if the conservatives get into power in the next election that the Hunting Act will be repealed.

Basically, there are many ways that they can still participate in blood sports while skirting within the boundaries of the law. Last year a pack of hounds chased a terrified fox onto a main road and tore the fox apart in front of a busload full of horrified commuters; the Carmarthenshire MFHA  deny any knowledge. There is some discussion that it is suspected that some fox hunters are breeding foxes and then releasing them, but there is no overt proof.

Even if the Carmarthenshire MFHA do not hunt foxes outright, they do still trail hunt with fox urine, rabbit hunt, rat hunt, hunt hares that have been shot and use dogs to flush birds of prey. While they are all legal, I do not consider them to be moral. They say on their website that they do the trail running to “keep the traditions and practices alive” which to that I say tradition does not make it right. Traditionally we have had slaves and women did not have the right to vote. These were traditions and practices we used to believe were good, but no longer do. Cruelty is NOT a sport.

When I heard on New Year’s Eve that this parade of cruelty was going to take place in my town and that the League Against Cruel Sports and West Wales Animal Aid would be there in protest I knew I had to go. God was calling to my heart and telling me this was what He was asking of me.

So I designed a poster and laminated it (for fear of Welsh rain) and prayed that it would be peaceful and that I could make a difference.

On New Year’s Day I went out to meet the other protestors. I had no idea what to expect. Mostly I listened. I heard all about ways that the hunt is declining and needs to hire hunters from other counties to boost their numbers for these parades. I learned to look for violations that we could report to the police. There was a man from the RSPCA there who observed the horses and hounds for signs of abuse or neglect ( a few years ago several of the hounds were seen to be mange-y looking and scabby and rib thin.).

Here is a link from the local paper to a photo gallery from the day showing both the hunters and the protesters. You can see me clearly in several shots due to my bright pink coat and grey hat. I am standing on the far left.


The order of the day was that the horse riders would ride in on their horses wearing their red jackets after stopping off at local pubs for a drink. They arrive in Guildhall Square to cheering crowds before going out for a hunt. They arrived to great fanfare as we protestors who numbered around twenty stood on the steps. The horses and riders all crowded in front of us  and the hounds ran feely through the crowd and between the protestors. The horses were nervous and some riders could not control them and they skittered into each other. The dogs running between their legs did not help. Our worries that the riders had been drinking too much to safely “manage their vehicle” (if a horse counts as a vehicle) were confirmed when a woman bearing a tray of wine glasses was weaving in and out of the horses to offer the riders a tipple when a horse reared and knocked her over and the glasses all shattered on the pavement. We were upset as there was broken glass that could easily cut the tender feet of dogs or nearby children.  Can a horse get glass lodged in a hoof? I didn’t want to find out.  A policeman came and quickly swept the glass up. We shouted at them for using real glass around animals--a health and safety issue. They shouted at us saying “ You think we MEANT for that to happen?”


There was lots of shouting. We shouted BOOOOO when crowds were cheering. I did not want to hurl abuse, the Quaker in me would not let me. But I did shout SHAME! and CRUELTY IS NOT A SPORT! because I firmly believe that blood sports are wrong. Someone shouted “There are two arseholes on a horse, one on the horse and the other sitting  on top of the horse!” which made me laugh, but I did not want to name call. I wanted to pray for everyone.

The hunting of innocent animals for sport is cruel. The desire to harm another living being for fun is not fun for anyone. I think the saddest thing for me was that there were several really young children riders who were probably on their first hunt. Later in the day, when they made a kill, the blood of the innocent animal would be rubbed on their faces as initiation. Because it is tradition.

The riders trotted off and the protesters discussed ways they were going to report them for violations that we had photographed them doing (we also tried to film them doing something that we know to be illegal but we were continually blocked by their men who kept stepping in front of our cameras) and then wearily said, “See you next year.”

I don’t know if being there helped. I don’t know what impact it may have. But I know I needed to be there, to make a stand for something I feel is truly wrong. I know I will now actively pray for them, to soften their hearts, but also to keep my heart from hatred as well. Because hatred is a hot coal that burns you as you prepare to hurl it at someone else.

Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.--Thomas Jefferson.       

So this year in 2015, I hope to act more to change the world for good. What will you do?

1 comment:

  1. I have been hunting with dogs and horses in my time........never shot anything or tried to, but rode with my dad to enjoy the woods and the day on horseback. I have also eaten game (deer, duck, rabbit, doves, quail, squirrels) quite often until I was in my 30s. I often ponder on this now, wondering when my tastebuds began to feel repulsed at the idea of putting that in my mouth, and what that feeling meant. I hadn't thought about hunting in years and years till I moved to Vermont/Quebec, where the hunting culture was alive and well, including the blood smearing practice. It made me queasy to know about it then, and I wondered how a place with such high ethical standards in other matters did not see any conflict with this. Old cultural (especially rural) traditions die hard. Slowly and hard. There are still hunters around here, but they are not my friends, my cultural circle, and I'm glad of it. Love you, chickadee and proud of you.