Mary Bale Mania

Here’s a photo of my poor cat Mitsi after watching the Mary Bale video:

 

She hid under that blanket for hours, quaking with fear, even after I explained to her that Mary didn’t know where we lived. Moose even tried to talk her out but it was no good – she wasn’t to be moved:

As for Siamese Suki and fluffy pal, Chloe, they just looked understandably annoyed by the footage:

Ace and Cindy, the other two members of the Bell cat gang, were unavailable for comment.

This Mary Bale thing puzzles me for two different reasons. For starters – like most other sane people in the world – I don’t understand why Mary Bale took it upon herself, entirely unprovoked, to throw a friendly moggy into a bin. The simple explanation is that she’s a mean old bat, and a little bit bonkers (and bears more than a passing resemblance to the Bigoted Woman of election notoriety . . .) But that’s not the only thing that puzzles me about this whole affair. Indeed, what puzzles me the most is the general public’s reaction to it.

As an animal rights activist and ardent cat lover, I understand why I dislike Mary Bale but, as for the rest of society, I’m not entirely sure. I would like to think it’s because, when an act of cruelty towards animals is brought to peoples’ attention in this way, they, quite rightly, condemn it. And yet it seems incongruous for anyone who eats meat, or who buys Fairy Liquid or Head and Shoulders or Pringles or any other product manufactured by an animal testing company such as Proctor and Gamble, to claim to be outraged by Mary Bale’s act – and I strongly suspect that the vast majority of people who joined the Facebook hate groups fall into both those categories.

I read an article (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/aug/28/cat-litter-pets-protected-and-persecuted) yesterday by Guardian journalist, Michele Hanson, commenting on the Mary Bale/wheelie bin incident, in which she states, quite correctly, that we are a confused nation when it comes to animal rights. We claim to be a nation of animal lovers but, sadly, many people seem wholly incapable of putting their money where their mouths are. Naomi Campbell, for example, was quite happy to pose naked for a Peta anti-fur advert – presumably because she got to take her clothes off and look all sexy and sultry and stuff – but then, fifteen years later she’s photographed pouting alluringly in a fur coat (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1210423/Naomi-Campbell-models-sable-coat–15-years-Peta-anti-fur-advert.html). Many, many people only identify themselves as animal rights activists, or animal lovers, when it is fashionable – or easy – to do so. When it simply involves condemning another person, for example, and not inconveniencing their own lives in any way by giving up something they love or changing the way they behave.

There seems to be a disturbing tendency amongst the British public (and probably any other country’s public) to cherry-pick which causes to be excessively outraged about, and which to merely shrug shoulders over and say: ‘It’s only an animal.’ I do not expect other people to feel the way I do about animal rights issues but, for God’s sake, can’t there at least be a little bit more consistency and a little less hypocrisy?

For example, I read an article a while back about a man who killed his neighbour’s little border terrier, Wurzel, after it got into his garden (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1209475/Company-boss-battered-neighbours-barking-pet-dog-death-hoe.html). The dog was hit over the head with a shovel. The RSPCA chose not to prosecute because, they said, Wurzel did not experience “undue pain” (a requisite for prosecution under the Animal Welfare Act 2006). Let’s be clear about this – Wurzel did not die instantly. He was tossed over the wall back into his own garden, where his owner later found him lying on the porch shaking and covered in blood. He had to be put down later that same day. If that’s not “undue pain” then what is? Since the RSPCA declined to press charges, the dog’s owner was forced to spend her own money bringing a private action for the only charge available to her – that of criminal damage to private property (since, legally, that’s all a pet is – property). She lost. Animals are woefully under-protected by the law, and charities like the RSPCA can only do so much when they are continually fighting an uphill battle with limited funds.

I’ve seen several commentators over the last few days suggesting that people get more worked up about cruelty to animals than cruelty to people. This is utter nonsense. As Wurzel’s case so aptly proves – people don’t get more outraged about cruelty to animals than cruelty to people – they get more outraged over cruelty they can actually see. Wurzel’s case infuriated me when I read about it and, although it was covered in the news, it certainly was not highlighted the way that Lola’s case has been. The explanation, I suspect, is that Mary Bale was caught on tape, whereas Neville Hill’s monstrous act of hitting a little dog on the head with a shovel was not. If his cowardly attack upon the dog had been filmed then I have to assume people would be even more incensed over this than they were over Lola. Surely that’s the only sensible explanation, isn’t it? I mean, surely everyone agrees that killing a dog with a spade is worse than putting a cat in a bin? So it would seem that, sadly, people are only able to feel outrage over the injustices they can actually see. I don’t understand this. Obviously, as a writer of fantasy fiction, imagination is supposed to be my forte and all that, but I wouldn’t have thought it beyond the realms of possibility for ordinary people to imagine a scenario such as the one reported with Wurzel.  

So to all those people getting their knickers in a twist over Mary Bale, rushing to join online hate groups and so on, I would remind them that there are many, many injustices to animals that we do not see but that exist nonetheless. If you eat meat, if you buy Fairy Liquid (or any other product that has been used to torture rabbits), or barn eggs from caged hens, then you actively perpetuate those injustices. There is no softer way of putting it. Perhaps such people might reflect for a moment on the wise words of Albert Schweitzer: ‘Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.’ And let’s cease indulging in this fiction that Mary Bale is significantly worse than the average British citizen out there. She isn’t really. The difference is that she got caught.

Having said that, I would be much more shocked to see a CCTV video of an acquaintance of mine throwing a cat in a bin than I would to see a video of them eating a burger. Since I believe that eating meat is ethically worse than what Mary Bale did (because slaughtering an animal – whether you do it yourself, or pay someone else to do it for you – is worse than putting an animal in a bin), I’m not really sure why this should be. It’s a strange cultural by-product, I suppose, of the society we live in. Eating meat is considered socially acceptable – binning random moggies is not. And it seems that I can’t help but be affected by this social norm, even when I don’t want to be. I suppose, in addition, even though Lola was not seriously hurt, Mary Bale’s act was deliberately and maliciously cruel, whereas most meat eaters and Fairy Liquid users – I hope – are not. People know animals have to be slaughtered in order to end up a slab of meat on their plate, but they try not to think about it. Or perhaps they are incapable of properly imagining it.    

Sir Paul McCartney said that ‘if slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.” I hope this is true. I dearly hope that it is. Because it if isn’t, it means that people don’t ignore the many injustices to animals that are so prevalent in our world because of the fact that they fool themselves into thinking they don’t exist, it means they ignore the injustices because they simply don’t care. And I would like to hope that deep, deep down, people are better than that.

In conclusion, then, logically I don’t think Mary Bale is any worse than the average meat-eating Briton but, emotionally, I can’t help but condemn her more than I condemn them. Nevertheless, there is a moral inconsistency here, and one that should be recognised in amidst all the hysterical outrage and excessive condemnation.

On that note, here’s one last snap of Suki, my tiny Siamese:

She knows I live to serve her. And if anyone ever attempted to grab Suki by the scruff of her neck and throw her into a bin, I’m afraid that I would lose my rag rather spectacularly. She may be wonky, she may be bent, she may be ever so very neurotic, but that cat is the absolute apple of my eye and I won’t pretend to be anything less than completely and utterly besotted with her, and her big blue eyes, and her teeny, tiny feet.

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Erin’s New Hat

I realised it’s been a while since I did a Wunderkammer post, and as I don’t want the blog to be lacking in weird stuff, here I shall present not one, but two, instances of weirdness.

Number One – the Mastodon:

 Seth

 As you can see, it is both shrivelled and dead. Obviously, therefore, I love it. I found this mastodon whilst heading an archaeological dig in the wild jungles of Peru. Now Seth, as I like to call him, keeps my shrivelled mermaid and shrivelled bigfoot company. There is a fourth member of their little gang, but I will write about him another time.

Number Two – Erin’s New Hat:

 Erin

This is Erin’s new hat. My Mum recently went on a trip to Marrakech, and she bought this for him in one of the markets there. That’s how cool my Mum is – when she goes on holiday she brings back presents for me, and for my skeleton. And it was perfect timing too because Erin was becoming bored with his Victorian top hat, and had taken to trying to put it on the Siamese, which she dislikes. And an unhappy Siamese makes for an unhappy human. Now, because of the hat, we are all happy, and living together in harmony once again. Soon, Erin will own more hats than I do. I spoil my skeleton almost as much as I spoil my Great Dane. Moose has a hat too. Here she is wearing it on her birthday:

Moose

So make that three instances of weirdness.

Oh yes, we are all mad here.

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Loving Jamaica Inn

I love Jamaica Inn. For those who do not know, it is an ancient coaching house from the 1700’s, situated on the edge of Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, spectacularly shrouded in ghosts and atmosphere. It is also the inspiration, and setting, of Daphne du Maurier’s novel of the same name – a fantastic story of smuggling, murder, romance and intrigue. She wrote the book after becoming lost on the moor, and finding Jamaica Inn in the fog, where she was then entertained by the local vicar with ghost stories and tales of smuggling.

If I lived closer to it, I would be a permanent fixture in the Smuggler’s Bar. They have six reasonably priced vegetarian options on the menu (SIX! Arghh!) (one of which is veggie sausage and mash – arghh, arghh, have I died and gone to heaven?). I love the timelessness of it – especially when you stand in the courtyard outside in the dark, with the sign creaking ominously, and all this mist pressing in. I can practically see Daphne du Maurier riding across the cobbles on her pony. They even have a little brass plaque on the floor in the bar saying ‘On this spot, Joss Merlyn was murdered.’ For some reason this plaque delights me profoundly. I try not to spend too much of my time staring at it when all the locals are walking past it in such a blasé fashion. Plus I do realise that Joss Merlyn is a fictitious character created by du Maurier and so was not really murdered on that spot. In fact he wasn’t murdered anywhere but in du Maurier’s own head. But still, when I see the plaque, I can’t help thinking: wow, Joss met his well-deserved end right here on this spot!

Conveniently, Jamaica Inn also allows dogs. Moose was very warmly welcomed despite her huge size. Not only that but she was even provided with her very own private doggy water bowl. This is what I call service.

We’ve been in Cornwall since yesterday, and as a result of peoples’ reactions towards her, I am starting to suspect she may have sneakily got bigger without my noticing. She just looks medium to me. But when you hear people remarking upon her size in shocked voices, it does make you wonder. She has started leaping right over Loki in the garden, but I just sort of thought perhaps the Doberman was shrinking. But it has to be said that she takes up significantly more room on the back seat of the car than she did last time we came to Cornwall in May. In fact, there is not really room for me on the back seat as well but I manage to squash in there somehow. If she had any sense she would just put her head on my lap but, being a little afraid of the car, she prefers to sit on my lap as much as she possibly can. This is very sweet, because she becomes very cuddly in the car – like a nervous child – but it does mean that by the time we get wherever we are going, I can no longer feel my legs, and I am covered in slobber (because Moose has a propensity to motion sickness, which causes her to drool). My favourite cap is now quite ruined.

But, anyway, I am sure that she thoroughly enjoyed her time at Jamaica Inn, even though she had no idea that she was snoozing just mere feet away from where Joss Merlyn was murdered! Perhaps I will consider moving to Cornwall in the future. That way I can go to Jamaica Inn every day, and perhaps get lost on the moors and have an amazing idea for a novel. Or perhaps go back in time. Every time I go to Jamaica Inn I can’t help half expecting it to happen. And I am always just a little bit disappointed when I open the door to the Smuggler’s Bar to find that there are no bloodthirsty smugglers in tricorn hats gathered there, all staring at me murderously. Maybe next time. Hope springs eternal, and all that . . .

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Sun, Moose and Ice Cream

They say that little things amuse little minds. If this is truly the case then I must have a phenomenally tiny mind. Little things amuse me no end. For example, last week I took Moose out for her first ice cream:

I don’t know what it was about the experience that amused me so much. Perhaps it was just the fact that Moose has very floppy chops (she hasn’t really grown into her face yet), and it was funny watching her trying to get her mouth around this ice cream. Needless to say, there were continuous peals of laughter from our bench. Anyone nearby must have thought: “Wow, that girl is so easily amused! It’s just a dog eating an ice cream!” But there you have it. I probably enjoyed it more than Moose did.

The other great thing about Moose is her eyes. They’re different colours:

I mean, seriously, could she be any more special?

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Home On The Range

It’s good to be home. I like going on holiday but towards the end I start to suffer from intense cravings for two things: meat (of the vegetarian variety, obviously), and my animals.

On our last night in Las Vegas, we stayed in the Luxor. Nowhere near as nice as the Mirage, and we were all having a bit of a whinge about it, and saying we should have stuck with the first hotel. But then we went into breakfast and there, on the menu, was a side order of vegetarian sausages. Vegetarian sausages! I wouldn’t go so far as to say I actually wept with delight but . . . well, it was a near thing. There’s only so much lettuce a person can take, after all. Now I won’t hear a bad word said against the Luxor.

I was probably suffering from meat cravings even more than usual at that point because of the white water rafting we’d just done in Colorado. This involved a night of camping. And, believe me, there is nothing more painful than watching bacon sizzling away on a campfire, smelling all tasty and delicious, when you know you can’t have any of it. Later on they got the marshmallows out but these ones had gelatine in them, so I couldn’t have any of those either. By this time I could feel the cold sweat starting to prickle the back of my neck. Given all this, can I really be blamed for feeling so profoundly delighted by the veggie sausages at the Luxor? 

Anyway, the bacon aside, the white water rafting was fantastic. What I loved most about it was that my brother fell out of the raft about five minutes after we set off down the river. Much amusement was had at his expense, but we dragged him back in eventually. I did not fall out at any time during the two days. At one point, however, I did neglect to jump in quickly enough. We got to this bank in the middle of the river and were carrying the raft across to the other side. Everyone else seemed to leap in nimbly enough. I slipped, or something, and ended up clinging to the side of the raft as it started to move on down the river. The problem with this is that when the water is moving faster than the raft, you have to hang onto the side tight in order to avoid being dragged underneath it. I had horrible images of being, effectively, keel-hauled beneath the raft. So I clung to the rope like a limpet, all the while shrieking, ‘Pull me in! Pull me in! Stop laughing and help me!’ Finally, my brother and his other half managed to drag me in between them. It was quite undignified though. I ended up sort of sprawled on the floor of the raft like a landed fish. 

Anyway, now all that adventuring is behind me and I am back home with the menagerie. Moose has outgrown her car seatbelt whilst we’ve been away. She’ll outgrow my car soon too. My Siamese cat gave me the cold shoulder for the first few hours after I got back. But, since making her displeasure known, she has spent virtually the whole time glued to my lap. If there was any animal I missed more than Moose, it was Suki. That little cat is the absolute apple of my eye. Nothing she does ever irritates me. Not even when she shits on my bed. I mean, obviously, I’m irritated that there is shit on the bed, but I’m not irritated with Suki. She is a Siamese, after all, she can’t help being neurotic. Here is a photo of her:

Suki

I have been told she looks evil in this picture, but I just think she looks ridiculously cute. Something between a kangaroo and a gremlin. It makes me want to kiss her feet. In fact, I’m gonna go do that right now.

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