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FOCUSING ON VICTORY - by Andrew Tyler
Posted 1 July 2002
Glance through the pages of Outrage (Animal Aid's quarterly magazine sent to all members) and you'll see the many fronts on which Animal Aid is battling to advance the treatment of animals. Current campaigns are directed at the suffering inherent in the trade in exotic pets, in horse racing, pheasant rearing and shooting - and we remain as focused as ever on the core issues of vivisection, vegetarianism and the mass production of animals for meat and dairy products.
The common theme with all these campaigns is that the targets of our attention operate in a state of pathological denial. They deny that what they do results in animals suffering. They deny also that they are motivated by greed, selfishness or, at best, thoughtlessness. They lie to the general public and often lie to themselves.
Reptile dealers claim to be saving animals from extinction, when they are doing precisely the opposite. Most of their 'product' is stolen from the wild and, within a year, the majority have died from stress-related illness. The capture, transportation and subsequent incarceration of wild birds is an equally grotesque enterprise, one that decimates family and social groups and - for those who survive to end up as caged 'pets' - reduces what should be vivid, dynamic lives to literally maddening isolation.
Those orchestrating the 'exotics' trade say that they are benefiting the indigenous peoples whom they commission to do the actual trapping. The reality is that the trappers function as low-paid stooges, and are fast depleting - for all time - their cash crop.
Less exotically, we are directing our attention to those at the centre of the pheasant rearing and shooting industry. Every year, around 35 million birds are mass-produced inside sheds in order to serve as feathered targets for wax-jacketed inadequates. The shooters usually can't be bothered even to retrieve their downed quarry. They leave them to rot or have them buried in specially-dug holes. The sham arguments here also relate to 'conservation', to 'tradition' and to the sacred, historic rights of the individual.
The current issue of Outrage also details the latest news on our campaign to educate the public about the realities of horse racing. Owners, trainers and jockeys talk glutinously about the love and devotion that supposedly define their relationship with their equines. Yet hundreds of horses are raced to death every year. Thousands are unceremoniously disposed of because they fail to make the grade or their commercial usefulness has passed. And large numbers of low-value horses are subjected to lethal laboratory experiments - often paid for by racing interests - aimed at finding cures for ailments that are a direct consequence of the punishing regime to which performance horses are subjected.
The heartening aspect to this otherwise wretched picture is that we can be sure that the more furiously our opponents twist the truth, the closer we are to upending them. Our campaign against the trade in exotics (launched about two years ago) has already saved thousands of animals through the closure of numerous one-day reptile and bird fairs, the blocking of plans for two reptile zoos and the ending of all bird, reptile and small mammal sales by DIY chain Focus.
Sixteen weeks after launching our campaign against the John Lewis store group for its involvement in 'sport shooting', it closed its Hampshire rearing and shooting operation and wound up its 40 year old shooting club.
Less tangibly, our Horse Racing Awareness Week campaign has generated a mass of regional and national media coverage and sensitised the industry to the whole question of the fate of the animals.
The lessons here are plain. When we work together - as individuals and as national and local groups - we can score victories for the animals. We will be all the more successful if we are focused, relentless, professional and confident.