It was April Fool’s day, and I thought it was a joke at first – my partner’s face plastered across the front page of the Mail on Sunday.
We were out for dinner with his university friends. A mixed group – teachers, scientists, journalists. Those in the media would easily be able to mock up a front page of the Mail. They knew, too, that we had been involved with Animal Rising – so it wouldn’t have been too much of a stretch to put two and two together. It would have been funny. I would have laughed, and we would all have joked about how the activism they began as students has continued to this day.
But when I saw that picture I knew. I tend to pride myself on knowing photos of my partner – I take most of them. But this was different. Taken from a strange angle. Covert. Like you see in the news when people don’t know they are being captured. “Vegan Mob plots to sabotage the Grand National.” Shit.
I’m a recent member of Animal Rising, and a recent vegan convert. I became vegan for two reasons – two equally important reasons. Animal Welfare is the obvious one. I have always been an animal lover, and currently work for a dog welfare charity – I could not bear the hypocrisy of loving and caring for one animal, and reducing others to mere fodder.
Environment is the second. The planet can not handle the strain of animal farming. It is simply not sustainable. I fully believe that transitioning to a plant-based future is the only way forward if we want to leave a planet behind for future generations.
I was not in the paper. I was not at the non-violent direct action training last week – but not because I didn’t want to be. 87 horses have died at the grand national since its inception. The fate of the horses that are not killed in the race is no better – once they stop winning races or are injured, they are sent to slaughter. A racehorse dies every two days. I am not at a position in my life where I can be arrested – I am poor, and have responsibilities I cannot neglect – but if there was something I believed in enough to be arrested for – this would be it.
When we were at dinner, one of our friends stormed out because they thought it was despicable that this was the action we were taking, when far more animals are killed every day for the meat and dairy industries. But we take action against those too – they just don’t make the front page of the Mail on Sunday because people are desensitised to this ‘essential’ industry. But when we try to stop a ‘national treasure’ of an event – that just so happens to kill hundreds of horses, the media is up in arms.
Within a few hours of the article being up, there are thousands of comments. I instructed my partner not to read them. Some suggested he be turned into glue like the horses, some suggested the horses trample him, and some that he should be sent back to where he came from (he’s from Liverpool, so I’m not sure what that would achieve). All this for his ‘extreme’ and ‘radical’ views. How is standing up for the rights of a sentient being radical?
These articles (for now there are many) are a double-edged sword. It is the first time that Animal Rising have made the front page of a national newspaper, but this is possibly in part due to who my partner is. He is an award-winning journalist and author, and this could destroy his career. It is, as I previously mentioned, a worthy cause, but this is not fair. It is not fair because despite months of planning, horses will die. It is not fair that the buzz around this story will quickly die down, because the most likely outcome is that the Grand National will go ahead due to this leak. It is not fair because the articles barely mention why Animal Rising are planning on doing this. Animal Rising is not a ‘vegan mob’ it is an animal and climate justice movement. The journalist says that ‘disturbingly’ AR are hoping to disrupt more horse races in the future, but fails to mention the disturbing deaths of animals.
It is concerning that issues such as animal rights and climate activism have been cast under the labels of ‘zealots’ and ‘radicals’ when these are fundamental issues that affect our planet, and our humanity. I do not want to be associated with those who think that pain, death and exploitation are suitable forms of entertainment.
I am writing for Writers Rebel as I am also an (aspiring) writer, currently studying Creative Writing at Birkbeck. I was told, in one of my first ever lectures, that we should ‘not write about rescuing puppies’ because it was too sickeningly sweet. Too saccharine. But fuck it. I want to rescue puppies. I want horses to live. I want all animals to live. And I want to leave the world behind me a better place than I left it, and if that makes me a left wing, green voting, radical, so be it.
Philly Stock works for a dog rehoming charity in North London, and when she is not caring for a variety of animals, she can be found writing. Philly is currently studying for an MFA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck and is writing her first novel.