Many years ago, I witnessed an act of animal cruelty: stuck in stationary traffic on the M62, the despicable moron in front of me ejected a dog from his car onto the carriageway to fend for itself or get splattered. Not only cruel but criminally stupid – it could have caused a horrific accident – so I memorised his registration and rang the police the moment I got to work, hoping he’d be prosecuted and his poor dog safely caught and re-homed.
Last week, fast-forwarding through the adverts in a recorded movie, I saw something infinitely crueller – only for a split-second, but it’s still acid-etched in my mind’s eye. It was an RSPCA advert, showing (among pitiful scraggy abandoned cats and similar upsetting images) another dog – or rather a dog skeleton covered in skin. I didn’t know it was possible for an animal to be so emaciated and still live. I guess it had been shut away somewhere and left to starve, but it was such a ghastly sight I couldn’t bear to rewind and watch the ad properly to find out.
To the astonishment of my husband (who hadn’t noticed it himself) I burst into howling tears: of distress at the thought of such long and agonised suffering, and of absolute fury at whoever had inflicted it. I don’t understand how a person (unless seriously mentally ill) could do such a thing to an animal they had presumably known and shared their life with. I can’t imagine any state of desperation or degradation capable of making me abandon a fellow sentient being to such a fate – I’d rather cut my own arm off. Animals aren’t objects to be owned, abused or discarded as we please; they’re thinking, feeling beings to be cared for and respected. So I’d like to see the evil bastard responsible locked up without food (just for a few days, to give them a tiny taste of their own medicine).
And I have the utmost respect for the RSPCA. Not only do their officers love animals (as I do), they have the strength to deal with these dreadful, harrowing cases (as I don’t. I’d end up killing myself – or killing a perpetrator).
But I hate these adverts. It’s bad enough knowing this stuff goes on; I find seeing it unbearable (yes, I know I’m pathetic). I hate these appalling images, hate stumbling across them unawares while I’m watching TV, reading the paper or surfing the internet; and husband hates them because he resents having his wife reduced to a blubbering heap of hysterics.
Are these shock appeals good or bad? I know why the RSPCA does it… it’s the reality of their work, the reason they need us to support them. And yes, they can be highly effective – I promptly sent off a donation, and now I’m writing this to ask you to do the same. But how many people do they alienate? How many people would refuse to donate because they’re angered by having such images thrust into their faces? I invite your comments…
Meanwhile whatever you think of shock tactics, please, please, please give. The RSPCA needs another £5 million to care for animals mistreated or abandoned in the economic downturn. Volunteer labour, if you can stomach it; money, if you can’t; and if you can’t afford money, please badger someone richer to donate. Buy goods from their shop. Keep your eyes and ears open while you’re out and about – for dogs incessantly barking or howling, cats scratching or mewing, the stench of excrement or decay from empty or boarded-up buildings – and report it; you may save helpless creatures from a world of hurt. And do remember to make provision for your own anipals, lest (God forbid) you should be wiped out in a road accident or other unforeseen calamity.
Yes… please help to make sure no other animal suffers like the poor dog I saw on that advert – and please pass it on!