It has been said that the English are a nation of animal loversI. In support of that idea, attention is drawn1 to the many laws and organisations which exist here to protect animals. However, one could equally well argue that there would be no need for such laws and organisations if we all cared so much about animal welfare2! We often seem to make illogical and arbitrary3 decisions about which animals we like and which are viewed less favourably. We may be divided into many different broad categories, eg horse and dog lovers on the one hand, and cat lovers on the other; or those who support fox hunting as the most effective and humane4 way to control this predator5, and those who view it as a cruel sport which inflicts pain on a nice cuddly6 creature. Our opinions vary greatly over the course of time as well. In the past, many activities which we now consider unacceptable7 and brutal were simply part of everyday entertainment: bear and bull baitingII, dog and cock fighting III, etc. Those were the days before TV! One consequence of this partiality8 is that we often create disparaging9 stereotypes about those who eat animals that we happen to like: Koreans who eat dogs; French who eat horse meat and veal (as well as frogs and snails); Africans who enjoy ‘bushmeat’ – monkeys and apes; Japanese who like whale meat; and so on. Conversely, there are many who find the typical English meat diet of pork and beef abhorrent10, and others who deplore11 the eating of any animal product whatsoever12. Such cultural differences interest students of anthropology, but have provoked misunderstanding and conflict throughout the world for centuries. The issues are seldom clear cut13 and it is fortunate that by and large14 the English are, I like to think, a tolerant race.
Many animals are kept primarily for their meat, eg cattle15 and pigs; others for products such as milk, leather or wool; and others are protected for the sake of16 diversity, usefulness, sport or enhancement17 of the environment. But those which we know best are those we keep as pets, predominately18 cats and dogs. There is some interest in keeping exotic pets: reptiles, birds such as parrots and macaws19, tropical fish, small mammals like rats, mice, hamsters and guinea pigs20; but I think cats and dogs still reign supreme in the affections of the English. Crufts dog show, organised by The Kennel Club UK, is a major attraction and features annually on TV.
The topic of animal welfare is riddled21 with inconsistencies22 and contradictions. There certainly are differences of opinion, but there is a consensus that wanton23 cruelty to animals is unacceptable and it is roundly and rightly condemned on all sides. In addition to the legal protections afforded24 to animals (wild and domestic) by various Acts of Parliament, such as the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, there are many organisations which set out to care for either specific animals, like bats, whales, badgers and hedgehogs, or animals in general.
The most well known and widely respected is the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). It began as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in 1824, following the lead of Richard ‘Humanity Dick’ Martin MP25, one of its 22 founders, who piloted through parliament the first anti-cruelty bill giving cattle, horses and sheep a degree of protection. The SPCA was the first national animal protection society in the world. In its early days, it catered26 largely for the upper classes of society who were probably motivated as much by self-interest as altruism. At that time, compassion for animals was regarded as somewhat bizarreIV, as animals were generally regarded as little more than commodities supplying food, transport or sport. The work started in London with a single inspector to check on markets and slaughterhouses27, but as news of its activities spread, particularly the convictions28 of offenders29 by the courts, branches started up all over England and, together, they formed a law enforcement body30 that predated31 the police force. By 1840 the Society’s work was held in such high regard that Queen Victoria gave her permission for the SPCA to be called ‘Royal’.
The RSPCA continues its work today, expanding its interests from law enforcement to education, research and support for wild and domestic animals of all kinds both in the UK and abroad. It is a registered charity32 that receives no lottery or state aid33. Its Ј82 million annual running costs are funded exclusively by voluntary donations and legacies34. By remaining independent of government, it avoids the political pitfalls35 in which others get embroiled36. A glance37 at its websiteV, will show that it is currently concerned with the welfare of badgers38, farm animals (especially caged birds), pet cats and dogs, gorillas, giraffes, swans, etc. It cares for strays39, mostly cats and dogs, treating any injuries, diseases or symptoms of neglect40, and tries to find new homes for as many as they can, whilst ensuring that the remainder41 are euthanised42 as humanely as possible. Its campaign against keeping hens in small cages is resulting in most of the supermarkets phasing out43 battery hen44 eggs and selling only those from birds which have a little more freedom to move about and live naturally.
Another national voluntary organisation which cares for animals of all kinds is the PDSA – the People’s Dispensary for Sick AnimalsVI. This organisation aims to provide free veterinary services for pets whose owners cannot afford normal vets’ fees45. It was founded in 1917 by Maria Dickin, an animal welfare pioneer, and now claims to be the largest private employer of fully qualified veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses in EuropeVII. Unlike the RSPCA, it is non-campaigning46, but also depends entirely on donations from the public. It caters for the vast number of people who are receiving either Housing Benefit47 or Council Tax Benefit48 and who might neglect to give their pet the best possible care and attention it needs. Animals which are taken to PDSA clinics receive free treatment, although their owners are invited to make a donation if they wish. The PDSA also operates an animal awards programme to recognise animal bravery and devotion to duty.
The Dickin Medal
The most famous and the oldest of the charity’s awards is the ‘PDSA Dickin Medal’. Instituted in 1943 by Maria Dickin during the Second World War (1939-45), it acknowledges49 outstanding50 acts of braveryVIII displayed by animals serving with the Armed Forces or Civil Defence51 units in any theatre of war, world-wide. This medal is recognised as the animals’ Victoria Cross and is the highest British honour for animal bravery in military conflicts. The Dickin Medal is a large, bronze medallion bearing the words “For Gallantry52” and “We Also Serve” all within a laurel wreath53. The ribbon is striped green, dark brown and pale blue representing water, earth and air to symbolise the naval, military, civil defence and air forces. The citations on the Roll of Honour54 are a moving and unique insight55 into the role animals have played in the service of man in a time of war.
The Medal can be considered56 only on receipt of an official recommendation and was awarded 54 times between 1943 and 1949. The recipients then comprised 32 pigeons, 18 dogs, three horses and one cat. In October 2000, a Canadian dog called Gander was added to the Roll of Honour. This posthumous57 award recognised bravery in action during the defence of Hong Kong in 1941. Since then a further five Dickin Medals have been awarded, all to dogs: three to recognise life-saving action and devotion to duty following the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington in 2001; and two related to the military conflicts in Kosovo and Iraq. That brings the current total of Dickin Medals to 60.
The charity is also responsible for the PDSA Gold Medal widely acknowledged as the animals’ George CrossIX to recognise animals whose incredible bravery and dedication results in the saving of human or animal life in extraordinary situations. In 2002, the Certificate for Animal Bravery and the Commendation for Animal Bravery were instituted to support the charity’s commitment to raising the profile of animal devotion above and beyond the call of duty. In addition, the PDSA runs the recently restored Ilford Animal Cemetery58 which is the final resting place of more than 3,000 animals, including twelve animal heroes from World War II that were awarded the Dickin Medal.
I was prompted59 to write this article by my two Dutch friends, George and Truus, who need no introduction to regular readers of School English. They sent me a local newspaper cutting about a dog called Ricky. His official citation reads as follows:
Ricky – Welsh Collie Date of Award: 29 March 1947
“This dog was engaged in cleaning the verges of the canal bank at Nederweent, Holland. He found all the mines, but during the operation one of them exploded. Ricky was wounded in the head but remained calm and kept at work. Had he become excited he would have been a danger to the rest of the section working nearby.”
I Napoleon is reputed to have said that we are a nation of shopkeepers – but I suspect that was before the Battle of Waterloo! II For which the famous British bulldog was specially bred. III From which we get the modern word ‘cockpit’ meaning a small enclosed space, eg for an aircraft pilot. IV The English are often considered to be eccentric, so that is not surprising! V See also: http://www.rspca.org.uk/ VI See also: http://www.pdsa.org.uk/index.html VII PDSA currently employs 230 fully qualified veterinary surgeons and 268 veterinary nurses. VIII Many people would dispute this anthropomorphism and insist that animal behaviour is governed entirely by instinct and training. IX Our highest award for civilian bravery.
1 to draw attention – привлекать внимание1 to draw attention – привлекать внимание 2 animal welfare – (зд.) охрана животных 3 arbitrary – случайный 4 humane – гуманный, человечный 5 predator – хищник 6 cuddly – привлекательный 7 unacceptable – неприемлемый 8 partiality – пристрастность 9 disparaging – пренебрежительный 10 abhorrent – отвратительный 11 to deplore – сокрушаться 12 whatsoever – какой бы то ни было 13 clear cut – ясно очерченный 14 by and large – в общем и целом 15 cattle – крупный рогатый скот 16 for the sake of – ради 17 enhancement – улучшение 18 predominately – преимущественно 19 macaw – ара (попугай) 20 guinea pig – морская свинка 21 riddled – испещрённый 22 inconsistency – несообразность 23 wanton – беспричинный 24 to afford – предоставлять 25 MP – /Member of Parliament/ член парламента 26 cater for – (зд.) предназначать 27 slaughterhouse – скотобойня 28 conviction – признание виновным 29 offender – преступник 30 law enforcement body – правоохранительный орган 31 to predate – предшествовать 32 charity – благотворительная организация 33 state aid – государственная субсидия 34 legacy – наследство 35 pitfall – подвох 36 to embroil – впутывать 37 glance – быстрый взгляд 38 badger – барсук 39 stray – бездомное животное 40 neglect – заброшенность 41 remainder – остальные 42 to euthanise – подвергать эвтаназии (умерщвлять по соображениям гуманности) 43 to phase out – свертывать 44 battery hen – курица, содержащаяся в тесной клетке 45 fee – гонорар 46 non-campaigning – не осуществляющий агитационную деятельбность 47 Housing Benefit – пособие на жилое помещение 48 Council Tax Benefit – льготы на муниципальный налог 49 acknowledge – выражать признательность 50 outstanding – выдающийся 51 Civil Defence – гражданская оборона 52 gallantry – отвага 53 laurel wreath – лавровый венок 54 Roll of Honour – список убитых на войне 55 insight – понимание 56 considered – обоснованный 57 posthumous – посмертный 58 cemetery – кладбище 59 to prompt – побуждать, подсказывать