We don’t go to the lake anymore. It used to be my favourite walk with the dogs, and certainly it was Bumble’s – she squeals with delight as soon as she recognises the scenery. But we’ve not been for several months. One of the reasons is Dylan, our reactive dog. Not only is he suffering from arthritis such that along walk around the lake would probably be too much for him, but if he met another dog, despite his infirmities, he’d still want to take it on, blindness, lameness forgotten. Too many people have now discovered this little gem, and too many of them walk their dogs off lead. But that’s not the only reason, the other is fishing.
The last time we walked round the lake was just before the end of the fishing season in late August. The blood lust is sated all year round here; the fishing season melds seamlessly into the hunting (chasse) season. The wildlife seem to get no respite. On this particular day we got into a row with an expat type who was taking selfies with a poor carp that had clearly been out of the water too long. He didn’t take kindly to our objections, and it rather soured the end of a beautiful walk. Since then we’ve been avoiding the place, much like we avoid anywhere we’re likely to encounter members of the chasse. Not easy when you’re living in the middle of it, with one chasse kennel up the lane at the side of the house and another at the bottom of the road.
I’ve written at length on the VV website about the various facets of hunting in France, from the local chasse to the liveried horseback hunters of the forests around Paris, hunting in a style similar to the now-outlawed British foxhunting. The French have a propensity to kill just about everything that moves using a wide variety of unsavoury methods: glue-traps, decoy birds, they even breed sanglier in captivity and release them for hunting, or hunt them in secure enclosures where they can’t get away.
Allied with this I’m also not in favour of any exploitation of animals that we would normally consider to be domesticated – horse-racing, showjumping, eventing, dog-racing, use of dogs in so-called military and police service, the list goes on. In fact, despite having owned and ridden horses for nigh on thirty years,, I’m now doubtful as whether I would ever get on horseback again. I know that some vegans have an issue with keeping any form of domestic pets, and I can see both sides of the argument. However, I don’t really class Bumble, Dylan and Bumble as pets; they are members of the family and their needs always come first. When all the refuges are empty and there are no suffering strays, then I might reconsider my position.
So, if was making a list of things I don’t agree with – for ethical vegan, animal welfare reasons – fishing and any form of hunting would come high on my list. Not much further down would be backyard farming, especially the type practised by our two hopefully soon-to-depart neighbours. In fact, you can count in there any type of animal agriculture. Bullfighting’s there, obviously goes without saying, as does circuses. I’m also not keen on zoos, even the best-kept, best-intentioned ones. It seems to me that if the human race has destroyed habitats to the extent that some species would become extinct if not in zoos, there’s no need to go and gawp at them whilst stuffing a giant hamburger into your mouth. Let the animals live in wildlife sanctuaries, a natural life, free from people and let the gawpers look at a 3D hologram.
Similarly, I don’t see any need to utilise animals in spectacles or displays. I’m thinking here of birds of prey demonstrations, recalling a particularly unpleasant one we attended years ago somewhere in France. There really wasn’t anything enjoyable about seeing these magnificent creatures tethered in their cages, barely able to hop down off their perch. It’s great that at last people are starting to wake up to the cruelty involved in things like dolphin displays, elephant rides and donkeys struggling to carry half hundredweight of lazy tourist under a sweltering sun. Some major travel brands are starting to distance themselves from these practices, so let’s hope that’s a trend that will continue.