Saturday, 29 November 2014

Loving animals

Our local magazine is advertising for volunteers to help show inner city kids about the countryside.  I was moved by the wording: Some of the children arrive not knowing where bread, milk or meat comes from.  Others have never seen the sea or the stars at night.  All learn a great deal from what is sometimes the most fun day they have ever experienced.

Makes me realise just how much I take for granted.  I grew up in a market town, quite old-fashioned perhaps in that it had a 'real' market, for selling livestock, just off the main road not far from home.  Mum used to take me there as a small child - a weekly treat.  There were cows, sheep and pigs every Thursday, in a large enclosed plot on the corner, with rows of pens and corrugated roofs.  It was opposite a big garage which followed the curve of the road (and which has somehow now turned into one of those Fisher Price toy ones in my mind's eye).  Next to it was the old primary school which later became the youth club where I experienced my first kiss.

It might have been on a different day, I can't remember, but up the road a few hundred yards there was a poultry market too.  It was near to the dentist's, where scary Mr Clark pulled out a loose tooth in spite of my pleas for him not to do so.  (It bled and I cried all the way home, I missed playing with it suspended in my top jaw, flicking it with my tongue and feeling the oddly pleasant pull of its thread.) You had to walk past the poultry market on the way to the dentist.  You could look through the barred windows between black-painted wooden slats - it was like a barn - to see brightly coloured red-eyed chickens, sometimes geese too.  I didn't like it as much as the cattle market but I can still recall the smell from there - and the noise.  The smell at the cattle market was different: more shitty, more earthy, less suffocating.  I could feel the warm breath of the cows as I was held up to pat them and stroke their coarse carpet-pile hair.  I didn't like the ear tags, some were encrusted with dry blood, especially on the pigs.  There were always puddles, and buckets, hosepipes, piles of thick shiny straw, curly-haired men with faces like tomatoes, wellies.  Occasionally there were goats, bulls in pens of their own, and soft-eyed, gangly-limbed calves.

I'm glad mum took me there, I loved seeing the animals close-up, learning about them, thinking about them.  I'm glad I didn't know or understand at the time what lay ahead for most of them.

The cattle market closed in the 1980s and is now a car park, and the poultry market was pulled down. Last time I was there, there was a shop selling fancy mirrors in its place.

Took me about half an hour to put these pieces together just now...


  1. Even if people are going to carry one eating meat, I think we all have a responsibility to ensure we're all aware where it comes from and how it gets to our plates. There's a bit of me that feels it's a shame the old fashioned markets are fast disappearing for at least they were real; nowadays, as we wander in our dream states around enormous out of town supermarkets we can feel safely divorced from the truth. Perhaps everyone who eats meat should also visit a slaughter house but I expect that's asking for too much. Your memories of the old markets does sound rather lovely. The jigsaw puzzle is a gem - maybe the pig should be labelled 'pork' or 'sausages'? Needless to say, great track that says it all.

    1. I was delighted to find that jigsaw, one of very few toys/games I still have but apart from the box the pieces themselves are in great condition. It looks bloody ancient though, the whole style of it seems more dated than I would have imagined! Erm, I suppose it's as old as me, though...nuff said!

      Re. the awareness,I I agree... it was when I connected the two (those animals I'd enjoyed seeing every week and the food on my plate), that I stopped eating meat. Very much a personal choice which I've no desire to put onto others, and which I avoid debating after years and years of explaining! But I would just ask that animals are treated humanely throughout their lives, no matter how short their lives are. Sadly later cattle market experiences showed this not to always be the case - I couldn't go now, but I'm glad I had the close-up experience as a small child, it probably helped foster my love of animals.

      Great song, isn't it, I thought you'd appreciate it, of course!

  2. Another brilliant and descriptive post C. I am sure you could get a book of your posts published and should try! I love animals and hate to see them suffer but I suppose I am hypocritical as I love to eat meat....steak tonight!

    1. Oh thank you Old Pa, such a nice thing to say, much appreciated. I have wondered vaguely about compiling the more descriptive nostalgic posts to see how they'd read altogether, maybe I'll have to try it some day.
      I think loving animals and eating meat are not mutually exclusive, it's the not wanting to see them suffer which is at the core of it all. I expect a lot of vets and RSPCA officers eat meat but they still want to do their best to help animals through pain and make sure they're treated kindly. I just wish everybody did!


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