Why I broke the rules…
After a result in the UK’s General Election that has shocked pundits and political commentators, ended some high profile parliamentary careers and started many new ones, for me, the result is deeply disheartening. Putting aside all other reasons for why I may or may not have wanted the Conservative government not to be in power as I write this, there’s one thing I care about more than anything: I’m a campaigner for better animal welfare and wish to see a swift end to puppy farming. The Tory manifesto gives me no hope this will now come about in the next few years. The Conservative-Lib-Dem coalition had an easy opportunity to make a great step towards it last year by banning the sale of puppies in petshops. They refused to. The Conservatives say nothing in their manifesto on it. So, today is not a good one for how I feel about the campaign to make the world better for breeding dogs.
But, I will move forward and refocus my efforts for the next few years. There are committed MPs across the political spectrum, and political change is only one aspect of the campaign. As I said a couple of weeks ago, I’m in this for the long run. For however long it takes to prevent any more dogs like Susie-Belle suffering as she was forced to.
I’m aware that when you choose to speak on political issues it risks upsetting people who may not agree with your perspective; it’s human nature to feel uncomfortable when disagreements are aired publicly and as a rule I choose not to do politics on social media – being the crucible of distorted opinion, misguided attacks and rampant ranting that it can be. I don’t wish to get into pointless online scrapping. But, I’m an independent campaigner and make my own rules about how I campaign and I’ll break them if I see a need to, as I have over the past couple of weeks.
If I’d taken the easy, popular option and chosen not to engage with the General Election on social media, to sit on the fence, to just post sweet pictures of Susie-Belle enjoying her days, or not share my interpretation of the importance of the election for animals, I would not have been true to who I am. I would have felt like a pretend campaigner, one who ducks the difficult bits of raising awareness of a nasty industry; one who leaves that to others whilst basking in the sallow glow of shallow popularity; one who bobs about in the over-populated Safe Zone of Cute Dogs on Social Media.
That is not what I am about. More of that is not what’s needed. The dogs stuck in breeding places right now don’t need me to post a picture of Susie-Belle snoring, if somewhere on my page, or blog there’s not also coverage of why her sleeping peacefully is a potent symbol of how awful the puppy breeding business is that denies this to millions of dogs around the world.
It isn’t me to half do a job. Much as I enjoy sharing the good days we have together and beautiful photos of the dogs loving their life now, and like to know people around the world look forward to seeing our posts, I do this solely and completely with the aim of helping to bring an end to the ugly industry. Social media is flooded with images of dolled up dogs, dogs dressed up, dogs posing, all for human amusement and I have no wish to contribute to this, ever. I want dogs to be valued for more than this. But, to campaign I must use social media effectively and happy dogs are appealing, so happy Susie-Belle and Twinkle certainly pop up on my pages regularly and political posts rarely. I’m a naturally private person, which can seem at odds with writing books that detail our life, but it’s how I can best contribute to the campaign. I want people to know what lies behind the sweet photos and I try to do this without staying in the shallows. I like to take people with us, deeper, beyond the superficial. If I don’t what’s the point? Nothing will change, pictures and posts are enjoyed, liked, shared, yet the real issues are not discussed, not tackled.
It’s always a balance maintaining people’s engagement in what is a nasty topic when we scratch the surface and get beneath the pretty pictures of the survivors. We rarely do horrible images, preferring to link to original posts and pages that know more than I do from their first-hand experiences about the suffering endured by breeding dogs around the world. I maintain a public profile purely to engage people with the issues. I write the books and articles and blogs that I do so that something substantial will change. I campaign with my words. Words that might sometimes annoy, alienate (not what I want, but it’s inevitable at times) but hopefully more often, inspire enough people to get active, not just passively soaking up the pleasant stuff.
I don’t care to be a “name”, or fame chaser; I have no wish to chase the numbers of likes, or followers, or whatever the current particular popularity measure is; I care about raising real awareness of ALL the issues that lie behind the puppy farming industry. Not just the less nasty ones. To do this, it means occasionally getting a little bit grubby. It means getting political from time to time. If I don’t, I’m not a campaigner. I’m making no difference. But, for those that don’t do politics, rest easy, my self-imposed rule of not talking politics is back in place.(Till I break it again).