1st Feb 2020 @ 6:00 am

Lanzarote vet Jane Burke issues an appeal for support in a campaign to end a tradition based in cruelty and suffering.

I am on the scrounge. I want a favour.

Now I know many of you may be tired of my severe vegan rants (my children are equally unimpressed by my vehement arguments), and I promise not to raise them now. But whether you agree, disagree or don’t give a damn about my feelings concerning the cruelty of meat (causing climate change, hardening of the arteries, type two diabetes etc, – sorry, I just can’t help it), the fact you are reading this now suggests you have, at the very least, a tenderness towards dogs and cats and perhaps other creatures kept as pets and treated as family.

These are animals we live with and love and know for certain suffer the same physical pain and psychological distress as ourselves; creatures we spend a huge amount of hard-earned money on; providing them with the best of food, comfort and medical care.

Well this is about the gentlest of dog breeds, and however much as you may disapprove of my voice raised in vehement condemnation of the meat and dairy industries, I am asking you to bear witness with me and, asking you to make time in your busy lives and attend an anti- hunting meeting in the large car park, Recinto Ferial in Arrecife (near the Cabildo) on 2nd February at 11am.

I am very aware of the fact that I come from a country where fox hunting continues unabated; where vets, doctors and judges etc dress up and encourage hounds bred and kept in lousy circumstances to chase and rip apart defenceless wild animals. I know that men of nearly every culture will find some cultural, historical or fabricated ecological excuse to take pleasure in torturing animals and getting them to tear each other apart for fun and/or for profit. But that doesn’t mean anyone, from any country, of any sex, and any age, cannot step outside these sick cultural abominations and say no. There is never any acceptable cultural excuse for cruelty.

I can never forget the first two podencos the Kennel Klub brought to my door. Saved from the overcrowded local perreras, they were shivering skeletons – skin stretched over protruding bones. They were clearly terrified so I dropped to my knees and they rushed to wash the tears of sympathy from my face, hairless tails crusted with blood and worse whipping gallantly to reassure me in my unprofessional despair at their protracted suffering. After veterinary attention to the worst of their problems, we dressed them in a couple of old Primark jumpers and they were ecstatic with the luxury and tender attention.

They were the lucky ones. The tradition of hanging them when they were no longer productive or fast in the chase was just beginning to be replaced by smashing their skulls in with rocks. This happened to Angelique, her skull broken in five pieces, yet she is now a loving, cheeky, blind dog, full of life and naughtiness, loved and valued and living testament to what kindness can do.

And grim as these Lanzarote hunter’s practices may seem, they’re still better than the fate of the majority of hunting dogs in Spain – left to starve with or without savage physical beatings at the close of every breeding season. THE FIRST, ESSENTIAL STEP IS TO BAN HUNTING WITH DOGS: this alone would save thousands of disgusting deaths, and thousands and thousands of lives lived suffering from severe cruelty.

Rescuing these gentle souls is a noble and deeply rewarding practice. I salute all those who care for them and devote time, energy and funds to try and alleviate the problem. But the real answer has to be to stop the hunters breeding them.

So please, even if you feel that Brits should not criticise Spanish customs; even if you don’t agree that all hunting should be banned in every civilised country; even if you don’t care about rabbits and hares, small numbers of cats and kittens, any number of stray dogs being chased and torn apart by half-crazed desperate podencos, please make the effort and come and stand alongside me and all those of us who really do care about cruelty to dogs.

If you’ve ever enjoyed an article I have written, ever wished there was something you could do to make a change for the better in this sad world, to be part of the solution instead of a silent spectator to the problems, then please come and fetch your friends and your dogs and stand shoulder to shoulder with the majority of genuine dog- loving Spanish people. I was so ashamed of the limited British turn out last year. And still, if you miss this one, make sure you come to the next, and together let’s make a real change for the better. Lead the way with our Spanish friends and make hunting with dogs illegal and punishable by effective jail and financial consequences.

And always give your pets clean water in clean bowls, a luxury that hunting dogs cannot dream of.