Tuesday, 29 May 2012

I want to work for the RSPCA!

One of the things I hear most often when I tell people I work for the RSPCA is “Oh I would love a job with them,” or “I want to work with the animals, can you help me?” or even “That was my dream job when I was little but I suppose it’s too late now”

Do you want to know a secret? It was my childhood dream too.

Me (with big sister) aged five - already passionate about animals!

The RSPCA has always had a special place in my heart. Throughout my adolescence I raised money for the charity through cake sales and even penned a passionate article about the RSPCA and puppy farms in the magazine I used to write as an 11 year old. (Interesting note: the magazine was alarmingly entitled ‘Kinky Mag’ but only because I had no idea at all what that word meant. Honest).

I staged campaigns and petitions through my school on all manner of animal related issues, including veal crates and battery eggs.

At six, I held a protest in office of my then headmistress, to convince her to make a wildlife conservation area in a wooded patch at the edge of our playing fields.

After much wrangling, she agreed. I didn’t do myself any favours with my schoolmates though. Most rather fancied the idea of a tennis court to be honest.

One summer I even lied about my age to volunteer at an RSPCA branch near Cardiff. (I am not proud of the fact I fibbed...well maybe a little).

I loved it - walking the animals, feeding and brushing them, even cleaning up dog poo. I would call my mum in tears most days begging to be able to bring home the dogs and cats I had been looking after.

Indeed I became so attached to one cat - who I named ‘Dribble Cat’ - that I still have a picture of her in a photo album. Mind you, this was about 17 years ago now, so I would guess Dribble Cat is enjoying fish pie in the sky by now.

But I didn’t start my career working for the RSPCA. Like many people I speak to, I just didn’t know how.

So I became a journalist instead. Which given my auspicious start as the editor of Kinky Mag - is hardly surprising really.

A decade later, I had done my post grad in news journalism, worked as a regional reporter, food critic, theatre and art reviewer and even a health and science reporter.

It was great – although stressful – and yet I had become a little disillusioned with my line of work.

I would occasionally hear people say how much they ‘loved’ their jobs. I liked mine, (a lot of the time anyway), but ‘love’ your job? Surely it wasn’t possible for normal people like me to love their jobs?

Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy the travel and excitement that come with my job, but I felt I wanted something more...I wanted to do something that mattered. Something I really cared about.

That was when I saw the advert. Suddenly I realised I would combine journalism with animal welfare by working as a press officer for the RSPCA. I had never even thought of that. WOW.

I found out I had got the job on my 26th birthday and now, here I am four years later.

Its not all going to TV studios and hugging fluffy kittens and lovely bunnies though.

I have watched endless hours of horrible footage; heard harrowing stories from those on the ground; visited countless farms, animal centres, hospitals and branches; watched dozens of castrations and operations; seen the terrible affects of cruelty on vulnerable animal and humans through schemes like Pet Retreat...and yet...

...I can honestly say I do love my job (most days!) and I feel like I do something worthwhile.

I sometimes wonder how I have come so far from the 11 year-old girl sitting in her room writing impassioned articles about puppy farming...to the 30 year-old sitting in an office writing impassioned articles about puppy farms!

But of course, sometimes coming right back to where you started is a pretty amazing place to be.

To find out more about working or volunteering for the RSPCA, why not visit: http://www.rspca.org.uk/getinvolved
Calie Rydings, Snr Press Officer

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Dead Horse Living

My husband would tell you I am obsessed with two things – animals (in particular horses) and Zombies (the Hollywood type that cannot communicate, move slowly and have no purpose in their life except the quest for food.

Seven years ago, I would have said my two interests had nothing in common – but then I met Mai.

Mai, an 18-year-old chestnut coloured thoroughbred mare came to me via an RSPCA inspector, as her owner could not afford to keep her. She was underweight, covered in lice and rubbed raw by her rug and she had a bad case of mud fever [when horses get mud around their feet, and it causes irritation around their lower limbs] on her heels.

Once at our home, Mai was alive, in the dictionary sense of the word, but she didn’t seem to acknowledge anyone around her. I would hold her bucket as she ate, bath her sores and stand and stroke her – but I can honestly say she never looked at or acknowledged me.

I tried hard not to take it personally, as I knew that whilst I brought her food I was also the person that covered her in lice powder and had to clean her painful scabs, which would probably not make me very popular.

Three weeks after arriving with me, Mai was standing by the field gate looking towards the house and making a terrible whinny noise, the first sound she had made and daft as it sounds I know she was asking for something from me and it wasn’t food.

As she stood there, I took her rug off and started to massage her all over. The thick woolly coat she has hung onto, until then to protect her starving frame, was now coming out by the handful leaving a carpet of hair on the floor.

And, as I groomed her, with my hands, as I had many times before, she decided it was time that she finally acknowledged my existence and she started to rub her muzzle against me and return the favour.

That was the day the light in Mai’s eyes came back – and instead of just going through the process of living, she decided it was worthwhile being alive
Mai, fully recovered and being a supernanny!

Six years on, Mai has become a permanent member of my family and a vital member of my fostering team. When a new pony has been through its quarantine period I usually match it up with Mai, who at 24 and going strong, could probably give Jo Frost a run for her money in the nanny stakes.

With food, water and veterinary attention most animals can be brought back to health but giving them a purpose and a reason to live and teaching them there is a benefit to being with humans is much harder.

By fostering an RSPCA equine not only are you teaching it the skills it needs to be rehomed but you are opening it up to a bright new future and proving that for them, zombie life is over – the future has more to offer than just struggling to find the next meal.

Jo Barr, Snr Regional Press Officer

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

An obligation to care

Today I am pleased to introduce a very special guest blogger. Nathan Paice, who is doing work experience on behalf of the RSPCA, to help promote our Good Business Awards and inspire organisations to implement higher animal welfare standards.

So without further ado, here is what he had to say:

"The welfare of animals, in fact the welfare of the environment and all wildlife, has been a cause close to me since I was young enough to remember.

In my eyes, we’re no better or worse than any other living thing; we all have a role to play on this planet and we all deserve the same decent treatment and level of respect – we’re all animals anyway aren’t we?

Thankfully, those important values have long been instilled in me by my close family and friends growing up.

Unfortunately, not everyone thinks the same way. In my experience talking about subjects like this, there always seems to be two extremes with varying opinions drifting in between.

You have the ultimate animal welfare enthusiast on one end of the spectrum – the militant, fruitarian activist. While on the other end, you have the seemingly cold-hearted opinion of someone who believes we’re top of the food chain, it’s survival of the fittest, that we need animals purely for our survival and they live solely to serve our diets, modern medicine and the fashion industry, bla bla bla…

The ones who deliberately hurt animals either for their own pleasure, or because they’re cowards with no self-control, I’ve left out of the spectrum altogether; they’re soulless in my eyes.

Animals don’t have a voice like us, so they can’t shout out if they’re being treated cruelly. That’s why I feel such an obligation to lend a helping hand to the RSPCA – I think the fact I’m a huge animal lover helps as well though!

There is so much we take for granted with regards to animal welfare. I had an understanding of the injustices to animals in various industries like food and fashion, but I didn’t quite realise how deep it went until I started working with the RSPCA. It was harrowing to learn.

You see all those pieces in the media and hear opinions from people about shock tactics and not wanting to know all the gory details.

 For me though, it’s important to have an awareness and keep that spark to help fight for animal welfare alive by staying in touch with the real, gritty issues. You can’t live life through rose-tinted glasses; the very garment your wearing (it doesn’t necessarily have to be an expensive designer, fur item) could have been manufactured out of untold suffering and blood – quite literally.

It really doesn’t take much to look at a label and question where something is really coming from or how it was made in the first place.

I’m not na├»ve enough to think everyone will become vegan and animal rights should be placed before ours, because I know that’s not the case. However, we can work to ensure animal rights are placed alongside ours as mutual living things on this planet, and we can work to ensure animals used in industries like food and fashion are handled with respect and treated like we would want to be treated. It’s only right.

To think otherwise just seems plain immoral. There really is no excuse for animal welfare neglect in this day and age.

If you’re not so big on animal interaction, I really do recommend you try and connect with them. Interacting with animals is such a rewarding experience."

Nathan Paice

Thank you so much to Nathan for a fantastic blog, and for all his help with the RSPCA's Good Business Awards. Whatever his future career, we are sure he will have every success!

Calie Rydings (Snr RSPCA press officer)