The Times and The Great Escape
The Times has recently published an interview I gave to Daisy Greenwell on the cat and dog massacre. The interview had its origins in a new children’s fictional book by Megan Rix called The Great Escape. It narrates the adventures of 2 dogs and a cat including their plight at the start of the war when some 400,000 cats and dogs were killed in London alone. It is surely welcome that children are told both about the negative as well as positive aspects of animal-human relationships.
I am aware of other interesting books on animals in war aimed at children including Michael Morpurgo’s take on the bombing of Dresden – with an elephant as a main character – and the late Robert Westall’s very moving Blitzcat (this was surely also aimed at adults?) but this was the first I have come across to address people killing their pets specifically. It also mentions the work of the National Air Raids Precautions Animals Committee, an organisation formed just before the war began to advise the government on “all problems affecting animals in wartime”. NARPAC included representatives of the veterinary profession, government departments and the police. It also included animal welfare organisations such as the Battersea Dogs Home, PDSA, National Canine Defence League, Our Dumb Friends League /Blue Cross, RSPCA and the Home of Rest for Horses. Although NARPAC did popular work in cities re-uniting animals and humans there were tensions between the charities and the vets. As the president of the National Veterinary Medical Association at the time, Harry Steele Bodger, put it, ‘Born in faith, nurtured with hope, died through charities. Thus sums up the National ARP Animals Committee but it is not the whole story. I feel that the villain of the piece is that fairy godmother the Ministry of Home Security which was present at the birth, gave it its blessing, and proceeded to starve it to death.’
The Times misquoted me saying I had worked on this topic for 40 years – which almost sounds like Albert Chevalier’s ‘My Old Dutch’. Sometimes it feels like that though the research time is more like 4 years but at least some of my articles on the topic will be coming out next year.