Made of agony. Wash with care.
I was sitting quietly writing, deep in another time and place. Candles lit, coffee hot. Only vaguely aware that the TV had been left on by another member of the family. It certainly wasn’t disturbing me. I was utterly engrossed in a world I was creating. A fictional place that only I can see.
Until the screams suddenly ripped through my soul and yanked me back to reality. Shrill. Tormented. Desperate shrieks of raw pure pain.
My head snapped up to look at the screen and I couldn’t breathe. I have two Achilles heels: violence and cruelty. And I was seeing both in 42” Technicolor close up. With surround sound.
A tiny white rabbit was being held down tightly by a large Chinese hand. Stretched to reveal his tummy, he was helpless and beside himself in pain as cruel fingers yanked out tufts of his fur from his tender soft skin. Over and over and over again. There was no escaping those fingers as they continued to lay him bare: tummy, back, sides. Every bit of him ripped and bleeding. Tuft by tuft. Scream by scream.
Don’t you dare stop reading.
He didn’t die. No such luck. He was returned to his cold cage: shocked, naked, bloody and in terrible pain. Left alone for his wounds to slowly heal and his fur grow out. He would recover physically although his deep fear would remain a scar on his innocent heart and soul. As well it might. For that new fur would prove to be a false friend the day he was once again brutally dragged out – by his ears? – of his cage and the entire process repeated. I cannot imagine his blind panic when he felt that hand grab him and stretch him out for a second time. Or third. At least animals in abattoirs only suffer once.
I sat paralysed in the sofa – awash with tears. The news item had moved on, but I could still hear his futile screams. I still can. I wondered how a woman can inflict that level of pain on another living creature as her day job. Is she so desperate for the income that she feels the way I do but feeding her kids comes before a rabbit’s welfare? In which case my heart goes out to her too, because I don’t know that I could do it. Or is she immune to animal suffering and genuinely adopts the Chinese stance of cats, dogs, whales, rabbits etc having no rights to value or basic human compassion? There is an old saying that claims you can judge the honour of a country by its attitude to animals. I concur.
But wait. What’s that hanging in my wardrobe? It’s a gorgeous jet black angora sweater that I bought in Paris several years ago. The Italian designer logo is discreetly obvious at the bottom. It’s lush luxury. A jewel of a staple that was worth the shirt I swapped for it because it’s genuine angora.
Never once did I stop to consider how they got that angora. Had I been asked, I would have assumed the rabbits were shaved – and that in itself would have made me reconsider. Possibly not reject the sweater, but at least reconsider. I feel a fool. Not fooled, a fool. I’m old enough and smart enough to stop and think. Or at least I thought I was.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if the fashion industry were forced out into the open as the tobacco industry was? With labels on the packaging saying ’Angora rabbits shrieked with desperate pain while we plucked them live so we could make this garment.’
After all, they proudly label the garments with their logos and ‘Wash with care’ instructions. And surely most of us would not knowingly take greater care of a piece of clothing than a living creature?
So I beg you from the bottom of that little rabbit’s heart: next time you consider buying a product made of angora, unless you’re sure that the angora was procured painlessly, please remember the invisible label that reads ‘Made of agony’.