The Centaurian calls for “a ban on twaddle”

So, the Cat appeared through the kitchen door cat flap and seemed to have something in its mouth – ah yes, a mouse, a live mouse! It wandered off to the corner of the kitchen and dropped the mouse on the floor but covered its escape routes.

Have you ever heard a mouse squeal in terror of its life? Not nice – it was a torturous episode where the cat pawed the mouse over and over again, claws out. The little rodent was terrified. After about five minutes of all this, the cat pounced and bit the mouse in half and gobbled it up. Yummy. There are eleven million such cruel beasts in the UK alone, 600 million worldwide.

Just then my nephew walked in with rod in hand – plus three trout – supper was secure. We chatted about the sport and I learnt that there were almost three million anglers in the UK – one in every three households – it seems they all go out with their rods and a tin of fresh live maggots. They find a nice spot by the riverbank and prepare for their fishing session. First they impale an unsuspecting live maggot on a barbed hook and are always pleased to see it wriggle in agony as it’s dropped into the river as such writhing is likely to attract a hungry fish.

In due course the baiting exercise is repeated – several times – more impaled maggots –  until eventually there is a tug on the line – a fish is caught – the barbed hook has entered the mouth of the fish and the tug has seen the hook pierce the fish’s lip. The catch then begins to battle in agony and fear until eventually it is landed, the hook is roughly removed (without anaesthetic) and the fish popped into the keep net – until the catch is complete and it is supper time. All the fish are then taken from the keep net and die on the way home.

Then there are racehorses. Five hundred kilos of majesty, grace, power and muscle. They can be bought for a few hundred pounds Sterling to a few million pounds, and sent to trainers to be pampered and prepared for the sport of kings. No expense is spared in caring for these equine athletes – the best stables, the best food, the best health care, the kindest grooms and no natural or unnatural predators – except maybe a spider.

In terms of love and attention, horses must be the best loved and cared for animal after your own children (but not always your own children!) – and way ahead of cats and dogs.

Then it comes to race day, the horses are fit and well and trained to the tee. Down to the start, gates fly open, the runners are away and speed into the finishing straight – it’s a close run thing. Jockeys get the flat bottomed whips out and apply them no more than seven times in a flat race to the rump of their mounts.

I don’t know if the public is generally aware that horses live in fields and prairies as natural habitats, like sheep and cattle. People might not also know that as basically wild animals tamed by humans, they tend not to wear woolly jumpers in winter or pyjamas at bedtime – nor are they provided with hot water bottles and central heating.

That is because they are animals, they have thick leather hides and a covering of coarse hair. They are not humans.

And in the finishing straight, horses need to be urged to give of their best and travel in a straight line when doing so. The modern day whip produces no welts on a horse’s arse and yet provides enough stimulation to trigger the natural “flight” response in the animal’s psyche, and enough help to steer the beast in the right direction. Some horses are natural competitors and need little encouragement, others are less so. It is up to the jockey to assess his needs in a race.

I have no problem whatsoever with the current rules associated with whip use and would strongly oppose any steps to further restrict or ban them. And to all the limp wrists who campaign otherwise, I would counsel that they get their priorities right and direct their efforts to the far bigger issue which is the banning of fishing, and maybe the fitting of mouth grills on cats which can only be removed at formal feeding times – and by so doing protect all those poor rodents and birds from hideous torture and torment.

Time also for a ban on twaddle.

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