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Monthly Archives: February 2013

What about the horses?

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The last few weeks saw news headlines in the UK dominated by revelations of horse meat in our frozen burgers, bolognese and lasagne. The meat – falsely marketed as beef – was sold in the nation’s supermarkets and served in restaurants, hospitals and schools.

For the most part, the story has now been replaced with other news, except for the odd line about a few more withdrawn products, and the supermarkets’ attempts to woo back shoppers who’ve moved their custom to local butcheries.

But to me, far more shocking than the prospect of horse meat in our ready-meals, was the deafening silence about the welfare of the animals involved. In all of the newspaper reports, radio debates and online forums I did not hear or see commentators mention this.

Shocking treatment of abattoir horses

Only four weeks previously there had been a report in the press about the appalling treatment of horses at a British horse abattoir.

According to Sky News, animal welfare group Hillside Animal Sanctuary had secretly filmed horses at this abattoir being “beaten with an iron rod, crammed into the slaughter pens”, stunned together and shot on top of one another. Sick or injured horses had been “left untended overnight rather than put down immediately,” and footage showed a horse appearing to come round from the stun while being hung upside down before being bled.

Hillside staff observed that it was not just the ill and old being slaughtered. There were also fit and healthy horses, horses with foals, pregnant mares and thoroughbreds, all being badly treated. “It blows away the myth of humane slaughter. There is a misery in that place that’s palpable,” described one. “All the horses in there had their heads hung down,” added another.

The report also indicated that the number of UK horses slaughtered every year (former pets, show jumpers and race horses) had more than doubled between 2007 and 2012.

The result of the exposé? Two slaughter-men employed by the abattoir had their licences revoked.

And what of the horses destined for food markets?

The owners of the abattoir said their horses were destined for Europe, not for British supermarkets. But if this occurred in a UK slaughterhouse, there can be no doubt similar conditions exist in parts of Europe, the origin of the horse meat found here.

After putting together this post earlier in the week, it was a relief to finally read on Friday of someone else who seemed to share my concerns about the welfare of the horses involved.

A reader of The Good Life Letter commented: “[These horses] would be the cast-offs from all over Europe…. The stud farms of Poland, Germany and other countries breed vast amounts of horses every year but only a few are good enough to be of any use… the rest are sold off for meat. That’s OK. Except that they are not cared for as animals used for meat should be. They are poorly fed, crammed into large lorries without proper food or water and transported many hundreds of miles across Europe to countries… where they are badly slaughtered and then… [enter] the food chain.

This is the real stomach-churning scenario. Let’s pray the British and European authorities investigating those responsible for the fraud will tighten (and strictly enforce) the regulations needed to protect the welfare of those animals giving their lives to fill our bellies.


Why bother blogging?


A few weeks ago Swallows on the Stoep celebrated its first birthday! And the clever guys at WordPress, who figure out exactly what all their bloggers are up to, furnished me with a few interesting tidbits in my first annual report.

In the last year:

  • I wrote 23 posts
  • My blog had 1,365 views
  • Visitors came from 36 different countries (though mostly the UK, South Africa and the US)
  • I gained 17 followers – yippee! – people who have subscribed to my blog (a mixture of friends, family, acquaintances and complete strangers!)
  • 58 people came to the blog via Facebook
  • My most-viewed pages were ‘About Me’, followed by ‘A Psalm of Waiting’ and ‘Take the Positivity Challenge’.

These statistics (and others) are useful and interesting because they can help me improve the blog in various, tiny ways that will ultimately hopefully increase my number of followers and commenters… the holy grail of blogging!

But they’re actually much more than that. To me, the stats are evidence of a step of faith in obedience to God.

A Godly nudge

At the beginning of last year I felt God prompting me to set up the blog, but there were lots of reasons not to. I don’t know how, I argued. It’ll take serious time and effort. What will I write about? What if people read it and judge me? And worst, what if no one shows any interest in reading it! To crown it, someone had commented that blogging was now “very passé”.

And yet, there it was. That deep-down nudge of the Holy Spirit prodding me to learn what I could and get stuck in, without knowing where it would lead, if anywhere. Eventually I reasoned that even if no one else found it beneficial or encouraging or even vaguely thought-provoking, it would probably aid me.

It will help me think more deeply and clearly about what’s going on around me and in me. It’ll rejuvenate writing skills going rusty through lack of use. It might connect me to similar, like-minded people ‘out there’. It will bring me pleasure and a sense of achievement, grow my knowledge and teach me new skills.

Learning new stuff

A year on, Swallows on the Stoep has indeed fulfilled all these goals. And yet, in some ways, I’m still at the beginning. In setting it up I’ve made some mistakes I simply have to live with. It also requires constant tweaking and promoting (in addition to the posts), and I haven’t quite got the knack of time management (timely posts) and consistency (regular, once-a-week posts) yet! But I am now expanding my knowledge base to include social networking and other digital media, and I’m growing all the time.

It’s also been an exercise in increasing dependence on my loving heavenly Father, and He has been so faithful. When I ask Him to give me ideas for posts, to develop the thoughts He’s prompting in me, and for the words to say what I should, the posts are always so much better than when I attempt to churn something out with my own ability and wisdom!

Global chit-chat

In my first-ever post I explained the origin of the blog’s name, Swallows on the Stoep, recalling the beautiful little birds that would return each Spring to our stoep (patio) in South Africa, confidentially chattering to one another.

This blog is a place of conversation for me, and it’s a thrill when others take time to engage in the nattering that’s going on in my head and airing on my blog. It’s exciting and encouraging to read the posts of fellow bloggers – particularly Christians – who are having similar chats with themselves. That’s one massive chin-wag going on around the world!

Are you a blogger? What drives you to put fingertips to keyboard? And what encourages you to keep writing?