I am the Story Weaver at Cactus Foundation Africa, writing poems and stories to teach children to care for the earth and animals. The Foundation came into being following the rescue of a puppy that had been tortured and burnt by children. That puppy, after numerous surgeries, went on to become the Foundation’s ambassador. She is called Phoebe and I consider her to be my commissioning editor.
The staff at the Foundation deal with many cases of extreme animal abuse and neglect.
They’ve just issued a press release covering an incident in Makeni Villa in Zambia where a mob of children ‘in a violent frenzy’ beat a dog to death. They then dragged its body by a rope around its neck as a trophy, showing off and expressing triumph. A Cactus Foundation team member, Mr Jim Miliko, courageously tried to intervene but, unbelievably, no other adult assisted and he was unable to rescue the dog.
It’s quite something to beat a living creature to death. Once, travelling through Angola, my husband witnessed a group of adult men beating a dog to its last breath. He described it as the most terrible thing he had ever seen, and the image is one he has not managed to erase.
So, what is it about us humans? How is it that we can crush the life out of a defenceless animal? How do we – who are gifted and graced with conscience – come to forfeit mercy?
My thoughts move from this localised act of horrific cruelty to the amplified brutality raging in the Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Gaza wars and I ask more questions: How have we come so fervently to attack and hate and retaliate and bombard, killing even the weak and the old and the newly-born? How do all the beautiful things within us give way to the vulgar and grotesque? Has the human heart become a stone?
IMAGE: Untitled by Mark Rothko
See the work of The Cactus Foundation Africa: https://cactusfoundation.africa/