While on my recent trip to Syria I met the fabulous Pierre le Corf, who has not only helped so many children who have suffered in the conflict there, but has also opened an animal sanctuary in Aleppo. I put to Pierre while filming him that many people would ask why, amidst so much human suffering, he would choose to help animals? His reply was both moving and profound.
Please watch it below at 14 minutes into filming, although I have also transcribed it below. (The entire video is also worth watching to get a sense of Pierre’s fantastic work for both humans and animals in Aleppo. The other interviewers are Mark Taliano, author of Voices From Syria, and Swiss actor Myriam Demierre Chappuis):
Alison: in the midst of all this human suffering, why did you feel it was important to care about the animals?
Pierre: the animals were dying the same time as humans were dying. The fact is that human beings believe that they own the whole planet, but we are sharing this common space. In our education we learn a kind of anti-species education which is that…animals are a kind of decoration here on our planet, so the thing is animals and humans are not different. I love animals for my part and I learn a lot from them. But I saw many times people dying and I remember I saw two times animals dead and ones which were running on fire because of the fall of the rockets…I saw a lot of animals dying and we have a lot of injured animals from shrapnel.
A life stays a life, and whoever you are, whatever you’re thinking – you’re atheist, or you’re Christian, you’re Muslim or Jewish – it is written in the Bible, in the Koran, in the Torah, everywhere, that you have to take care of any kind of species. Especially, from the moment that you believe you are the superior species – any kind of superior species needs to take care of the weaker species. So this is something that is important, whether people believe that or not, I believe I am equal with any kind of animal…life matters, whether it’s with fur, or without.
Pierre’s words exemplify the reasons I’m both a human and animal rights activist, the two spheres for me being deeply interconnected, indeed, inseparable, and can be summed up by Tolstoy: ‘as long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefileds’, and by Milan Kundera: ‘true human goodness, in all its purity and freedom, can come to the fore only when its recipient has no power. Mankind’s true moral test, its fundamental test (which is deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals.’
Today I’m going to the memorial service for the great Andrew Tyler, who was director of Animal Aid, the UK’s biggest animal rights organisation. I was privileged to email chat with Andrew and publish some of his writing on our website, and I have also had the privilege of a long-time communication with his amazing wife, Sara.
If ever there were two soulmates it was them. Both impassioned about fighting injustice, they were a formidable team. Sara was by Andrew’s side when he went to Switzerland to end his life through assisted dying and she’s now carrying on his legacy by continuing to fight for the animals he loved and wanted to protect so much.
I’ll be telling the attendees tonight about Pierre le Corf and his little animal sanctuary in battle-torn Aleppo. No-one would have understood better than Andrew Tyler the deep significance of Pierre’s act in a world in which war still rages at the whim of an elite who would sacrifice every human and every animal on the planet on the alter of their greed and lust for power. As the author of ‘Dominion’ Matthew Scully wrote of his campaigning for animals:
‘For me, it comes down to a question of whether I am a man or just a consumer. Whether I reason or just rationalize. Whether to heed my conscience or my every craving, to assert my free will or just my will. Whether to side with the powerful and comfortable or with the weak, afflicted, and forgotten.”
Andrew sided with the powerless, so does Pierre, and so do I. In a society in which the powerless are often hidden from us and our part in their suffering obscured, it’s my moral duty to push the veil aside, however uncomfortable or inconvenient it may be for me, and to end, as far as I can possibly extend my influence, my exploitation of those with no voice.
Alison Banville is co-editor at BSNews