Giving wild animals a voice

This month, our columnist Maria Slough catches up with Save Me CEO Anne Brummer

My first meeting with Anne Brummer, CEO of The Save Me Trust was back in 2014. This no-nonsense, warm, and compassionate woman appeared flanked by various animals, carrying a rescued badger cub I was to photograph. Now, six years on we are sitting on a Zoom call as Anne shares how her dedication to animals led her to veganism.

\"It was always about the animals for me, but I didn't connect that love with eating them. I don't know why. I know this sounds pathetic, but I had this romantic idea of animals running in fields happy. I thought that animals and humans were more protected by regulations than we actually are.\"

As a child when visiting her godfather on holiday, Anne would spend time with a local herd. \"I would sit with them as they were milked and wander back into the fields with them. I didn't know they were kept pregnant constantly, and I didn't know any of the horrors of the dairy industry - it didn't occur to me.\"


\"When you look at a chicken in a fridge with a price tag of £1.50 on, you have to ask what life has that sentient being had and in what conditions\"

\"As a child, meat was only served once a week. Nowadays, when you look at a chicken in a fridge with a price tag of £1.50 on, you have to ask what life has that sentient being had and in what conditions?

Seven years ago, I went vegan for a month, but I found it really hard so went back to being vegetarian. As time went on the vegan options crept back in. Through my work - seeing what goes into the milk people drink and the dairy they eat, that was the final straw for me.

The amount of puss that is allowed to go into milk as a legal quota I found shocking.\" Anne was running Harper Asprey Wildlife Rescue from a small animal hospital set up in her garage when a fox called Freddie changed everything.

\"We had been working with Brian May on his estate helping with some hedgehogs and I asked if we could release the fox onto the estate. 'How can I refuse a Fox called Freddie?' came the reply, but I didn't make the connection with the band, Queen.

Then a leaked document in the press about a Civil Liberties Bill allowing Fox Hunting to come back led me to my local MP Michael Gove. I was met with the consensus that what people did in the countryside was their own business. I felt that something as awful as fox hunting was being dismissed too easily.\"



\"Brian and I spoke about this disconnect and wanted to get more involved in campaigning. It was Brian's wife who suggested that Brian and I join forces and so The Save Me Trust was born at the start of 2009 to give wild animals a voice and to look at the issues affecting wildlife today.\"

The Trust campaigns in parliament to add amendments to the current Hunting Act. They object to the current badger cull policy based on scientific grounds and continue to work to show the science and the folly of the cull.

\"What we have always done is look very closely into the history, background information and data of what we are tackling. Bovine TB is a bug that has been around for years in our cattle yet it is claimed that we can't find its source?

The reality is that we are not looking in the right place for it. You should not be 'solving' a farming issue of Bovine TB by removing wildlife because that doesn't solve anything.

If all the badgers in the world were killed the disease is still going to be there. Brian and I both take that moral standing, but the science is there, too. Very early on there was a case of a cow with TB in isolation who was pregnant.

The farmer told me as soon as the calf was born he would shoot the mother. I challenged him as his argument was not logical.



The disease passes through the placenta and just because there is no data recorded, that does not mean it doesn't happen. The dairy industry misleads us on cases like this with only specific findings being shared to the public.

Cows carry TB and they can live with it their whole life. The industry found a way around the milk by pasteurising it but there is certainly TB milk going into the food chain all the time.

Louis Pasteur may be a hero to some, but if we had not learned how to pasteurise milk then we would have had to have solved TB. With bureaucracy so compartmentalised Save Me work to get everyone together to resolve these issues and working with famers is essential to this.\"

In 2015, with more choices flooding onto the market as her work on TB continued to reveal what really goes on in the shadows of the dairy industry, Anne committed to a fully vegan lifestyle.

\"The most exciting thing for me is to see mainstream food chains bringing in vegan options. This is a huge part of helping to facilitate the change that is needed within the meat industry.

Everyone has their timing on finding plant-based living. This is part of me now and I cannot imagine eating an animal. I am not saying that if everyone went vegan tomorrow, we could stop the damage we as humans are doing to this planet, but it would do a lot to change things.\"

\"It is a battle seeing what I see on the farms, but I can't get to the end of stopping the slaughter without doing this. You do get very dark days. We have to find a way to find TB and stop the cull.

We don't want the government to say 'don't cull', we want the farmers to say it doesn't work. There are no results to this day to prove that the cull is working.\" Speaking on their behalf, what can you tell us about badgers and foxes?


\"A fox is exactly the same as a collie; constantly on duty, clever and alert\"

\"A fox is exactly the same as a collie; constantly on duty, clever and alert. Their ears are constantly twitching and turning like radar receivers. The body will be curled up and still, but the ears never ever sleep.

They learn times and recognise car sounds and have incredible hearing, getting freaked out by the wind as so many sounds get carried on it. A badger is your Labrador. Very loyal and familyorientated with people. They will never forget you.

I have badgers on-site who we have released - after five years they will still come up to me at the sound of my voice. They are community animals.\" \"At Save Me, we believe that we are all equal; we are part of an eco-system that we really have to understand.

Every day our work reminds us of the stupid things humans do that affect our wildlife. With less and less spaces now for injured wildlife to be returned back to, I am constantly aware of the connections between us and them and my veganism is essential to this.

There is no difference between me, a cow or a fox. Working on the frontline with animals reminds me that I have to keep doing something to change it for them in the long-term.

\"We cannot keep doing what we are doing and expect the planet to survive. Something has to change\"

Save Me will keep lobbying in parliament to achieve meaningful change backed by a rationale that works. Having a law does not change things. You need to look at the causes and change those.\"

A last thought before a badger cub needs feeding? \"We will continue to patch the injured up, but we need to make sure that they have somewhere to go back to.

You need people to acknowledge that during lockdown last year the air was cleaner, wildlife thrived - we must find ways to move forward in unity to make lasting changes.

I believe in God and the message is there for us all to see. For goodness sakes, humans, sort yourselves out. We cannot keep doing what we are doing and expect the planet to survive. Something has to change.\"


Follow Maria's photography journey at mariasloughphotography.com and Instagram at @mariasloughphotography


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