The Beast, and how to write an animal rights poem


(Featured image credit Frank DiBona, used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

I recently read in some magazine, a Hunt follower asking for Hunting with Hounds to continue because, “there are so many wonderful poems about the beauty of the hunt”. His idea of Nature and my idea of Nature are different. As is his idea of Poetry and my idea of Poetry.

The Beast

Eleu-in, Eleu-in, Eleu-in. Eleu-in, Eleu-in, Eleu-in there. Edawick, Edawick, Edawick. Hike, Hike, Hike. Hike to Govenor. Hike, Hike, Hike. Hike, Hike, Hike to Govenor.

[All commands to hounds in this poem are shouted, coarse, and said with venom. Some single and double notes are blown on the horn, interspersed with the voice calls.]

Cry of the Huntsman, heard on the cold wind
Call of the lead hounds, angry and loud
Horn sounds ever nearer, nowhere to run
Humans are coming, it is me that they seek

Enjoying the view, valleys and hills,
Exultant their screams as I break from my wood
Poet’s pleasure at the sunset, stealing the light
Pressing me hard, hounds laugh at my plight

Weeeeeeuuuuughhhhhhh [a holloa]
Weeeeeeuuuuughhhhhhh [a holloa]
Tally-Ho o-ver! [finger points to “fox”]
[“Blowing Away” blown on the horn]

Do I run, do I turn, try hard to fight?
Death follows so near, biting the air
Twelve and a half couple, cowards every one!
Tell my tale through the long night, the one fight I lost

Bury my bones, beside the quick stream
Begin the mourning, tell my wife that I died
Gather my friends, and tell of my brave deeds
Go forth and sing, the song of my life

Running through leaves, littered with mud
Rail tracks and road, slowly pass by
Turn round and face them, the leaders charge in
Twisting and biting, they tear at my guts….

Rip im and eat im!
Rip im and eat im!
Rip im and eat im!
Whoop. Whoop. Whoop.
[“The Kill” blown on the horn]

Me performing “The Beast” live (without horn in this case)

How to write an animal rights poem

The first adult poems I wrote were animal rights poems. However, I could find no animal rights group that was interested in them. Even when I became better known as an animal rights activist and as a poet, I still found no interest from animal rights groups in using my poems at events and demonstrations.

I think that poetry is a very useful tool at events and demonstrations. And you need to use every tool you can!

I have also found that there are few poems that deal sensibly with animal rights and that are superb. This is disappointing.

Many people who start writing poetry begin by detailing all the horrors of something they know about, e.g the death of a friend. Or the blood coming from an animal’s wounds. But unless the poem deals with the subject in a novel way or one that has true poetic style and content, it may be useful as catharsis but it is a waste of a poem.

Ask yourself, who is my audience? Many poems are okay to read to other animal rights people, but a bit strong for those non-animal rights people in the audience. I cannot read a lot of animal rights poetry because it is so bloody. Less is usually better than more.

Whenever you write a poem, it should be as good as you can get it. It is as if this is the poem that you will be remembered for. Inscribed on your gravestone. As if you only ever write one poem. Every word and phrase in a poem is vital. There is no filling in poetry. Try saying something new, or say it in a new way. Metaphors are one of the most used (and most useful) tools in poetry.

You learn about writing poetry by writing poetry, but you need to be critical of your writings.

Read a lot of poetry. Read different styles of poetry.

One tool I use a lot is contrasting different views of the same situation e.g. that of hunter and hunted.

I use truth. That means that I also use a lot of things I personally know well. Write about what you know, and if you don’t know about something then research it.

I believe that everyone in today’s World has to do research to find out what is happening. As an animal rights person you will already know how animals are treated in labs and in slaughterhouses. They do not die easily. But the truth is a stranger to many newspapers.

I enjoy researching and finding out the Truth about things. I used to do research for a Scottish anti-vivisection group. I spend weeks researching everything I need to know about or write about. I read books and don’t take my truths from the internet.

Be an expert in what you talk about (if you can).

In the past I was a Hunt Sab tactics officer. In my younger days I wrote the beginner’s guides to tactics that the Hunt Saboteurs Association gave out to new members. I sabbed again only a few years ago.

The Hunt uses multiple languages. One rough language uses a Whip to order the hounds about. Another language is used by the Huntsman to encourage them. A third language (often expressed in horn calls that can carry far) passes on messages to Hunt followers, e.g. “we are going to another wood” (this call is known as Blowing Away). If you can learn these languages you can “talk” to the hounds and take command. You can also know when the Hunt are moving to a new wood.

You can find many web sites with recordings of the sounds of a fox hunting horn. I have my own horn, worth about £250 because of its silver tip. It is a Quorn Foxhunting horn. It is slightly bent (because a hunt follower once tried to strangle me with the horn and the cord it was attached to).

You can learn more about sabbing tactics, including voice and horn calls, in my article “The Saboteur’s Guide to Foxhunting Horn and Voice Calls.” Sabbing should be an activity that shows respect for the Fox, fellow Saboteurs, for the environment. And lastly, for the Hunt and Hunt followers.

In my poem, The Beast, I use Hunt language, and hunting dogs are called Hounds. Any hunting dogs are counted in two’s, e.g. 20 dogs is 10 couple. Obviously it is the Huntsman (and the Hunt) to which I refer as the Beast, and not the Fox. The fox is seen as an individual with emotions and feelings. A creature that can feel fear and pain.

As I said, I use truth a lot and I use stories a lot. The poem was written after reading in a hunt magazine about a Hunt follower asking for Hunting with Hounds to continue because, “there are so many wonderful poems about the beauty of the hunt”. The poem is an argument against that belief.

I wanted to make the Fox the hero of a heroic style poem. I decided to use the language of heroic poetry, and wrote in a style alike to Anglo Saxon alliterative verse. Many alliterative hunting poems are written in a heroic style. I didn’t try to copy things exactly from Anglo Saxon verse. But you can see that the lines above are split into two halves. If you want to try to write in this style, then read lots of Anglo Saxon poetry. Listen to exerts on the web. Read books about how to write that type of poem.

There are also basic guides on the web:

Perform your poem at poetry nights. Submit it to the Animal People Forum, and also to the site below, which is excellent for those wanting a home for their poetry and prose:

Read and re-read your poem. Read it aloud. Read it at poetry nights. There are some that are welcoming for newcomers. Every poet started out as a beginner. Also, use your poem at Demonstrations.

Most of my own animal rights poems are demonstration friendly. I am glad for others to use my poems at events if they mention the author (me) and the event does not exploit animals or humans. See:

Work hard at crafting your work of poetry. A poem is a unique and beautiful thing.

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About Author

I am a performance poet. I take part in human rights and animal rights non-violent protests. As a Buddhist I believe in Ahimsa. Click to see author's profile.

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