How to Select for Animal Testing
First, find a location. Find a shabby farm that keeps its neighbours at arm’s length. Find a house with a rusted roof, with guttering that dribbles down the sunburnt boards. A place with a back door that is always open and a front door that is always shut...
First, find a location. Find a shabby farm that keeps its neighbours at arm’s length. Find a house with a rusted roof, with guttering that dribbles down the sunburnt boards. A place with a back door that is always open and a front door that is always shut. Where inside, the rooms that were once the happiest have been given over to dust. Find not much of a garden, just a go-between passing muddy messages from house to field.
Discover the surrounding fields; they bloom in the wet and perish in the heat. Squat animals internalise the grasses’ wisdom; observe them closely. See their football shaped heads, watch their bums jiggle when pressed to a jog, detect the texture of their greasy fleece. Listen to the sounds they make too. Use your instruments to interpret the bleats and analyse their herd behaviour. See if you can pick one out from the others. Name them. Make it a game.
Next, pay close attention to the tiny animals in the hedgerow, the ones who are nervous to stay inside it, and cautious when leaving. These are the ones who fly, just like you. Gather some of their feathers that have fallen in the grass, record your thoughts on their method of flight. Note how they care for their young, who arrive in orbs humming with life and sit on stormy branches while they harden, ready for life.
Make sure you locate the old animal who remembers long hot days with sand beneath its hooves. Who recalls the weight of little ones clinging to its back. The one who stands on the same four legs, in the same spot, day after day. Not near to the house and not far away. No longer useful. Not wanted, yet not unwanted, yet. Send for samples of the smell of its thick neck, and have a hair plucked from its mane, and twist it round your finger the way the children used to.
Now, find the animal closest to the house. Train your lens on the one who was neither the runt nor the pick of the litter. Who is caught between pleasing, and sinking its teeth ecstatic into the animals of the field. Notice its sleeping quarters, like the farm house in miniature, but dirty and cold and with only a front door, always open. See it look up at the moon. Zoom in on its worried eyebrows. Focus on the shadows behind its eyes, filling the space where memories of its mother should be.
Last, look to the dingy farm house and find two animals inside who don’t see each other anymore. Find an animal who turns up the stereo and sings along to Bonnie Tyler’s I need a hero instead of finishing the vacuuming. The one who writes sad, disappearing poems in the condensation of the shower door. The same animal who will run outside through the night’s lonely darkness, who will stand under the perfect circle you beam blue onto the grass, arms up stretched in a thin white nightie, begging to be taken with you.
Find the other one too; the one who spends all day among the animals of the field, knows them better than his own beating heart. Who believes deeply that one animal once died to save all of some, but none of the others. Who likes nothing more than to eat other animals, skinned and cut and hot. Find this animal who loads the fleecy ones onto a truck while whistling loudly to blanket their moronic cries. See what you think.
Find all this, then visit once again, at night. Hover over the house and field and take your pick. Choose an animal you want to take back and commence your animal testing.
First published in The New Guard, Volume IV