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Opinion: Animal cruelty, the Post Office scandal and a Rose Queen dilemma

Once again animal cruelty has been making headlines.

First, we have the shocking news that animal charity the RSPCA received 647 calls about neglected animals in the first 10 months of last year.

That’s a devastating figure and one we should all be ashamed of. Britain has traditionally been known as a nation of animal lovers.

The cost of living crisis may have led to an increase in animal cruelty, according to the RSPCA. Picture: RSPCA
The cost of living crisis may have led to an increase in animal cruelty, according to the RSPCA. Picture: RSPCA

But the rising number of cases of neglect, abuse, and downright cruelty tells a different story.

There are people out there who seem to find some kind of pleasure in hurting a defenceless creature – last week we had the most recent proof of that with the story of Looe, a cat from March who had been shot with an air rifle.

Why would anyone feel the need to do that? What gratification do they get out of aiming a gun and pulling the trigger on an animal that is no doubt unafraid of humans?

Looe was shot in the leg by an air gun and the RSPCA are investigating.
Looe was shot in the leg by an air gun and the RSPCA are investigating.

An investigation has been launched to find the culprit, and I really hope they are caught and brought to justice. Maybe as they face a court they will endure some of the fear Looe felt as she struggled to make her way home with a wounded leg.

I know there are also people out there struggling to afford their pets. Feeding a dog or a cat is not cheap these days, the cost of food for them has gone up shockingly in the past six months, and with people already finding it difficult to feed themselves and their families, understandably, difficult decisions have to be made.

But there is no excuse for stories like that of a dog being tied up and left in a hedgerow that made the national headlines the other week.

There is help out there. I understand it might be embarrassing to admit you can no longer afford to keep your dog, cat, rabbit, or whatever other pet.

But surely a bit of embarrassment for the sake of the animal you made part of your family is better than dumping that pet and leaving it with the hope it will be found and rescued...

Wisbech Rose Fair will not only be back this summer with a parade but there will also be a Rose Queen.

While I’m delighted the parade is back, I’m a bit conflicted about the idea of a Rose Queen.

The competition is open to girls aged 11 to 18 – which is all well and good. But why should the joy of heading the parade be confined to girls?

There is also the tricky idea of how the winner will be chosen. Entrants have been asked to submit a picture of themselves.

Does that mean it is being judged largely on looks? if that’s the case then that is problematic in these days where we encourage people to embrace themselves for who they are not what they look like.

I would have liked to have seen the competition open to anyone aged 11 to 18, and for the winner to be chosen for what they have achieved, done for the community, or for what they might have overcome. I know that might mean the title being tweaked but something like Rose Fair ambassador or champion has a certain ring to it and could work for all.

There is no doubt heading the parade is an honour, and maybe the honour should be bestowed on some young person who has earned it rather than on someone who has been subjectively chosen starting with a photograph.

I may be accused of being a little ‘woke’ with this viewpoint but it’s difficult not to be in this era of inclusion for all and as this year will be a fresh start for the Rose Fair thanks to Wisbech Town Council taking on the task of organising it.

Maybe that new start should have included fresh thinking on the Rose Queen too...

The Post Office scandal which saw over 900 innocent sub-post masters and mistresses wrongly accused and convicted of fraud, and in many cases jailed has been everywhere in the past fortnight thanks to the ITV drama Mr Bates versus the Post Office.

I was aware there were problems in the 1990s as one of my friends used to run a post office and I know they had issues. But I’m embarrassed to admit that the full horror of what went on passed me by – my only excuse is that I had two very young children and a demanding job at the time.

But now being fully cognisant of just how these people were treated I’m utterly appalled. Why the powers that be did not have the wit to work out that dozens and dozens of previously honest people suddenly turning ‘criminal’ overnight must mean there’s a huge problem somewhere I don’t know of.

The fact investigators called in to handle the situation were paid bonuses for convictions, is equally disgusting as what incentive was there to get to the bottom of what was really going on?

Those poor people jailed, labelled criminals, who lost their businesses and their homes, have been through hell for around 30 years – fighting to clear their names, fighting to get at least some recompense for what they went through.

The Government being slow to react, slow to pay out, and seemingly blind to the obvious – there was a serious problem that was not of the making of these people but of a faulty system.

But one TV drama, a groundswell of public opinion, and within days we have the Prime Minister making new laws to clear everyone’s name en masse and the woman in charge of the Post Office at the time finally doing the right thing and handing back a Queen’s honour.

How she had the gall to accept a CBE for services to the Post Office in the first place I don’t know. After all, she received it in 2019, the same year the courts determined a faulty IT system was behind all those allegations of crime against the people she was responsible for.

Surely she should have had the guts to do the right thing and refuse the honour in the first place.

I’m sure those wrongly convicted will be pleased by her decision to hand it back, but they also need a proper apology and more importantly the money they are owed and have been owed for nearly three decades.

The government is calling it compensation, the victims say it is recompense – in my opinion, they deserve both, and the firm behind the whole scandal – Fujitsu – should be forced to pay up and certainly should not be being rewarded with new Government contracts worth £2bn – that’s just those awarded since 2019 when the courts found it was the firm’s faulty Horizon IT system that put the sub-postmasters and their families through a living hell...

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