Compassion not condemnation is the solution

The recent outcry after the death of a horse in Dublin shows the importance of coming together as one community. Love, empathy and community is the solution. Not condemnation.

On Thursday November 28th news spread that a horse had been set on fire in Fettercairn, Tallaght. The story stated the horse was alive and conscious at the time and had been doused in petrol and set alight. Although Gardaí later confirmed they were satisfied from their investigation the horse was dead before being set on fire the comments at the time reflect a wider problem.

People automatically tried to make sense of the unnecessary and horrible act. We asked ourselves how and why somebody could do this. We started to recreate the scene in our mind, imagining the agony and terror the horse felt. What happened next, however, is where things started to go wrong. Many people made sense of the event by condemning those who carried out the attack. The following two Twitter posts were among dozens of similar ones posted at the time; ‘People like that don’t deserve to breathe’ and; ‘Love to burn them alive’.

Obviously people need to be held accountable for their actions but if you honestly felt at the time that those who burned the horse should have been put to death then you need to re-examine your values. The easiest solution is to place blame and move on with your life. It’s called a cop out.

We need to realise that it’s the social conditions that lead to an individual believing setting an animal on fire is acceptable. Dead or alive. It’s about society as a system. For example, there’s a town in Spain called Medinaceli, where every year the community comes together to celebrate ‘Toro Júbilo’ or the Fire Bull festival. They strap a piece of wood to a bull’s horns, cover it with chemicals, set it alight and celebrate as the bull burns to death. This is a whole community of people who not only think it’s acceptable to torture an animal to death but who actually celebrate it.

The individuals who celebrate the festival do so because they have been brought up in a society that tolerates and promotes these kinds of act. Fettercairn is one the most disadvantaged areas in the country and, similar to Medinaceli, the acts that take place there reflect the area’s social conditions. The residents of Fettercairn campaigned for decades to have their community centre, equine centre and other amenities built but it is clear that there are still people who have been left behind.

If it was a young person or group of young people who set fire to the horse then as a society we have failed to give them the emotional support and sense of belonging they need. If anything we should have empathy towards them. If we want to create a society that is truly the best it can be then we have to come together and take responsibility for each and every person in our society. In Irish we say; ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine – we live in each other’s shadows.

Rónán Ó Dálaigh is a Gnó agus Gaeilge student in DCU and is a student activist.

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