If you have children or work with children, you know how much animals fascinate them and how animals feature heavily in children’s stories, games and toys. I always think it must be confusing for children when they eventually come to the realisation that much of the food they eat is animal flesh and that the lives of animals on factory farms are not remotely like the rosy or fantastic pictures painted in their storybooks. In addition, less “cuddly” animals are often presented negatively in books, cartoons and films.
Recently, I was pleased to come across a children’s book that was a little different. Jane Mann’s Give Us a Chance! is a collection of poems about animals who are often feared or disliked but who actually have amazing skills and abilities which children might not know about.
From mouse to magpie, seagull to snail, the animals who are the subjects of these poems are seen in a different light. Each poem is written from the viewpoint of the animals themselves, who appeal to the reader to empathise with them and challenge any preconceptions the reader may have.
Give Us a Chance! is a book which awakens children’s interest in animals by showing kids that animals have phenomenal abilities, interests similar to theirs and complex behaviour and needs. Animals are intelligent, are great parents, communicate with each other in complex ways, build shelters without the benefit of tools, find food without having to go to the supermarket and navigate without a compass. They are emotional beings who experience happiness, loneliness, joy, fear and grief, just as we do.
Reproduced with kind permission of Jane Mann and Vinca Press
I once was nimble, dark and lean,
I roamed through forests, rich with green.
I had a close-knit family,
A life that kept me fit and free.
Then humans caught me for their meat
And gave me ghastly swill to eat.
They shut me in a narrow crate,
Determined I should put on weight.
I scarce can move or turn around,
My brain and instincts curbed and bound.
I never feel the earth and sun.
I have no place to play, have fun.
By nature I am clean and hate
The dirt in which I’m forced to wait.
Because they’ve bred me fat and pink,
It doesn’t mean I never think.
It doesn’t mean that I am thick.
In fact I have a brain as quick
As any dog’s if given chance
To show the way I can advance.
Remember, too, pigs share some parts
The same as humans like their hearts.
So humans should not now abuse
My name with all the terms they use,
Like “fat as pig” or “pig in poke”,
“Pig-headed”, “pig it” for a joke.
It’s time to show respect, be kind,
To recognise I have a mind.
I’m not just meat or meant to be
So scratch my back and set me free,
Back to a life to use my brain
To be a natural pig again.