Ruth Stedman

Story Number:Story-028
Themes: 1970s, Amnesty, Animal rights, Cornwall, Human Rights, Quakers

I said to Dora as we were doing meals on wheels that there was an Amnesty group, I would join it in Penzance. And she said: “why don’t you start one?” I said “well, I’m dyslexic and I can’t write a good letter”. She said: “you start it and I’ll do the back-up work”. And that’s what she did, she became chairman of it, and I was just- I just started it that’s all. At that time, Amnesty in 1976, Amnesty was abroad, was supporting IRA prisoners in Northern Ireland because they were being kept in certain circumstances which Amnesty did not fore think were humane and so Europe was writing letters on behalf of them. This made life very difficult for me because my family wrote to me and said that I was not patriotic if I was starting an amnesty group. And no church would have us in their church hall in 1976 because of this. The only place would allow us to start was the Quaker house at Marazion. And so it was March, so I decided April 1st would be a good day to start – all fool’s day.

I’m basically a Quaker. I was brought up by the church of England and I went to the Quakers for some years and I’ve always been a pacifist. If you nursed after the war and you see the injuries they used to see, people who had been blinded, but not very badly blinded because they were still alive from the first world war. And my father survived the first world war and he- he didn’t matriculate but when he left the army in 1919, he was a non-commissioned officer and he was the only one that had survived of his lot.

In 2003 there was a badger cull in this area and DEFRA came down. People don’t realise that tb is not just the lungs. It’s the bones, it’s the glands that come out in pustules with tb. They just actually burst through the skin. It is the most painful distressful disease you can possibly imagine. So for cattle to suffer like that, it is not in their interest. They should be vaccinated and that is why I dressed as a badger at the bottom of Causeway Head and somebody had a stick and somebody else had a balloon with a pin and I would lie down on the ground in a badger cage which was made to fit a human and a plaster size pool of blood would be thrown beside me. The police were called, and they didn’t know who I was because I was in a badger suit.

Transcribed by Tracy Earnshaw

Recorded 21.07.18 by Carmen Talbot.