Since we live in lower Manhattan, passing by walking tours is a common occurrence. Call me a jaded New Yorker, but I admit that, on occasion, I have been known to get mildly irked — especially when carrying a huge amount of groceries — by the large group of tourists spread out on the sidewalk so that nobody can pass. They are usually looking up, as their eager tour guide explains which celebrities have lived on that block; what TV show was shot at that location; or who the ghost is that haunts that apartment building. Other times, however, when I have more time and fewer packages, I try to linger a little, just long enough to learn an important fact that I never knew about my city. As soon as the tour guide glances in my direction though, I am off on my jolly way. No one likes a freeloader. Despite my intrigue, I have never actually signed up for a walking tour. The truth is, I’m just too busy with Our Hen House to bother. Even though I kinda want to.
However, if the walking tour was about animals — the very thread of my existence and my career — I might think twice.
Enter Hilda Kean — historian, educator, and tour guide. Hilda runs what she calls “alternative guided walks around London,” centering around animals. (When she’s not traipsing around London doing that, she is busy devising and teaching courses on animal-human history.) Hilda’s upcoming walking tours of the city look absolutely fascinating, and include:
- Animal Pasts in Hyde Park — a fundraiser for Hillside Animal Sanctuary — “Hyde Park is not just a site of human demonstrations and concerts. It is a space in which animals have also lived, died and been remembered — and not only at the Animals in War memorial in Park Lane. This walk of two and a half hours will offer a different way of seeing this part of London.”— AND —
- Animal Pasts in London Today — “Alongside our human ancestors, animals have created the physical and cultural landscape of London as it exists today. In this walk of two and a half hours, we will be looking at traces left by cattle, horses, dogs and cats – and their human companions. Skirting the city, this walk will offer a different way of seeing London.”
(You won’t be surprised to learn that companion animals are indeed allowed on these tours. Despite being separated by an ocean, our dog, Rose, is relieved.)
How completely cool is this?! Anyone want to jump on a plane to London with me?
Or, better yet, creating and leading walking tours like these — those which center around animals in history, and other pro-animal causes — might be a perfect project for those with a penchant for history, community organizing, and public speaking. You might even fold in some leafleting time to your tour — why not? (Go from panicked to empowered.) Seeing the world — or even your city — through the lens of animal rights is, as Hilda puts it, “a different way of seeing.”