A Prayer for a tortoise!

By the late K.A.Gray, Exmouth, Devon

We are thy creatures – helpless, dumb
Brought from our land of warmth and sun.
Bless us in thy tender care
And listen to our voiceless prayer

Stretch forth thine own protective hand
And keep us in our native land.
We love our climate – England’s cold
Yet men import us to be sold.

We’re tethered by a leg when caught,
And wait and wait whilst more are sought.
Spare us, O God, this awful pain
And being packed for boat and train.

We suffer hunger, thirst and fear
And death itself is very near.
Oh listen to the voiceless cry
Of piteous babies doomed to die.

We’re stacked in pet shops tray on tray
Or in the window for display.
People stop and look and stare,
They know it’s cruel – but do they care?

Living playthings for a child.
Little creatures from the wild!
When we are hurt we cannot cry
To ask from help from passers-by.

The climate’s altogether wrong
The summer’s short, the winters long
So few who buy us know our needs
And give us most unusual feeds.

And when we have to hibernate
To wake in spring, the spring is late.
And some of us will wake no more
Until we reach the heavenly shore.

And there we’ll find the warmth and sun,
And fresh green food for everyone.
Free to roam as thou intended
Little Tortoises befriended.

Oh bless the work of those who try
To stop the wretched men who buy.
Helpless creatures thou hast made
Please God , stop the Tortoise Trade!!!

Oh bless us in thy tender care
And listen to our voiceless prayer.

(Miss Gray was the original lone voice protesting about the cruelty involved in the worldwide trade in chelonians which eventually resulted in the importation ban into the UK in 1984. She wrote a number of poems to be sold and used to raise funds for her work and for other animal conservation organisations)