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Review: Life On The Line: The Heroic Story of Vicki Moore

Updated: May 18

Long ago I remember a tall man with a grey beard who used to walk past us kids as we played football outside our houses. He habitually wore a green combat jacket and, walking either side of him, were a pair of handsome dogs - lurchers I think. That would have been the late 1980s. It was many years later when I discovered the identity of this man; he was Tony Moore, husband of the celebrated animal rights’ campaigner Vicki Moore. I’d have known him anywhere, the beard and above all his distinguished bearing.

Oddly, though I clearly remember Tony striding down our road I do not recall ever seeing his beautiful wife. In my memory he was always alone, dogs apart. Upon reading Matilda Mench’s biography of Vicki I now know why I never saw her: Vicki was always abroad – Spain mostly, but also in the US, Macau and often putting her case to the bureaucrats in Strasbourg, urging them to protect the innocent animals she strove to protect.

I do remember Vicki appearing on a morning TV programme – Richard and Judy I suppose. She struck me as articulate, passionate and, with that dark complexion and those huge, liquid senorita eyes downright gorgeous. I think this teenage boy must have fallen a little bit in love with her. Looking back, I’m not sure if I knew she lived close by; I think I was aware that she lived in the same town. There was something mesmerising about her – that’s all I knew.

Having later lived with Tony after his wife’s untimely death, fellow activist Ms Mench was in an ideal position to describe this remarkable life. The biographical sketch is brief, but the reader learns of a somewhat idiosyncratic relationship between Vicki and her dancer mother, who it seems, put her professional needs above those of her daughter. An accomplished singer herself, Vicki followed her mother into showbusiness and by her twenties looked set to become an actress-singer.

She met Tony while working as a hostess in Southport’s famous Kingsway club, the same venue where my wife and I met. Tony was bowled over. Who wouldn’t have been? One of the books’ images is of Vicki modelling in a leotard; beauty on the outside and on the inside. No doubt her dusky, ethereal beauty helped win the interest of the British tabloid press to the cause.

The book charts Vicki and Tony’s many trips to Spain and their valiant (and often dangerous) attempts to shine a light on the bloody spectacle that is bullfighting and running. Some of the content is very graphic as it had to be. The couple were determined to expose this inhumane practice and did just that. However, their efforts made them plenty of enemies and some of the episodes documented here bring home the very real danger the couple faced as uncouth villagers made their antipathy towards them clear.

Footage of Vicki’s goring by a bull in June 1995 is still around in YouTube and seems even more horrific as the years go by. The spectacle of her mangled body lying in that dusty, Spanish backroad, clothing ripped off and her limp body lying in the road like a rag doll will haunt all those who can bare to witness it. She stayed like that for four minutes until the raging bull moved off allowing rescuers in.

Though she had almost died, Vicki bore no ill-will to the bull which had been tortured and tormented beyond endurance. Her first question upon waking was: ‘What happened to Argentino (the bull)?’ It was shot. Apparently, during the three weeks she spent in coma, the dead animal came to Vicki and laid its head on her shoulder. She forgave it and it forgave mankind. Indeed, this is a book capable of provoking strong emotions: outrage, compassion and sadness.

Never herself again after that life-shattering experience, Vicki continued to campaign right up to her death in February 2000. I never met this remarkable lady, but egad I wish I had. Perhaps she walked past me one day as I bounced my football on the pavement lost in my thoughts of Everton, on her way to start another crusade. I’d like to think so.

Anyway, back in 2007 my wife and I visited Tarragona for a summer break. One hot and sweltering night we arrived in town to discover it was fiesta night. Parades of giants entered a packed main square and then the fireworks started. We ate patatas bravas and gulped Estrella beer. At some point a fizzing, crackling wooden bull came trundling down the main street much to the delight of the crowd. The noise, the chaos, the exhaustion, the scent of blood and then ignominious back-street slaughter - just imagine what this night of hell must have been like for one of these magnificent creatures.

Well, Tarragona at least had changed its ways and I remember saying a quiet thank-you to Vicki as the mock-up came bounding towards us - a pretty intimidating sight pushed by a group of young guns. We jumped into a shop doorway. The 'bull' passed by spitting flames like an anvil.

The word hero/heroine is vastly overused in today’s hyper-emotional world. Vicki would never have seen herself as a heroine though; she had a calling which she followed wherever it led and which allowed her to pack several lifetimes into her 44 years. How many of us can say that?