"What offence?" Anita asked her.
"I saw you step out into the road to touch the trucks. That can be seen as an attempt to obstruct, and that means I'm going to caution you for mischief."
"I'm heading home soon," I said, worried for my passport. "I won't cause you any more trouble."
Anita kept arguing for our right to be compassionate towards animals in need. Soon the officer looked exasperated, as if we were too much mischief for her to bother with. Anita offered her our leaflets. The officer looked nonplussed. It was the moment when her identity-as the enforcement of a law that says stopping a truck in its task of delivering animals to slaughter is a crime-unravelled. She put her notebook away. I walked off, hoping the confrontation might fizzle out. It did: that time, Anita got me, and herself, out of hot water.
Activists who attend these vigils are vital witnesses to our culture's treatment of animals. But they are also vital mischief-makers. I'm glad I was there with Anita to make mischief on the behalf of those pigs, some of whom had already died from dehydration on the journey. There is a trace of mischief in the very word itself, which comes from around 1300, when it first defined an "evil condition, misfortune, need." It derives from the Old French meschief / méchef, to "come or bring to grief, be unfortunate"-the opposite of "achieve." At its root is the Latin caput, which means "head." Mischief, rather mischievously at least in this context, emerges from the same source as the word we use for cattle.