We’re coming to that time of year when everyone should spare a thought for the animals.
With the holidays approaching, the roads will soon be jammed with people rushing to their destinations. Many of you will be too busy to think about which animals you’re going to eat and how you intend cooking them. Should you boil, bake, braai, grill, steam or fry? There are no easy answers.
Meanwhile, a group met at a Polokwane resort last week to think deeply about animals. You might not have read much about it. That’s because journalists were thin on the ground at the 14th African Wildlife Consultative Conference. And not, as you might think, because there was no open bar. They simply weren’t allowed in.
The conference, organised by our very own department of environmental affairs, is the creation of something called Safari Club International, an American outfit made up of hunters. Their main mission is to safeguard the freedom to hunt. They are like the National Rifle Association except they demand the right to shoot bears in the arms or wherever the hell they wish. They are also very proud of their anti-poaching stance. They would be, though. Too much poaching and there’d be nothing left for their own members to kill.
Their headquarters are in Tucson, Arizona, a proudly jingoistic state full of heavily armed rednecks and wife-beaters. In other words, the perfect base for Safari Club International.
So what we’re doing, essentially, is putting the welfare of our wildlife in the hands of hunters. A senior SCI member even helped the department moderate the sessions. This is a bit like the head of a paedophile ring offering child care facilities at his office.
SCI, incidentally, was founded by the bravest man on four wheels. At great personal risk to himself, CJ McElroy spent many years killing thousands of animals around the world, often at distances of only two or three hundred metres.
But it’s not just animals SCI is interested in. They also care about people. For instance, a splinter group called Sportsmen Against Hunger distributes the meat from their kills to food banks through the network of SCI chapters.
“Oh, man. Armadillo again? We had armadillo yesterday.”
“Shut up and eat your meat. You goddamn Vietnam vets are spoilt rotten.”
“Yeah, rotten like this …”
“Hey, man. You killed Kenny.”
Then there’s the Sensory Safari programme that allows sight-impaired people to get a “visual” perspective of what animals are like by feeling their skins, skulls, horns and pretty much anything with a head big enough to be cut off and stuck on a wall. At some point, they are going to get turned on by all that fondling and will want to go out and kill something of their own. Blind hunters. Now that’s my idea of sport.
There’s also the Disabled Hunter programme where cripples get to kill stuff. And why not? Just because you’re missing a leg or arm or eye after someone shot you in Afghanistan or the local supermarket doesn’t mean you can’t do the same to something else. I bet even Steven Hawking would sign up if he could shoot a wildebeest with a twitch of his eye.
But wait. It gets better. The SafariWish programme is designed to give children with life-threatening illnesses a chance to go hunting. Because what kid dying of leukemia wouldn’t want to blow an antelope’s brains out before he died?
As far as I can make out there are no special hunting programmes for black, lesbian dwarves. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time, though.
When your government organises a wildlife conference and invites hunters but excludes the media, environmentalists, conservationists and non-governmental organisations, you start to sense something might not be quite right.
Oh, well. There’s so much of not-quite-right in this country that it’s just going to have to get in the queue of stuff we really should do something about. Well, not us, obviously. But someone needs to do something about whatever. I’ll get another beer.
KILLER: Ben Trovato bagged himself a fine trophy at the recent Safari Club International meeting for hunters.