I love animals. That, as I wrote in a recent post, doesn’t necessarily make me a better person, but the people I saw the other night on the TV are evil.
I wouldn’t have deliberately chosen to watch a revolting programme about taxidermists, but it was very late and the choice was between that Open University programme about autism, which I’ve seen so many times, on BBC2, or a hockey match on Channel Five. So I chose the one where horrible, macho men and women (women can be macho too) were shown shooting innocent creatures just for fun, just to skin and mount them in weird, so-called “natural” poses.
I’d never asked myself where taxidermists got their animals from; I’d certainly never thought they actually killed them themselves, but it seems that most of them do, at least in America. The taxidermists interviewed for that programme were all American and were planning to compete in the World Championship.
One woman was looking for a coyote. A man went to Africa and shot a beautiful leopard. He insisted on being photographed with his foot on it, like in the bad old days of big game hunting. Laughing, he said, “We got to have a little bit of fun.” He was wearing a necklace from which hung fingers, ears, testicles that had belonged to a monkey he’d previously shot too. Another man had killed a curlew and had some problem balancing it on the stand once he’d stuffed it. One taxidermist was accompanied by his 9-year-old daughter, who kept saying, looking at the corpse of a lovely deer lying in the snow, “Cool!” As her father was removing the animal’s heart, all she could say was, “Cool!” She had herself shot another deer and was going to mount it herself.
One of those barbarians summed up their philosophy, “I get pleasure from taking something lifeless and bringing it back to life.” Lifeless? Lifeless! It wasn’t lifeless until you killed it!
I was reminded of what I’d seen, at the meeting of the Residents’ Association, the other night: one of the members is a young man whose flat is full of bits of dead animals, some killed by him. There used to be two fox tails hanging from the curtain rail (he’s now removed them). He proudly showed us a stuffed cat sitting on a chair. It made my skin crawl. I expect he belongs to the Countryside Alliance and opposes the ban on hunting with dogs. He seems a nice young man otherwise, but I feel I’m not even from the same planet.
I know a slap is inadequate. What else can I do?