The manager of the safari camp is laughing his head off at a news story from England. Apparently, a hoary old farmer is being followed everywhere by a duck, which mistook him for its mother after hatching in his pocket. In the manager’s eyes, such mollycoddling of a duck egg is patently absurd:
“Why didn’t he just soft boil it for breakfast!” he chortled. “The yolk would have been delicious on strips of toast.”
“I believe the English farming fraternity prefer their eggs fried with bacon,” I said. “And now and again, they are swayed by their consciences to treat an egg in accordance with its parents’ wishes.”
“Aren’t they just, the sentimental ninnies!” proclaimed the manager guffawing. “That’s what happens in a nation of animal lovers. The beasts become tame and the children run wild!”
“Bravo, manager!” I exclaimed. “I shall add your pithy aside to my list of never-to-be-forgotten proverbs.”
Are the English really a nation of animal lovers? That depends very much on both the animal and the lover. Many of them love dogs, many of them love cats, but few of them love both. Foxes are adored by the urbanites and persecuted by the country folk. Fish are ruthlessly fished in the belief that they derive some perverse enjoyment from wriggling at the end of a line.
As for us gorillas, we are feared by some and admired by others. Occasionally that admiration swells into outright hero-worship, but I have dealt with this syndrome in previous posts, and have no wish to indulge in gratuitous boasting.
The complex attitude of the English to animals is highlighted in another news item about a man who defecated on a dead hedgehog. The hedgehog is a much-loved creature of the English woodland, which often receives snacks from humans, yet relatively few of its benefactors feel obliged to treat its remains with respect. Only pets adopted as surrogate family members are given a Christian burial in England.
I should add that the man who crapped on the hedgehog was arrested and put on trial for his misdeed. As with many cases of this type, the pivotal issue is the intent behind the act. If the accused deliberately pooped on the deceased animal, it’s as clear an example of a hate crime as you could wish to see. He ought to languish in prison until his nose hairs turn grey. But if he simply emptied his bowels recklessly without looking where he was shitting, he ought to be left off with a warning. I speak as a gorilla who may have accidentally dumped on the odd dead critter after getting caught short on jungle expeditions.
Of course, it says something about England that you can be prosecuted for defecating on a dead hedgehog. In less enlightened nations, such behaviour would barely elicit a murmur of disapproval from onlookers, or even be cheered as an inventive form of high jinks. There is probably no better place for an animal to pop its clogs.
Update: The man was fined £200 and barred from Scotland for 3 days. (There are a lot of dead hedgehogs in danger of being pooped on in Scotland).
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