Tag Archives: hunting

On Dentists, Doxxing and the Death of a Lion

The internet is a funny, scary place.

Photo Credit: gecco! via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: gecco! via Compfight cc

Over the past 48 hours, an Australian woman has been subjected to a torrent of the vilest imaginable abuse from fans of an American performer, whose work could be said to be misogynistic. The Australian woman made a public comment asking for her government to reconsider granting the performer a visa to enter Australia due to the content of his music (which features lyrics glorifying rape, sexual assault and violence against women) and when the performer announced, erroneously, on Twitter that this had resulted in him being denied access to the country, the woman endured thousands of disgusting Tweets. These Tweets were sent by fans (overwhelmingly male) of the performer – so, way to go with proving that listening to such music doesn’t encourage a person to feel, or think, or act in misogynistic ways. Or maybe the music speaks to a deep level of preexisting anti-woman sentiment in the fans’ minds. Maybe it’s both.

Here is a link to her Twitter feed, should you care to check it out. I’m not sure I’d recommend it, exactly, but it’s up to you. She shared several of the vilest threats she received, and also some of the supportive messages. It’s an education.

Also over the past 48 hours or so, a story about the horrific death of a lion in Zimbabwe has been making headlines globally. Lured from the safety of a national park, hunted, tracked and eventually slaughtered, the lion was skinned and beheaded and its carcass left to rot. The lion was named Cecil by the rangers in the park where it had lived since at least 1999, and it was part of a longitudinal study by Oxford University. It was a local ‘celebrity’, drawing tourists and those who wanted to marvel at its beauty and splendour. By all accounts, Cecil even enjoyed the company of people.  But it has emerged that an American man, known as a big-game hunter (and one who has had brushes with the law due to irregularities with his behaviour) had paid a hefty fee to hunt and kill ‘a lion’ – not necessarily Cecil, if the hunter’s account is to be believed – in the area, and had apparently believed his actions were entirely legal and above-board.

Except, when the animal was dead and it became clear that it was a collared lion, being monitored, the hunters made every effort to cover up their actions. They tried to destroy the collar., unsuccessfully They still skinned and beheaded Cecil, and left the remains behind. They made no effort or attempt to ‘fess up. The hunter returned home. The ‘guide’, who had been paid the hefty fee, pocketed it and turned away.

This situation is abhorrent. I, personally, condemn it in the strongest possible terms. I do not agree with the hunting of big game, whether one pays a ‘fee’ to do it or not, and whether or not this fee goes towards conservation. If one can afford thousands of dollars to destroy an animal in the name of ‘conservation’, why not simply go on safari to observe, take photographs, and pay your fee to preserve the animals? I do not agree that a lion which may have been more accustomed to humans than most deserved to be lured, tricked and tracked, shot with a bow and arrow and left to suffer for almost two days before finally being killed. I hate what this hunter has done with every fibre of my being, and he should be punished. He should never be allowed to take part in another hunt. The entire sport, when done in this way, should be abolished. (I’m not including hunting in indigenous communities, which is done to provide food, shelter and other necessities to maintain life, here; I’m talking about hunting as ‘sport’, whether paid for or not, simply for the ‘thrill’ of the kill).

But I do not stand over online harassment of this man’s family, staff and clients at his place of work, nor of the man himself. I don’t agree with vitriol being left on his website, or threats being made to his safety and wellbeing. If we condemn the abuse meted out to the Australian woman who dared to make a stand against misogyny, we can’t then turn around and shriek blue murder at a hunter whose actions happen to make us sick. Online abuse is online abuse; just because it’s being aimed at a ‘deserving’ victim doesn’t make it right. I hope that the family and friends of the hunter in question (and, grudgingly, he himself) are not feeling the same fear and stress that the Australian woman must have been feeling over the past few days – he deserves to be punished, certainly, and I hope he will be, to the fullest extent of the law. But his family and associates are innocent. They are as innocent as the solitary woman who said ‘no’ in the face of misogyny. I am not defending the hunter or his actions, which I believe to be abhorrent. I’m simply saying that in the clamour for ‘free speech’, we forget so easily the huge responsibility which comes with that privilege. We should use our freedom of speech to enact real change, and make meaningful commentary, and engage in true debate. If we sink to the level of online trolls, we have already lost.

The type of online abuse being suffered by the American hunter and the Australian woman is vastly different. She has been threatened with horrific physical abuse and threats of rape; he has received a few death threats among hundreds of largely clearly-phrased, well-written letters of condemnation. This, in itself, is a lesson. Women and men do not fare the same online. There are lessons we can learn, and things we can take from this situation – it’s an opportunity to begin a sea-change in how we conduct ourselves on the internet.

It won’t be taken, of course. I know that. Trolling will continue, and online hate will continue. But not, if I can help it, in my name.

Wednesday Write-In #91

outfox  ::  couture  ::  spell  ::  grate  ::  willow

Image: spartacus.wikia.com

Image: spartacus.wikia.com

Prey

I stop at the willow tree. Heart galloping. Fast – so fast! Breathe. Look. I can hear them – smell them. Not far. Hallooooing trumpets, their dogs in a frenzy.
I have nowhere to go.
They are coming.
I blink. Breath tears through me. Thirsty so thirsty so tired… Instinct takes over. The world looks strange as I run. Behind, not far enough, the howling starts again. They have my scent, and they are coming.

I had been cleaning out the grate when it happened. I froze as I heard the Ladies coming back into the Great Room; I’d been sure they’d left for the day, but I must have been mistaken.
Or, they’d changed their minds. It wasn’t unknown.
Their voices tinkled in the hallway, and I doubled my pace, fingers trembling, praying…
‘Ah! Look, sister. Our little soot-boy is still here.’
‘It cannot be!’
‘I assure you.’
‘But, whatever for?
‘I presume he has been lazy, and has left his tasks undone until the last moment. Wouldn’t you think so, sister dear?’
‘No other explanation presents itself, certainly.’
I stumbled to my feet, turning and bowing low. I hid my filthy hands from their cool, clean gazes; I shrank my plain, worn garments from their gowns, elaborate, couture, worth more than my life.
I knew.
‘My ladies, I -‘
‘Do not speak, boy,’ spat Lady Mary. ‘Have you been given permission to speak?’
‘Milady, no -‘
‘Again! He spoke again!’ crowed Lady Elizabeth. ‘Did you hear him, sister?’
Lady Mary did not answer. She crossed the room, her steps quick, her shoes click-click beneath the rustling of her skirts. She stood three feet from me, and I could hear her breathing. I crunched my eyes shut.
‘You. I tire of you, boy. Your insolence upsets me.’
I said nothing. My eyes burned.
‘A punishment, sister!’ called Lady Elizabeth, from the door.
‘I have just the thing,’ replied Lady Mary. The hissing of silks and two careful steps, and a giggle.
And then the pain.

I wake in her arms. Lady Mary’s. Her fingers cold. Cruel. Like metal. My breaths too quick. No voice. No hands. I kick. Her fingers dig in, deeper, like a claw. Like a trap.
‘Peace, soot-boy,’ she hisses. ‘The spell is yet to settle fully. If you disturb it now, it will be worse for you.’
I do not believe her. I try to cry out again, but nothing comes.
Striding toward the door. A hand reaches to unlatch it. Sunlight, air, a bright day.
Distant yapping makes my spine contract. I struggle. I try to bite.
‘You beast!’ screams Lady Mary.
She flings me from her and I fall. I miss my footing. No – I cannot find my feet, because they are not there. Before I can move, a savage pain bursts through me and I spin, splayed, out onto the lawn.
She has kicked me.
And then I see it. I am covered in fur.
The keening of dogs makes me heartsick. I know without knowing that they are coming for me.
‘Let’s see you outfox us now, little hare,’ I hear. Lady Mary. Lady Elizabeth stands beside her in the doorway, laughing. Her eyes dance.
‘Run, soot-boy!’ she calls, waving.
Once again, as I have always done, I obey.

The dogs are upon me. I can smell them. I can taste their hunger. No matter where I run, they are there.
Trumpets. Shouting. Howling. Heartache. Agony.
I taste my own blood on my tongue.
A flash of light draws my eye. Through a haze, I see. Sunlight. Sparkling on water.
The river!
A snarl to my right makes me veer left; a howl to my left makes me redouble my pace. I cannot breathe. These limbs, not my own, are numb.
Screaming from behind me. I cannot hear the words. I do not need to hear to understand.
I stretch, further than I think I can bear. Feel like I am being torn in two.
The dogs’ breath burns like an open flame.
Then the water, so shocking, so cold, so fast, so clear, and the pain, the pain, the thumping, deafening, whirlpooling agony, the popping and bursting, the groaning of muscles and sinew, the stretching and rending of bone…
I drag myself up on the far shore. My fingers run red. I am shivering, naked. I turn, blinking through my own eyes, through a film of exhaustion, at the hunters.
The water washed the spell away, along with my scent, but the dogs play at the shoreline, dancing with the water, waiting for the word. They don’t need to smell me to tear me to shreds.
A hunter raises her bow, and cocks it.
‘Wait!’ calls another, a slender girl, her skin flushed. ‘Not yet.’
‘But they will ask for his heart,’ replies the other. The bow does not tremble.
‘We can find another hare,’ says the slender girl, turning to me. Her dark eyes fill with fire. ‘Leave him for another day.’
‘But -‘
‘Just do as I ask,’ says the slender girl. She smiles, but it is not gentle. ‘He has given us the best chase in years. Would you destroy him?’
The bow is lowered.
‘And, as we well know,’ says the slender girl, ‘men make much easier prey than hares.’
She blows me a mocking kiss and pulls her horse around. The others follow, reluctantly, and soon I hear the howling start again.
They will know the heart is not mine.
I do not have long.

 

Wednesday Write-In #86

The prompt words this week:

mistake :: baggage :: curlew :: tear :: shatter

Image: brokesch.blogspot.com

Image: brokesch.blogspot.com

The Uncrowned King

Whoever found the curlew would be crowned King of the Slob, and Da had been limbering up for weeks, getting himself in prime hunting fettle. Me and Jimmy had been spending every evening after I came home from school gluing feathers to our paper headbands, which Mam had measured out just right for us, like crowns. Camouflage, she called them.

Now it was the night before, and Jimmy and me were nearly sick with the excitement.

‘It’ll be us, this year. I can feel it,’ Da said, striding around the kitchen table with his legs spread wide, body low to the ground. ‘The Flahertys, lads. This year. Kings of the Slob!’

‘King of all the eejits, more like,’ said Mam, stepping over him to dump a load of warmed plates on the table.

‘That’s what you say, Mary,’ said Da, in a dark and shivery voice, turning on Mam with his hands outstretched. ‘But it’d be a mistake, me dear. A big mistake!’

‘Phelim!’ she shrieked, flicking the tea-towel at him. ‘Will you ever cop on to yourself!’ But she was laughing, too, so me and Jimmy knew everything was grand.

‘I won’t!’ he roared, grabbing Mam up into his arms. She shrieked as Da tickled her, and Jimmy started clapping, like a baby. He slithered down off his stool and ran to them, but Mam swung back her hand just then to clatter Da around the head, and she knocked Jimmy down instead.

There was a second when nobody moved or said anything, and then Jimmy’s little wail – like a newborn lamb – rose up from under the table.

‘Holy Mother of God,’ said Mam, dropping to her knees.

‘Is the child all right?’ asked Da, holding onto the sink to keep himself on his feet. ‘Oh, sweet Jesus,’ he muttered, half to himself. From beneath the table I could hear Mam’s gentle whisperings, and Jimmy’s sobs, easing until they were barely there at all.

‘Come on, now,’ she said, straightening up, a red-faced Jimmy in her arms. His whole body was juddering and he had one fat fist shoved into his gob. Mam wiped a tear from his cheek. I wondered if I was the only one who noticed his curlew-hunting crown was shattered, though – it hung down at the back like a broken washing line, trailing feathers and bits of glue and Sellotape.

‘Me poor little man,’ said Da, and Jimmy started sobbing again. He threw himself forward, reaching out, and Da plucked him from Mam’s arms. The crown fell apart then, tumbling down in pieces all over the floor and Mam’s clean tablecloth.

‘Ah, will you look,’ said Mam, flapping at the shards of hat with her tea-towel. ‘There it is, gone.’

‘No matter,’ said Da, smoothing Jimmy’s sweaty hair, fine and blonde, back from his sticky face. Jimmy blinked, his bottom lip puckering out like the bowl of a spoon. ‘Sure there’ll always be next year. Won’t there, Joe?’ Da looked at me. The band of my own curlew-hunting crown felt hot against my head, and a stray piece of feather was digging into my skin. I felt like I’d swallowed something that was too big, something that was struggling as it went down into my stomach. Something with claws, and a long beak.

‘Answer your daddy, Joseph!’ said Mam, scooping up bits of feather with her hand. She frowned down the table at me. ‘You can hardly expect to go hunting the curlew without Jimmy, now, can you?’

I slid my crown off and put it on the table, and before anyone could say anything I ran out the back door and off down the lane. Redmond, the farmer, kept cows in the far field, and they seemed to understand most things.

I came back when I was ready, muck to my ears, and Jimmy was sitting on the kitchen table playing with Mam. She was clapping, and he was giggling, and he was wearing the crown I’d left behind like it was his birthright, and not one bit of bother on him, none at all.

**

Note for the curious: The ‘Slob’, or Sloblands, is the name given to an area of marshy land not far from where I grew up; it is now a bird sanctuary, where curlews are encouraged to breed and nest. I’ve invented the ‘King of the Slob’ and the curlew hunting, and – because curlews are endangered in the British Isles – I really don’t recommend hunting them for real!

Saturday Book Review – ‘The Lastling’

I freely admit that the main reason I picked up this book was because it had a snowy landscape on the cover. Anyone who’s been around here for longer than five minutes knows that, while I’m not terribly fond of snow in reality, I love reading about it. I’m fascinated by the Polar regions and those distant icy fastnesses of the world where anything – and anyone – can happen.

Image: readingmatters.co.uk

Image: readingmatters.co.uk

The second reason I picked it up is this: it’s published by Oxford University Press. Nine times out of ten, the children’s books published by OUP are worth checking out. This one was definitely worth the effort.

Philip Gross’ 2003 novel was a gripping affair from start to its Apocalypse Now-tinged ending, easily holding my attention and keeping me guessing – and that’s no easy feat. It tells the stories of Paris, a privileged fourteen-year-old American girl on a trip to the Himalayas with her distinctly strange uncle, and Tahr, a twelve-year-old boy who has been taken on by an elderly Buddhist monk, Shengo, as his apprentice. This pair of vastly different children end up realising exactly how similar they are, and how far they’ll go to protect something dear to them both – and how badly the odds are stacked against them, from all corners. It’s a book which, while having distinctly ‘otherworldly’ tones, is also firmly grounded in the real – Paris comes from a home which hasn’t been broken so much as smashed, and Tahr’s early life is a blur of painful memories involving burning, and pain, and being separated from his mother. Paris’ uncle, Franklin, is a man with more money than conscience, and his motives for coming to the Himalayas are far from noble. As well as that, the region is being torn apart by a brutal civil war, into which the children find themselves being thrust as they struggle to escape from the enemies who wish to destroy them, and that which they wish to protect.

Even though this book is, by most accounts, an ‘oldie’, it was certainly new to me. I was also unfamiliar with the author. I don’t want to give away too much about this precious thing the children want to save, though, for fear of spoiling a surprise for other readers – though, one look at the book’s cover, as I’ve shown it above, gives a multitude of clues.

Here’s an alternative cover, which is almost as intriguing.

Image: fantasticfiction.co.uk

Image: fantasticfiction.co.uk

The book is well paced, particularly as it draws to its conclusion; there are brutal scenes near the end, ones which bring home the reality of war and the truth of what it’s like to be at the mercy of people with no scruples, but they don’ t feel forced, or overdone. I loved the closing scenes of the book, and it’s one of those stories where I feel, had I been the author, I wouldn’t have changed a word. I enjoyed Philip Gross’ writing style, particularly in the scenes he writes about Paris on her own – these seem sparky and true to life, and her dialogue is great. He deals well with Tahr and his relationship with Shengo, and shows the delicacy of his growing friendship with Paris which transcends the profound differences in their backgrounds and experiences. An early scene, where Tahr loses someone he loves and blames himself for it, is moving and memorable, and perfectly pitched. Paris’ relationship with Franklin reminded me a little of Sym’s with her uncle Victor in ‘The White Darkness’, another OUP children’s book which I also really enjoyed; Franklin, despite his brains and money and skill, seems a little one-note and flat, mainly because there’s not a lot to him besides his psychopathy. Perhaps, indeed, this is the point.

‘The Lastling’ is a book about family, and love, and – in particular – children’s relationships with their mothers, and how important these relationships are. The contrasts between the various mothers in the text, and their connections to their children, are stark, and we see the differing levels of commitment, sacrifice and love offered by each mother to her child. There can scarcely be a more emotive thing for a children’s book to take as its central motif, and the way it’s used in this book is masterful. It draws a character which might seem otherwise completely impossible to relate to so close to the reader as to be almost uncomfortable, and in the process makes us realise a few dark truths about humanity, and our role in the destruction of the world around us. It’s not a new theme, by any means – mankind as the great destroyer – but I’ve never seen it handled quite like this book handles it.

In short, this is one of those rare books which will appeal equally to boys and girls, and should also be extremely readable for adults – it has war and guts in spades, but at its heart it’s a book about connection and emotion. It’s a book about humanity, and what makes humanity special and separate from the rest of the animal kingdom (hint: not a lot), and which should make anyone who reads it think for a while about the arrogance of our species and what, exactly, we’re basing that arrogance upon.

In short – recommended. Read it, but be prepared to be angry.

Tahr helping Paris up a cliff-face, as described near the end of the book.  Image: learnerscavalcade.blogspot.ie, via Google images

Tahr helping Paris up a cliff-face, as described near the end of the book.
Image: learnerscavalcade.blogspot.ie, via Google images