Concern for wildlife is sorely lacking
“Stock losses”. The words just rolled off a weary farmer’s tongue on a recent news report on the fires. Lip gloss, tooth floss, fairy floss, stock loss. It doesn’t quite capture the terror of plunging around a paddock in searing heat and choking smoke, crashing into fences and ditches in a terrified effort to escape but still being burned alive.
Small mercy would be choking before the final blast of heat that preceeds the flames does its worst. Animals got a mention on one SBS report, with one farmer saying how horrific it was. No not the being burned alive, or even the shooting of the blackened survivors, but the mess if the corpses were left too long before burial.
I’m left comparing biro losses and stock losses. Perhaps they need to search under the sofa, that’s where my biros seem to end up.
Our wildlife haven’t even rated a mention in the news reports I’ve seen so far.
But it’s the same in disasters everywhere. We know 20 million Pakistani humans were displaced in the 2010 floods but what of the animals?... the stock losses? There are reports. They take time to compile after the event. Pakistan’s animals died in their millions. Over 300,000 large animals and about 10 million chickens. Those that survived probably suffered the worst. No feed. No bullets.
It’s too early to know how many animals have burned alive in Australia in the current fires. Insurance companies will eventually know. They’ll eventually tally the livestock into deadstock, but by the time the information is available, the fires will be old news and the next glittering bauble jingling in the media’s scanning spotlight gaze will dominate our infotainment.
But disasters show us many sides of human nature. It’s a hackneyed line, but is it true? I think not. Bastards remain bastards. They loot and profiteer. They know which stocks rise and fall with a fire or a flood. But good people can indeed shine in adversity and get their fifteen minutes of media fame. Disasters don’t so much show many sides of a person, or even of a few people, they just show many people. Some risk life and limb to rescue animals, while others plan a killing.
In some people, a perhaps long dormant empathy rises like a fire-storm when they see a suffering animal in front of them. During the 2011 Queensland floods horses got rescued in a variety of circumstances, and even kangaroos and snakes found friends.
But maybe the hackneyed could come true. We could be shown the many sides, perhaps even the contradictions. We could be shown images of those same brave animal rescuers a week later loading their supermarket trolleys with cling wrapped serves of the recently rescued but dead.
We could be shown rescuers in their air conditioned cars listening to music as they wait at traffic lights behind livestock transports carrying un-lost stock in 40 degree heat for an appointment with a stockyard and a long steel bolt.
And in the good times? Between disasters. How do animals fare? Horrific pictures have emerged in the past days of cattle being unloaded from ships in Indonesia. Hoist high in bunches by bridles on their heads.
You may have seen a person pickup 4 stubby bottles in one hand. Now imagine cattle instead of bottles and you almost get the picture. But the flailing. You must imagine the flailing. It’s no mistake that “being treated like cattle” is a common claim from people suffering maltreatment.
But at least these cattle aren’t “stock losses”, and our farmers will bank the cheques and think of their good fortune at getting their animals on those boats instead of lost in some bloody fire and making a foul smelly mess in their paddock.
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