Sir Bob Jones

Commentary on issues of the day from the property tycoon, author and former politician

Bob Jones: We love meat, but please don't kill animals

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The stuffed giraffe head in The Antique Shop in Howick cause an eruption of protests. Photo / Jason Dorday
The stuffed giraffe head in The Antique Shop in Howick cause an eruption of protests. Photo / Jason Dorday

In the same week recently, when an eruption of protests including a threat to burn the shop down occurred after an Auckland antique dealer displayed for sale a mounted giraffe's neck and head, a similar carry-on occurred in Suffolk. That was against a village butcher for filling his shop window with (presumably gutted) pheasants, rabbits and pigs. Two days later a furniture and homewares store placed a display advertisement in the New Zealand Herald showing a range of mounted deer and zebra heads for sale, all of which drew no protest.

All of this testifies to the confused standards in our approach to animals. For example, I have no doubt if we marched everyone through abattoirs there would be a surge in vegetarianism. Conversely, take a vegetarian camping, fry bacon outdoors and the aroma will prove irresistible, even to a vegan.

Subsequently, the English butcher was inundated with support and has continued with his "corpses" display, probably correctly blaming "townies" who only know meat as something in plastic-wrapped cartons.

Reminding them that their meat purchases were once pretty creatures is understandably a reality they'd rather not know, and who can blame them?

"Giraffes are such a gentle animal," protested one Auckland complainant ungrammatically. Well so are deer yet there must be tens of thousands of mounted deer heads and antlers on display throughout the country, but I've never heard any protest. I have eight mounted trout on my billiard room walls which draw only admiration and are presumably socially acceptable for we collectively (and wrongly) treat fish dismissively as somehow not counting.

God knows who wants a mounted giraffe or zebra's head but neither are different in principle from my trout or an antlered stag's head. I've spent a good part of my life wading rivers pursuing trout which has brought me more pleasure than any other activity but, again contradictorily, I could never shoot an animal or bird. Indeed, I've only killed one fly in my life, this in 1971 after it followed me on to a Melbourne tram, into the hotel lift and into my room where it continued its malicious persecution. But afterwards, I felt bad about it for days.

A decade ago, the Conservation Department offered an aerial blitz of my property. It duly did it, thus ending the possum problem which was blighting my native bush. Hitherto my gardeners would catch them in cages then shoot and bury them. One Saturday my brother, Lloyd, came to play tennis and as we walked towards the court "horrors!" for there gazing at us in a cage was a terrified possum. Neither of us could shoot it while I certainly wasn't going to release it back into my garden. Lloyd then offered to later free it in the hills on the other side of the valley.

He took it to Wellington's wealthy Lowry Bay, adjacent to his home bay, drove to the last house on the bush-line and released it on the front lawn whereupon the owner opened the window and shouted, "What do you bloody well think you're up to?" "Research," Lloyd quickly responded and the bloke promptly apologised. I borrowed that in my novel Full Circle.

We're all a kaleidoscope of contradictions about our treatment and consumption of living creatures. Vegetarians happily wear leather shoes, doubtless unthinkingly, for when putting on their shoes, do they ever stop and consider it's an animal's skin they're holding? So too with fur-lined boots or gloves, or to extrapolate this line of thinking further, our timber furniture and houses which mostly emanate from planted man-made forests, in the process destroying diverse creatures' natural habitats.

Once in New York I came across a coven of shrieking, banner-bearing madwomen protesting outside a furriers conference. "How are your leather shoes acceptable?" I asked one. "You wouldn't understand. It's different," she replied but of course it's not, both being animal skins.

The fact is not just humans but all animal species, and particularly marine creatures, rely on slaughtering others for survival. Even if we all become vegetarians we would, to take an extreme example, continue killing life, such as cancer cells which in a strict definition sense, have parents and children. What about their rights? But as with other life forms it's us or them, thus the survival urge makes that no contest.

Possibly half the population over 40 owe their lives or wellbeing to modern medicine, often created through great cruelty to laboratory rats and mice. We dote over baby animals yet eat vast quantities of lambs and young chickens. It's out of sight thus out of mind behaviour.

Bearing all of that in mind, the giraffe and English butcher protesters were silly, but certainly not hypocritical for when it comes to ethical, moral or philosophic issues, consistency is always the hardest thing to achieve.

- NZ Herald

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