Punching a kangaroo is one thing. Mauling and then stabbing a pig is another altogether, writes Geoff Russell.
A video went viral recently of a man punching a kangaroo. The man was carrying a really large knife and there are a couple of dogs in the film. For some strange reason, there’s been a considerable out-pouring of sympathy for the punchee, the kangaroo, while the puncher, one Greig Tonkins, is reportedly cowering before threats of revenge from animal rights people.
Most people know that I’ve been happy to wear that tag for a few decades and you can bet I reckon there’d be a special place in hell for Tonkins, if there was a hell, but not because of his punching the kangaroo. The punch certainly had shock and surprise value, but not much more.
But what about the pigs?
Imagine an out of control car killing five people and ending up ploughing through a shop window… with this last event caught on video. How strange would it be for the headline to read: “Car through window” with scant mention of the five deaths?
Tonkins and his mates went out with their dogs and knives to rip apart some pigs. If you have a strong stomach, you can find out what pig-doggin’ is by checking out this 2012 ABC report.
Hunters frequently glorify the notion of a “clean kill”; a single perfectly placed bullet that instantly snuffs out the consciousness of an animal. It is fired with extraordinary skill by a cool and methodical killer. This certainly is possible and quite common with some kinds of hunting.
It’s possible but rare when hunters use shotguns on ducks. Many fly on with pellets in one or other organs; or perhaps smashed legs or bills. But duck shooters at least make a pretense of wanting a clean kill, even if it is technically just a statistically unlikely chance event.
The pig doggers on the other hand, make no such pretense. The dogs catch and start ripping into the pig, at some point the person may judge that their own risk of injury is low enough, meaning the pig is weak enough, to move in with a knife and kill the pig. This is a slow, painful and terrifying way to kill an animal.
It is ironic that a person who would have dogs risk injury to rip apart a pig, as opposed to say shooting it, works for a zoo; Taronga’s Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo. Not surprisingly, Taronga doesn’t support pig dogging and issued a statement:
“Taronga strongly opposes the striking of animals and does not support the practice of using dogs to hunt, as this can result in negative welfare for both species.”
The zoo added:
“However, the highest standards of animal welfare and care are a core value of Taronga and one that we expect our staff to uphold in all their interactions with wildlife and we continue to work with Mr Tonkins on his conduct in regards to this incident.”
I suspect they’ll offer Tonkins an empathy for beginners course.
How can a person with any empathy at all set one animal onto another? Or kill any animal slowly and painfully by any method?
Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of our Nature explains how we all have the capacity to inflict sufferring but are also all equipped with inhibitions that prevent it: guilt, cultural taboo, and the visceral revulsion most people feel when inflicting pain.
Pinker was talking about people hurting people, but people hurting animals looks to be operate in much the same way. Demonise pigs and you won’t feel guilty about making them suffer. Make it legal and the cultural taboos will be largely annulled.
I recall a trip in outback NSW many years ago with a person now dead. We were standing on a river bank and he pointed to an area of the bank about 10 meters long that had been seriously damaged by rooting pigs… which is what pigs do.
On the other side of the river were about 200 cattle and they had trashed the riverbank for as far as I could see. Not by rooting, but simply by walking around. While the pig damage evoked considerable anger and disgust in my host, he was totally blind to the cattle damage.
That kind of selective visual impairment is the first thing you need in a pig dogger. You have to hate the pigs in order to ignore or perhaps relish their suffering.
Taronga has it right about pig dogging the law has it wrong. Nothing in pig behaviour justifies such savagery and barbarism.
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