Odd how life seems to occasionally throw up these strange synchronicities. I wrote, somewhat intemperately and grumpily last week about the animal based hoo-hah surrounding yer man Pen Farthing and his collection of waifs and strays. Well, not about them so much, more about the Great British Public's somewhat mystifying preference for saving animals over actual people.
And blow me down with a feather if I'm not about about to make a highly similar argument this week. For this is the week which has seen everyone's favourite Alpaca, Geronimo dragged somewhat dramatically off the farm where it had been blamelessly pottering about these past few years and put down by Government vets to avoid the spread of bovine tuberculosis, with which the poor little sod was riddled, apparently.
Now, I'm not going to deny that the sight of Geronimo, clearly not down with what was about to happen, getting dragged away was pretty distressing. And I'm also not actually going to defend the Government's policy here, either, I'm fairly pro-badger, and thus anti-culling, and it seems only reasonable to extend that courtesy to Geronimo. So, while I think the policy which got him culled was completely wrong-headed, it is, nonetheless, the stated Government strategy, so I'm not surprised it was carried out.
But the circus surrounding it was ludicrous. That this was even a news story at all is evidence that our media has the collective intellectual firepower of a herring, and not a particularly bright one at that.
Animals get killed all the time in this country. If you're not vegan, quite a lot of them have been killed to satisfy your appetite, if you are vegan, then believe me you don't want to know about the slaughter that goes down at harvest time when the combines come rumbling through the fields.
Badgers have died in their thousands over the Government's strategy. Every year, countless pheasants are released so fat blokes in red trousers can shoot them. Chicken nuggets are a thing. Horses get shot after they fall over in races. Animals are tested to death for medicines, countless cetaceans die as bycatch in trawler's nets. Noisy ocean going traffic drives whales onto beaches. HS2 destroys ancient woodlands, ruining habitats for generations to come, drivers hit deer, squash hedgehogs, dogs off the lead maul ground nesting birds, or drive the parents away and leave nests vulnerable to predators..
I'll go further, if you pave over your garden so you can park a car on it, you're actively destroying millions of invertebrates. If you cut your lawn, use weedkiller, spray your plants for bugs, own a cat, you are destroying so much life that it's barely comprehensible.
To be a human being is, one way or another, to be, directly or indirectly, responsible for an uncountable death toll of other animals. It doesn't matter how virtuous you are.
And yes, all these facts and events are protested, one way or another. But not on the scale of the outcry surrounding Geronimo, or Pen Farthings menagerie. Maybe it's because these are simple, easy to grasp cases, maybe it's because, let's face it, Geronimo was cute. Cuter than all the mice that died when you put your extension up, anyway, or the pigeons that roosted in the tree you chopped down because the leaves were a nuisance. Maybe it was the seeming unfairness of the full might of the British state against one Alpaca.
As I noted last week, we like to think of ourselves as a nation of animal wonders, but our actions don't bear that out. And I wonder if that self-image is tinged with guilt, subconsciously we know the damage we're doing. Geronimo becomes a totem, save this one Alpaca, and you can save the world.
It's a beguiling idea, but ultimately a wrong-headed one, and the fatuous circus which has surrounded its (admittedly reprehensible) killing is out of all proportion to the damage that we do, each and every one of us, on a daily basis.