31. Reflections Under a Wooly Sky (05/2010)
London is considered by many to be the most cosmopolitan city in the world today. Multiculturalism ends after less than two hours by train down the Kent coast where the territory remains compromisingly British. A summer stint as a locum at a Veterinary Surgery within a huge pet shop the size of a rugby field, situated in an enormous retail park surrounded by strawberry fields is a startling contrast to the vast Karoo and the mythological English Countryside.
Nature in his wisdom is in a constant state of flux balancing, reorganizing, creating harmony and chaos. Shifting continental plates and weather patterns, tides and ecology reflect the cycles of change and instability on earth. Man is good at disrupting things on every level. Genetic manipulation is a particularly satisfying and devastating pursuit.
Brenda, the British bulldog whose existence epitomizes the gleeful aspirations and horrors of pedigree enthusiasts regularly needs treatment. She was born via caesarian section because her mother’s hips were too narrow to allow natural whelping. Two deformed siblings weren’t viable outside the womb. Breathing difficulties from a shortened muzzle, squashed nose, and trailing soft palate hinder exertion, temperature regulation, and a peaceful night’s sleep. Her overshot jaw protrudes way beyond comfortable or functional occlusion, and she drools. Dry, bulging eyes poorly concealed by distorted lids are susceptible to ulceration. Excessive skin folds fester with painful eczema. Bowed and twisted limbs inhibit any semblance of graceful canine motion. Her gnarled tail that hardly wags presses into her left buttock. She is physically monstrous and has the sweetest personality: Beauty within the Beast. The caring owner claims she represents perfection, meeting all the breed standards; therefore she must produce more of her kind. The stud Bertie, being a model specimen himself, was physically unable to mount Brenda, and after an unsuccessful rape scene, they resorted to AI. Three weeks later her body rejected the foetuses in the form of a life threatening uterine infection. The vet is held accountable for failing to prevent this loss. Meanwhile in the wake of recession, thousands of healthy animals are being abandoned, ending in euthanasia.
Martha the geriatric guinea pig has split a nail. She is not at all herself: she eats less, moves reluctantly, her communicative spirit is dampened, and every now and then she cries in pain. On closer examination there is a crack in the nail of her left pinkie exposing raw flesh and fresh traces of blood. The frayed sensitive nerve endings are alerting her body to protect the finger while the vet reintroduces the concept of time.
The average household in a harbour town in Kent produces three large black bags of refuse every week. On garbage collection day if the trash is not piled on the pavement in front of the house, the resident is probably dead. Recent statistics indicate an alarming increase in the number of single corpses not being detected, sometimes for years. Dwindling shoals of fish in the North Sea have led to the collapse of local fishing industries. Recovery is slow. Environmental destruction, pollution, and global warming contribute to the decline. Seagulls have become a menace, the bane of the local municipality. Gulls are highly intelligent, communicative survivors. They’ve discovered the lucky rip packets reveal delectable remains of ready meals. The ship has landed in the suburb due for refuse collection. Gulls are yelling down streets strewn with the stuff of third world dreams. The ubiquitous birds have become fearless, which gets them in to trouble, because just like the rest of us they haven’t quite adapted to the modern world with its traps, snares and disregarded bewares. They are hounded, cursed, tortured and beaten. The wounded are considerately boxed and taken ‘straight down the vets’ to be humanely destroyed.
Gandhi said ‘The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated’.