Thursday, October 29, 2009

I Once Shot a Baboon

I once shot a baboon

I suppose it must have been some thirty years ago now. A very large mature Hamadryas Baboon escaped from his cage due to a 'keeper omission'. He was a magnificent beast, a beautiful bouncy cape and long sharp canines some four inches long. 'Johnny' (that was his name) was not renowned for his friendly personality and outside the realm of the familiar he was irritated and dangerous. There were visitors in the zoo and the situation could in an instant easily develop into a tragedy. Darting in such instances is not a realistic option so I shot and killed him. I did it because I had to. I hated doing it and in spite of the passage of time I remember it as if it were yesterday. At the time I had mentally explored the possible alternatives available without there being risk to someones life and limb. There were none but even now I visit the situation in my head and wonder if I could have done something else. Other than using this story in teaching situations I have not talked about it because it still disturbs me. I liked 'Johnny', I respected him and through the wire he was a friend.

The first and last book I ever read by Ernest Hemingway had a graphic description of shooting a baboon. Whereas I do not recollect the exact words he used I can still see the picture he painted in my head (and I read this 35 years ago). Hemingway must then have been a great writer but I am no fan of the glorification of gore and doubt very much if I would have liked the guy.

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Now AA Gill. I like reading him. Everything I have ever read I have enjoyed. I am a fan. I love his restaurant reviews even if they are for places I could never afford to eat at. I often disagree with what he has to say but the way he says it leaves me both interested and amused. I even enjoy the way the critics attack him.

Sadly I was appalled by his recent and totally unnecessary shooting of a baboon.

AA Gill reviews The Luxe 109 Commercial Street, E1 I shot a baboon in Africa, last Wednesday, just after lunch. Shot it dead. Those of you of a nervous disposition should look away now. This article contains graphic scenes and may upset the sensitive. But it doesn’t contain flash photography, so while it may make you froth at the mouth, it won’t make you bite through your tongue, jerk about on the floor and wet yourself. I was in Africa wearing a Robert Redford Out of Africa hat. The sort of hat that just makes you ache to kill stuff. I have a theory about hats: they really do maketh the man. Temperament and inclination to actions and professions inhabit a hat. Guardsmen are obvious examples, as are policemen, clowns and builders. Put on a yellow hard hat and you are possessed. Magically your buttocks crawl out of your jeans and you have an incontestable desire to say: “Two shoogs and an ’obnob, love.”
We could do a lot of liberal social engineering by rearranging titfers. If riot police had to wear mortarboards, there would be much less gratuitous truncheoning. Prison warders should wear chefs’ hats, bishops should have big Ascot hats, lads in hoodies should be made to wear those food-safety hygiene hairnets after dark. If the Jews and the Arabs wore each other’s yarmulkes and tea towels, it probably wouldn’t lead to peace in the Middle East, but it would be bloody funny. So I’m in Africa, in a hat, with dark intentions and a truck full of guns and other blokes in hats. Josh the hunter said: “Why don’t we shoot a baboon?” All nonchalant, looking out of the window at the amazing Tanzanian acacia scrub that drifts into the Serengeti plain. What about a baboon? And here’s the thing. If you tool around the beautiful and unruly bits of Africa long enough in the company of gangs of men in purposeful hats, sooner or later you’re going to do baboon. You think you’re not, you think you’re the exception, you’re going to just say no to baboon, but pretty soon it’s the monkey on your back. I should have worn my Stella McCartney hat. So, I said, why not? Just a little one. I can handle it; I’ll be a recreational primate killer. Now, baboons aren’t stupid. Well, no stupider than Piers Morgan. They know that bipedal hominids in hats, hanging around in trucks with guns, are up to no good. They see you, they sod off, in great gambolling gan.........

You can read on by clicking here:

It is yet another of those sad reflections on. Kill to see what it feels like. Maybe he will feel sorry about it later.

I have killed many animals in my life. I have done it because I had to or because it needed to be done. I have never enjoyed a single kill and certainly never killed to see what it felt like. I will still read AA Gill only now it will be with a bitter taste in my mouth.

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