Category Archives: South Africa

On Melissa Bachman and Hunting in General

Well, if you don’t know about it already, a well-known TV presenter took a picture of herself with the lion she shot on a farm in South Africa. She was recently brought under the all-powerful microscope of society to be scrutinised and threatened by people who know nothing about what she did, except for the bare basics. Some of these comments, made by respectable people, celebrities and the common internet junkie, have been deplorable in their own right, calling this woman things like ‘monster’, ‘evil’, and ‘poes’ (If you’re not South African, this is a very rude word which one certainly would not use publicly to describe a person).

+10 points for the smile, Melissa. I don't care what the internet says. I have my own opinions, and I think you're alright.

+10 points for the smile, Melissa. I don’t care what the internet says. I don’t derive my opinions from the masses, and I think you’re alright.

And yet, the people doing the insulting don’t know the details of the situation, They simply follow others on-board the train to ‘higher moral ground’ and from there grant themselves the power in numbers to publicly condemn this woman without consequence. I find this quite disturbing. It brings to mind the idea that civilisation as we know it is only separated by a thin veil from absolute chaos. People just need an insignificant incident to excuse themselves from virtue and act with impunity.

Let’s get down to it then. Yes, yes, the moral saying of the day is that hunting is evil, that we should condemn it as a barbaric, savage act of cruelty to animals. I think that’s a perfectly valid opinion, or rather, it would be if we did not live in a society which uses animal products on a massive scale, which effectively makes anyone who uses the colourful aforementioned words look like a total moron (I’m looking at you, Jeremy Mansfield. Way to go for propagating ignorance and redundant values).

Here are some fun facts I picked up after 5 minutes of research: Throughout the world, 50 billion chickens a year are raised (meaning this number will die within the year) for human consumption. These chickens are kept in cages which are comparable in size to an A4 paper. You eat chicken burgers/chicken fillet/eggs/chicken wings/chicken anything, really. This means that you are condoning the mass-genocide of animals every year. What’s that you’re sitting on? Leather? No, no. It looks more like SHAME.

A typical and very legal chicken laying farm.

A typical and very legal chicken laying farm.

My frustrations on the subject: It’s alright to condemn hunting if you’re a vegan and live like a hippie. But it’s not alright to condemn hunting when you eat meat, own leather products or use animal produce in any way, which implicates almost everyone on Earth. They have a name for someone like this: Hypocrite.

How (Legal and Illegal) Hunting Works: I live in a country which makes a great deal of its annual income from the hunting industry. Do we hunt animals in the wild? No, not legally. There is a reason for this, which is quite simple. Animals don’t really survive out in the wild – lions, leopards, rhino, you name it, they mean only one thing to poachers: money. A poacher is not restricted from finding these animals out in the wild. They are in essence walking money. A hunter-friend of mine tells me lions can be worth R200 000 and up. However, the legalised hunting industry in South Africa makes use of game farms, which are basically vast areas of untouched land which are fenced off and filled with a very low density population of animals of any variety. These animals are allowed to breed naturally, are not fed any funky stuff and pretty much lead the life of an animal in the wild, except that their natural predators are replaced by humans. Game farmers are people of the land. They live right next to nature every day. They rely on it for their livelihoods, and thus have an incentive to ensure that the population of animals on their farms does not decrease. The game farmer will allow hunters to enter the farm and enjoy a drive through the beautiful South African savannah for a few hours while searching for an animal. Professional hunting standards dictate that when you shoot an animal, it has to be an instant kill. This is enforced by the fact that animals are tough and will run away and die somewhere else if you hit them in the wrong place, and the hunter will end up having to pay a small fortune to take nothing home. The hunter pays for what he kills, the farmer ensures that the animal population remains consistent and a healthy ecosystem remains on the farm. A species like the west African lion, which would otherwise be hunted to extinction by poachers in the wild, is guaranteed survival as a species, protected from poachers who don’t care about how they kill, or how many they kill.

Lion populations are untenable outside designated reserves and national parks.

Why the Hunting Industry is Essential to Animals: That sounds very counter-intuitive, but it’s an established, albeit little-known fact. Let’s think about what would happen if hunting in South Africa were banned, if the fences came down and the hunters stopped coming and paying to hunt animals legally. The populations of these animals would decline dramatically, simply because there isn’t much ‘wild’ left. Old game farms would likely be turned into crop farms or developed, driving the animals into ever-shrinking habitats. Do the maths: So much land = so many animals. The less land, the less animals that can survive. Then take into account the poachers. Do you think they’d let a walking moneybag like a lion walk around in the wild for long? Consider every valuable animal in South Africa extinct within a few decades, probably less. Then the less valuable will follow as the numbers dwindle. Furthermore, consider the implications for the local environment, which would ultimately suffer in the total and very sudden absence of these animals. Whether you like it or not, hunting is here to stay. It is the foremost effort of wildlife conservation in South Africa. It’s sustainable, it’s definitely more humane than the factory-farms you get your burger-patties from, and it’s profitable so you can be damn sure it’s not going anywhere in a while.

The Moral Implications: A dear (and very sexy) friend of mine highlighted that she finds hunting more or less acceptable provided it’s not for recreation and that the catch is used to make food, etc. These two things are not mutually exclusive. Any hunter worth his salt knows how to turn his catch of the day into a month’s worth of delicious biltong (South African beef Jerky, but aeons better) or knows someone who can do it for him, but that doesn’t mean he can’t enjoy the South African scenery, breathe the fresh air, enjoy looking at the other less interesting animals as he drives by and, of course, experience the thrill of having caught the damn thing. Believe it or not, aiming and firing a VERY heavy rifle at a moving animal’s head from far away is tough, and any human who doesn’t celebrate his or her ability to do it right is certainly not doing it right in the first place.

What? Jus' cause I'm ugly, you don't care if she kills me?

I’m a fish, and I know you don’t really care so much when you see this photo, because I’m not as gorgeous as that lion. You’re such a good person.

Hunting, whether you despise it or celebrate it, is an art as old as the human race itself. Sure, the weapons have changed, but the feeling of earning your dinner for the night with sweat and hard work is as ingrained in us as any emotion. It’s the exact same feeling the hunter feels today. It’s like experiencing a little piece of history.

Remember to like this and follow my blog if you share my interests.

And always remember to stand back and look at the big picture before stoning someone to death.

I won’t be posting related articles because they are all essentially saying the exact same thing, which happens to be incorrect and uninformed.

Savva

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Filed under South Africa

The Drug-Parks of Hillbrow

Almost a year ago, I had the absolute privilege of being escorted through South Africa’s most notorious urban nightmare.

After the tour, I was asked to write a small piece on it, and I stumbled on it this morning. I felt there would be no better place to share it than here.

Note: A South African Rand (R) is exchanged at about 9.5 to the dollar as of this post.

So here’s an unedited extract from my experiences a year ago:

———————-

On that day, of the 200 students involved, not a single one was prepared for what was to come. After a buffet breakfast and a short presentation by the manager of the programme, we were driven by the busload to the Inner city of Johannesburg, inquisitive and fresh. We met the Hillbrow Community Watch guards, people who volunteer to patrol some of the most dangerous locations in South Africa… at night. They were tough, serious, solid people. I felt safer with them in the streets of Joburg  than I would feel on my own  in any other, significantly safer place. They escorted us through some of the scalier streets in Joburg. We passed a stall selling fake ID books and driver’s licenses. We passed hundreds of thousands of plastic bags. We smelled every smell we deemed possible within a few hours, some assaulting, some nostalgic, some alluring. I recognized old computer cables I thought were extinct, and TV’s the size of a fairly large book were abundant.

The buses were waiting a few kilometres down for the group. Once we all boarded, they drove us to Hillbrow. The very centre of Hillbrow, where the gangs run rampant and decent drivers are scarce. We marched past the Hillbrow clinic, its structural integrity seeming to be on the brink of collapse. We walked past a group of Nigerian gangsters, looking away as they taunted the familiar, antagonistic Hillbrow Watch guards. Eventually, a dead end to the road loomed. Strange characters walked in and out of an enclosed park the size of two tennis courts. Some infants attempted to play soccer in one spot. A lady stared at us from her car with bloodshot eyes from the other side of the road.

Our group of 200 separated into several smaller groups, each climbing through a space in the wall to get inside the park. “Come look at the sea!” screamed a woman in her insanity, pointing out toward the end of the park, where thousands of small plastic packets amalgamated on the grass as it dipped down into a treacherous rolling hill. We walked over the packets, disregarding them as a part of the abundant rubbish that formed the grounds of Hillbrow. The park was strewn with small groups of Nigerian men, all of them smoking something, but not typical cigarettes. They eyed us out, perhaps wondering if these were potential trouble-makers. Individual groups of students were escorted by the Hillbrow watch to some dealers who were willing to talk about the drugs they were selling. A young man came up to us first. He was Zulu. He was well-educated, well spoken for a drug-addict. He claimed to have passed matric. He was no taller than I, and certainly not older than 20. He told us of the drugs.

“I sell drugs so that I have money to buy drugs so that I can live. If I do not smoke it, my body will destroy itself. I will die. I live to smoke, and I smoke to live. That is my life. You cannot escape it.”

He opened up a small plastic packet. Inside was a yellowish block of dust. Everyone jumped in disgust as they realised what they were standing on. Old drug doses, discarded on the floor. “This is 1 shot of heroin. It costs R20 a shot. You need about two shots to get high. Instead of injecting it, we like to put it in cigarette paper and smoke it because it hits you harder and faster.”

He went on to explain more about the drugs, how people steal or beg to find the money to fuel their addiction. “People who would not usually steal or kill will do it for the drug. They have to survive,” he said. “I hate it, it’s a death trap. But I cannot escape the drug.”

We went to the next man willing to speak. An abject, pitiful old man. His beard was overgrown and he used crutches to support his limp leg. He had a decaying pink backpack. He explained that, years ago, Hillbrow was prosperous, nobody was homeless. The drug on the market back then was called brown sugar. It was a less dangerous and less addictive version of heroin. Eventually, brown sugar disappeared and was replaced by heroin, once people smoked it or injected it, according to the old man, within seven days, it would leave your system entirely and you would be addicted, craving more. People were consumed by it and living conditions soon plummeted. Once again he explained the death trap. “When I get up in the morning, before I can move, before I can do anything, I must have 2 shots of heroin, or I cannot function. Then, by 2 o’ clock, it wears off and I need another two shots. If I don’t get them in time then I slow down, I get headaches, I can’t move.” He said that he spends R200 a day fuelling his addiction. He cannot afford rehab tablets or doctor appointments. He is destitute, destroyed by the drugs his body requires to live.

“The drug walks hand in hand with the devil. When you take it, you will do things you can’t do when you are off it. When you need it you are prepared to do anything to get it. I am lucky because I have skills to persuade people to give me money. I can ask the gogo at the market to buy me some food. She will buy it for me, but I will sell it somewhere for cheaper to get money for heroin. I am lucky, but others, they can’t do the same thing, so they steal, they hijack, they find babies to use at robots so people will feel sorry for them and give them cash. They get huge money from that, people give hundreds, fifties, you can make a lot of money that way, but it all goes to drugs.”

The most profound realisation of that day was not the sight of real drugs, or the thousands of spent doses of heroin along the sides of the park, or the young people so close to my age, locked in a battle with death until they faltered or grew too tired to carry on. The greatest surprise was the hatred with which these people spoke of their addictions. They despised the drug, they detested the very thought of heroin, their dependence on it. Their aversion for the drug was powerful, but they had no choice but to take the drug. It is, after all, a true life-or-death addiction.

———————-

Makes for a good life-lesson. They always discuss these issues in South Africa – how to reduce poverty, raise the standard of education, create more employment, but this felt like a real issue. The underground heroin-empires of South Africa, preying on those who would try it the first time just to keep the hunger-pangs at bay.

Remember to tell me your thoughts in the comments!

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Filed under Philosophy, South Africa