Li­censed to cull

The Weekend Australian - Magazine - - Viewpoint - By PhilliP adams

Squire, my favourite dog, hates loud noises, even those hu­mans can’t hear. Dis­tant thun­der and neigh­bours miles away shoot­ing. He can hear that now and, gun-shy, is hid­ing un­der the house. Given the num­ber of guns un­der lock and key at the farm it’s a won­der I’m not in the Shoot­ers, Fish­ers and Farm­ers Party or a vo­cal sup­porter of such gun-nuts as David Ley­on­hjelm or Bob Kat­ter’s pis­tol-packin’ ri­fle-totin’ boot-scootin’ son-in-law, gun im­porter Robert Nioa. But the truth is I don’t like the damn things. They are, how­ever, a tool of the farm­ing trade. A nec­es­sary evil.

Dur­ing this never-end­ing drought I’ve given the coup de grace to dy­ing cat­tle – and called in lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to cull some of the thou­sands of kan­ga­roos bound­ing across our red, Mar­tian land­scape. And mo­tion-sen­si­tive night-vi­sion cam­eras are pick­ing up grow­ing num­bers of the wild dogs that maul our few re­main­ing sheep. Scores of them, mainly cross­breeds, a bit of dingo with a lot of kelpie, col­lie or some other es­capee from do­mes­tic­ity – or with the big brute dogs used in pig­ging. Across Aus­tralia these ma­raud­ers are a menace and it’s a los­ing bat­tle to re­duce their num­bers, de­spite the usual com­bi­na­tion of shoot­ing, trap­ping and poi­soned baits.

Feral pigs – liv­ing bull­doz­ers that wreak havoc on sur­viv­ing crops – are an­other tar­get. We’re cursed with them, once again cross­breeds of those born wild with refugees from a lo­cal pig­gery once owned by Paul Keat­ing. Last night I watched a conga-line of piglets be­tween boar and sow, an ad­mix­ture of black to white to pink. Pigs can, in a sin­gle night, wreck an en­tire pad­dock as they barge through fences and shovel the soil with their strong-as-steel snouts. We trap a few and once had a man­ager’s son who’d chase them in our truck, jump­ing out in bare feet to bring down a brute with a rugby tackle. But mostly it’s an­other gun job.

Fer­als of all sorts are tar­geted. Foxes that prey on the chooks, cats that kill na­tive birds and, of course, the wretched rab­bits that nib­ble the ve­g­ies. And from time to time, al­beit re­luc­tantly, I’ve shot a snake that’s killed a pet dog or eaten our eggs. Or even slith­ered into the laun­dry. Hence the va­ri­ety of guns and ri­fles in the safe. Dif­fer­ent tar­gets, dif­fer­ent cal­i­bres. But I still hate the damn things – and hate killing any­thing. And would like ever-tougher gun laws. The gun buy-back was the one and only time I sup­ported John Howard.

Life at the farm changed pro­foundly when I was fit­ted with a pace­maker. I now have to be ex­tra care­ful with elec­tric fences and was warned off chain­saws. Ap­par­ently they gen­er­ate a sort of force-field that can cause trou­ble to the tick­ing gad­get in my chest. And be­cause of the re­coil I’m not sup­posed to use a gun. So, ex­cept in an emer­gency – as when forced to shoot dy­ing stock – I now leave the dirty work to oth­ers. And dirty work it is. I can­not com­pre­hend how peo­ple can kill an­i­mals for fun.

I have two no­table name­sakes in Aus­tralia. One Phillip Adams is an ad­mired chore­og­ra­pher while the other’s a renowned Olympic shooter. I could never dance but was a very good shot. Yet I won’t miss squeez­ing a trig­ger.

While it’s a ba­nal­ity to de­pict guns as phal­lic sym­bols, that link­age drives much of the Charl­ton He­sto­nian Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion non­sense that has turned the schools of Amer­ica into shoot­ing gal­leries. So I sug­gest to the next sane pres­i­dent that a healthy health sys­tem should sub­sidise the im­plant­ing of pace­mak­ers. By the mil­lions.

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