Licensed to cull
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.