We did it boy, we got him!

The NSPCA recently posted a photograph of two sporting heroes with a zebra.

I’ve always been fascinated by the power of omission to lead or mislead the reader. This is something I am sure every writer is acutely aware of. It is what we don’t write that is often far more important than what we do write.

So what I should have written at the top, is that the photograph was of so called “Blood Brothers” (and don’t get me started on the irony of this term) Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield posing behind the corpse of a freshly shot zebra. Botha grips a fistful of mane in his right hand to keep the head up. Victor squats beside them, his right hand squeezing Matfield’s shoulder. We did it boy, we got him. They both hold the gun in their free hand. It seems to keep them steady on their haunches. The two men beam into the camera. The zebra appears to look away, as if embarrassed, or worried about the 4 or 5 bullet wounds peppering its torso.

This is no way to die. And no way to live. Emotions that do not belong with the killing of an animal: happiness, pride, excitement. Why? Because these emotions become embedded in a person’s unconscious and the associations become generalised. The thrill of the kill shifts from animals to humans. Suddenly we find young men and women excited about going to war or shooting a neighbour or raping a child. We wonder why.

According to humane expert Phil Arkow, there is a direct link between cruelty to animals and human violence. This is a big problem. Animal cruelty is a global issue that doesn’t seem to be going away. From debeaked battery hens that produce our eggs to debarked beagles that spend the first years of their lives in cages enduring pharmaceutical trials day after day, animal abuse has found its way insidiously into our everyday life, into our bodies, into our blood.

My message to Bakkies and Victor: death is not a trophy. Life is.


An Illegal Trade

By Jenna Mervis

I’ve heard of a man
who skins poets
and sells their pelts
on the export market –
illegal trade, but lucrative.

A poet cannot live without skin.

There are people who
milk poets for their bile.
I’ve seen pictures of this:
a sedated body spread-eagled
on living room floor
bile pumping from
tube to jar
like thick black ink.

A poet cannot live without bile.

In Asia people slice off
the fingers of poets
as edible delicacies
once the reserve of the rich
now for a burgeoning
middle class;
in every ocean
hundreds of poets
float, fingerless, bleeding
on red currents.

A poet cannot live without fingers.

In Africa men take the whole hand.

A poet cannot live without hands.

And some men collect
those rare specimens of poet
who breathe through the skin,
or hatch only one poem in a lifetime.
They cage these poets,
suspend them from ceilings
like warm-blooded chandeliers
for guests to admire.

A poet cannot live without freedom.

You may not believe me,
but I’ve seen pictures of poets
without skin and without fingers,
and poets drained of bile, and poets
hornless, tuskless, eyeless. Poets
without hands, poets without venom;

And I’m telling you:
a poet cannot live without these things!

A world without poets
is as dark as bile
bled from black bears,
as toxic as venom
milked from captive snakes,
as fetid as rotting finless
carcasses of sharks
as disabled as a gorilla
without its hand.

You may not believe me,
but poetry is slipping
through our fingers
like fine sand

we will never
recover it.

2 thoughts on “We did it boy, we got him!

  1. What wise and heart-breaking words Jenna. I weep for this planet and the atrocities inflicted on her sentient creatures. What can I do, we ask ourselves? Write about it if you can, send petitions, boycott rugby ( I NEVER watch it) and spend just five minutes a day sending healing thoughts to our Mother Earth who has given us so much, despite being raped, pillaged and constantly abused. Love is the only way forward …

  2. Thanks for the comment Caroline. Education is key to moving forward as well. We need to impart on the next generation a different moral and ethical compass than what most of us have grown up with. Change is difficult, and we need people like the “blood brothers” to take their responsibilities as role models seriously. Or to step out of the limelight before they do more damage.

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