Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

What the Pheasants Said to the Hunters

A Touch of Nokoko by Kofi Akumanyi

The League Against Cruel Sports have never been in favour of hunting for pleasure. They have always argued that anybody who takes a gun and kills animals just for the heck of it is wicked and should not be allowed to indulge in what they call 'blood sports'.

I have heard blood sports compared to gladiatorial contests in ancient Rome in which the poor combatants are made to fight to the death. While the comparison is not exactly accurate, the fact remains that blood spillage is involved and the spectators of ancient Rome enjoyed every minute of it.

The league had never seen eye to eye with Prince Philip on the merits or demerits of this sport. Recently he has been accused of hypocrisy and arrogance and of ignoring animal cruelty. The attack by animal lovers followed his alleged claim on BBC Radio that hunting helped to preserve wildlife. The Prince, according to the publication 'spoke out during the royal family's christmas break at Sandring ham, where he and his friends have killed 100,000 pheasants during the past ten years'. Prince Philip told listeners: "If you are involved in any kind of hunting operation on a sensible scale the hunter is the only person who wants that species to survive."

This remark was guaranteed to put the backs of anti-blood sports campaigners up. Very few people would support the views of Prince Philip. Take hunting in Africa, for instance. Down there, people kill animals for the meat and skins and not for pleasure. In fact the people who pursue the sport in Africa are Europeans who book safari holidays where, armed with powerful rifles, big game hunting takes the drudgery out of their "humdrum existence". Admittedly, the local people themselves, following the commercial side of the activity are known to be actively involved in poaching for ivory with the result that certain species of animals have been declared endangered species.

The controversy over Prince Philip's remark is interesting in the sense that the two sides - hunters and opposers - have once again brought the issue out in the open and have had their say on the issue. It would definitely not be the last time that we would hear about this. But I must say that I am really surprised that during the course of this perennial debate nobody has thought it proper to ask for the opinion of the animals themselves on being the target of hunters.

The last time I suggested this someone told me that it would not be fair to ask the poor animals which are forced to look into the dark barrel of guns during hunting season to comment.

When the invitation went out to the poor pheasants to appoint a member to be interviewed however, they willingly obliged. The following is an excerpt from the long chat.

"The hunting season brings very unpleasant memories to you, no doubt," I opened the conversation.

"Very unpleasant, and I should know. I nearly lost a wing last season but for my agility," he said, showing me very ruffled wing feathers and a spot which looked like a bullet had grazed.

"What happened?" I asked, shocked to the marrow.

"Just missed the bullet by a fraction of a second. It happens all the time. Just last week my sister-in-law was killed... the poor girl was growing to be a hot dish... " he said wiping tears from the corner of his eyes.

"Please don't cry... I can't stand tears" I said. "You know, you're in no danger of extinction at all. The hunters are the very people who have your welfare at heart."

"Are you kidding?" he asked. The look in his eyes was more of contempt than anything else.

"No I'm dead serious. You have friends among them."

"Who are they?" "The hunters who shoot you for pleasure"

"That isn't funny, anymore. How do we get protection from the very people who hunt us?" he asked, very flustered, indeed.

"Prince Philip said that those who hunt are the same people who want you to survive".

"Oh, I now see the point in a new light," said the bird, its ruffled feathers suddenly smoothing down.

"Which new light?" It was my turn to be surprised.

"That the hunter is our best friend."

"Is he?" I wanted to know

"Yes, he is," he chirped on, "They feed us and protect us from poachers. Take for instance Mr John Baker who owns this large estate. He doesn't harass us all the time we fly freely on these woods and breed."

"There ought to be a catch somewhere"

"There is - our numbers are controlled by the hunters who shoot to kill us".

"How terrible! Sounds like the fattening of the sacrificial cow. What can be done to stop them?" I asked.

"Nothing because they say they are on our side."

"Oh come on. Are they?"

"Yes, except that for the hunter and the hunted to be on the same side of the game someone else would have to be at the receiving end."

"This is confusing"

"It is meant to be"

"Judging from the prevailing situation would you pheasants like to go to Africa where you won't be hunted down and shot in cold blood?" I asked.

"Not on your life! It's against the rules of the game!"

talking drums 1984-01-16 waiting for confusion in Nigeria - another food crisis year