Not Guilty!

I was watching a cooking show where they were preparing some crabs. I am not a great fan of crabs, though I do eat them if I happen by them. But the show got me wondering – why is it that I have never had anyone standing up for the lives of these creatures? I have seen crabs in the grocery stores where they are displayed alive crowded in glass containers. Then when they are cooking them, the poor creatures get thrown in boiling water while they are still alive! Where is the outrage? Where are the protestors with placards? Where are the hashtags? #crablivesmatters #Istandwithcrabs

A decade ago, I was working for a research institute in Nairobi, which had farm animals in a large farm. We reported to work one morning to the news that a few cows in the farm had died in rather mysterious circumstances. Somehow, in the dead of the night, the cows had ended up in a swampy marshy part of the farm and got stuck in the mud. The bizarre part of the story was that something (or someone) had tried to eat the cows alive! Their backs had been chewed on. Four cows died in the night, a combination of struggle to free themselves after getting stuck in the swamp, bleeding, fear of being eaten alive, and perhaps even cold.

But what or who, pray, would chase a herd of cows, only to chew on the backs of those that got stuck in a mushy swamp?

I am not sure who did the investigation, but soon the word went round: the cows had fallen victim to stray dogs’ erratic behavior during mating season. Now, if you have seen a pack of stray dogs during mating season, you know they are quite capable of such a crime and more. To call their behavior aggressive is an understatement.

Some people in the lab had lost several years’ worth of research in one night. It was not just a question of a dead cow. It was quite literally death of a ‘lab’. Emotions were starting to run high. What do we do with a pack of stray mongrels roaming the farm? The flurry of emails that ensued attested to emotions! Emails with all CAPS, several exclamation marks, bold, underlines, italics…

“I can’t believe we are discussing stray dogs!! STRAY, people!!”

Some people wanted the dogs dead ASAP, by all means possible. Someone was bold enough to suggest hiring some local guys to do the job – with clubs

Others protested: you cannot kill dogs because they killed cows. That’s what animal shelter is for.

“What shelter! Someone has lost three years’ worth of research and we discussing what to do with stray dogs? ”

A saner voice suggested calling the relevant government office to come catch the dogs and/or put them down. It seemed like a great solution, until someone mentioned that the protocol approved by the Kenyan government at the time did not conform to internationally accepted standards. If the government or anyone had to put the dogs down, the protocol had to be humane and conform to internationally accepted standards. Sema road block!

I suggested that while we considered a more human protocol for the dogs, could we please include the python. Yes, we had a python that had been a resident of the farm for a while and had eluded capture. No one responded to my suggestion. It was like the life of the poor creature did not matter. Poor Pythy! #Pythymatters

A short time later, a second crime was committed in the farm: someone found a goat carcass up a tree. Something had killed the goat and dragged it up a tree. Now, erratic stray dogs might run a herd of cows into a muddy swamp. They may even chew on their backs, but a goat carcass up a tree seemed unlikely. That pointed to a cat.

And a cat it was. Or more appropriately, a cat family. As it turned out, a Mama Leopard and her three cubs had strayed from the national park and made the farm their home. Leopards love to eat dogs. One can only imagine what had actually transpired on the fateful night that the cows died. And here we were deciding the fate of innocent dogs, whose only crime was to behave like the dogs they were!

KWS was called in to get the Mama Leo and her cubs. I am not sure if they ever got them. Someone sent one last email, enquiring where the Daddy Leo was!

“All Animals are equal, but some are more equal than others” Proclamation by the pigs who control the government in the novel Animal Farm, by George Orwell

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