The Breakfast Table

Animal Welfare

Dear Nick,

A man after my own heart–willing to name the enemy and take appropriate action. You neglect to mention the most compelling case against these increasingly urban ungulates: the toll they take in human lives. As a minor specialist in animal attacks on humans (see my most recent book, Blood Rites , still available in your more esoteric bookstores), I happen to know that deer kill a number of bipedal Americans annually, which number is greater than six. They do not do this with their antlers, as you might guess (antlers being reserved for intraspecific combat), but by rearing up on their hind legs and battering the be-jesus out of the poor human with their front hooves, a most frightful way to go. Numerous elderly ladies have reported run-ins in their gardens while weeding the nasturtiums, and of course the true mortality rates may be far higher than we know, due to clever dissembling by the powerful pro-deer lobby. Mountain lions get all the bad press, but they only devour the occasional jogger, far from his or her suburban home, while deer have the temerity to trespass on human-owned lawns and flower beds.

But I must take issue with your notion that grizzlies, wolves, etc. might constitute suitable allies in this war. All of these creatures currently dwell, rent-free, in our national parks and forests, supporting themselves by munching on creatures which are nourished entirely by the flora of these parks and forests, which is of course our own human-owned national flora. Therefore they all, including the elusive lynx–for whose sake $12 million worth of ski lifts and apres ski lodges were recently burned in Vail–should be regarded with the hatred and contumely ordinarily directed to human welfare recipients. Have you ever closely observed a black bear or grizzly for any length of time. Well, I have, and I can tell you they do nothing at all, beyond sniffing the air for a tasty human scent, thus providing dreadful role models for their cubs and perpetuating the cycle of dependency from one generation to the next.

While we are on these enviro-issues, the LA Times reported yesterday that one of Beijing’s major streets–East Xisi Street–has been closed by the authorities to bicycle traffic, since the bicycles were annoying the cars. Has anyone bothered to calculate what the automobilization of the entire Chinese population will do to the rest of us on this planet? I mean, what is the earth’s carrying capacity, car-wise? But no, of course, no one has calculated this. How could we expect a species which failed to realized, in the 60s, that in 40 or so years we would reach Y2K, no matter what our computers thought, to be perturbed by the fact that we are running out of breathable air?

At least the Chinese authorities have not yet taken to shooting the cyclists, though the day will no doubt come.