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A modest hunting proposal

Friday, March 13, 2015

In yet another transparent attempt to use the national patrimony to bribe a few extra voters towards the People’s Partnership With Only One Partner In It, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar this week announced the lifting of the ban on hunting, a move she hopes will turn the wild meat-men wild about the United National Congress. It’s another shameless fillip to the fickle, like when the UNC rushed Tobago self-rule legislation through Parliament in the hope of improving what turned out to be their rout in the Tobago House of Assembly elections.

Unbanning hunting, though, is probably the least-bad of the very many barely-thought-out pieces of barefaced opportunism of an administration comprised entirely of one part barely-thought-out barefaced opportunism and 99 parts barefaced other activity I won’t name because of the law of libel. 

Letting hunters shoot some ’gouti compares favourably with, say, the voter run-off legislation or the Section 34 help-your-pardners simi-dimi, because, while the Constitution gets firetrucked forever through tampering with it for short term political or purely personal benefit, the hunting ban only has to be lifted for as long as it takes to hold the election; and then whoever wins—including Kamla—can put the ban back and tell the hunters to firetruck off and buy a PlayStation 4. 

As shamelessly self-serving manipulation of the public sphere for private gain goes, it’s pretty nifty; and can be corrected with the wave of an executive hand, the same way the damage was done this week. The only creatures in Trinidad who benefit from hunting are hunters, who get the chance to pull out their oversized guns to massacre some seriously undersized targets. Trinidad has no “big game.” 

There might be three or four lonely deer left hiding in the Northern Range and a handful of ocelots, the largest of which might be a little bigger than a well-fed house cat. No tiger is ever going to leap out of the bush at a Trini hunter; they stand a better chance of being savaged by 17-year-olds in G-strings on Carnival Tuesday. Stalking Trinidadian wild life is closer to taking advantage than hunting. 

Quite apart from its unfairness—the tattoo and them don’t shoot back—there is no economic gain whatever in hunting; you can buy a month’s worth of KFC for the cost of a single Sunday “wild meat” lunch; with or without “cressels.”

Nor is there a pressing need to cull any Trini wild life, apart from the proliferation of said 17-year-olds in G-strings in Carnival bands: we are in no immediate danger of our arable crops being trampled by marauding quenk; indeed, if anything, we need to protect and propagate our wild animals, not kill the few depressed agoutis left. That is precisely why hunting was banned in the first place: there is almost nothing left to shoot in the bush.

The Prime Minister, though, is in a bind of her own: her party is hugely unpopular, because of the actions her party-members have taken, and she desperately needs to buy every vote she can; and the handful of hunter votes in marginal seats are, for the moment at least, worth more than the handful of howler monkeys in Chaguaramas.

To assist the Prime Minister, then, I have a modest hunting proposal, in the manner of Jonathan Swift’s modest proposal for the feeding of the poor in Ireland during the potato famine. Rather than allowing the hunting of wildlife, which will surely kill off the few frightened wild animals still hiding in the few hectares of rainforest we’re not destroying through quarrying, squatting or “development,” let us simply change the prey the hunters can hunt.

Instead of lifting the ban on hunting in Valencia, open the sport in Morvant-Laventille instead, and let hunters hunt gangsters. The solution is as elegant as it is obvious. 

First, there is greater sport for the hunters because, unlike deer, gangsters shoot back. Indeed, the exhilaration levels for the hunters—the reason they do it!—ought to skyrocket, because gangsters are likely to be better armed than hunters: if it’s an indescribable thrill to train your shotgun on an ocelot armed only with claws, how exciting must it be bet your life on your scattershot against a gangster’s AK-47? Real thrills for real men!

Second, unlike wild boar and deer, of which there are precious few, we have a great number of gunmen; if any species in the country desperately needs culling, it’s them. We could have open season on gunmen for the next ten years and their numbers would still increase, as their unstoppable rise over the last 20 years has proven: for every one the hunters shoot, ten will spring up in their place, like ISIS jihadists; the sport will never end.

Third, where hunting wildlife does damage to the ecosystem, hunting gunmen will help it by reducing the number of predators threatening the ordinary citizen who just wants to walk around the neighbourhood without picking up a stray bullet. Finally, there is no great cultural change in allowing hunters to hunt gunmen: police, and other gangsters, have been doing it for ages.

There are two drawbacks: one, hunters can sell wild meat but gangsters may not fetch as good a price; I suggest that the returns from selling their personal cargo would compensate: who needs XXXX when you have Hightop-us-Sneaker-us? The more serious drawback, from the PM’s perspective, though, is that hunting gangsters may result in a net loss of votes. Every government we have had since 1990 has actively courted gunmen. The PM may find it easier to give the hunters their ’goutis.

BC Pires is a boar constrictor


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