By Peter FitzSimons
So let's talk about hunters and let's talk about miserable bastards who get their jollies by stalking and killing defenceless animals. But I repeat myself ...
And I am not just talking about Glenn McGrath here, whose photos from a trip to Zimbabwe a few years ago – where he killed an elephant among other things – have been one of sport's main talking points in recent days. Raised west of Woop Woop, McGrath was born to a culture where going hunting was the norm for much of the male population, and it is only in recent times – clearly – that he has realised what most of the rest of the world did long, long ago. Killing wild animals is in fact, appalling. McGrath, at least, has apologised, calling it "inappropriate" and seems to half get it. Others, still do not.
So, I ask them ... Can you lot begin, by explaining in the first place, how hunting is a "sport". When the Waratahs take on the Crusaders and the Roosters clash with the Sea Eagles, that is sport – with both sides a chance of winning. When Adam Scott tries to put a tiny ball in a hole 400 metres away, against others trying to do the same, that is a sport. When a mountain climber takes on a mountain, and there is a life-threatening challenge there, that is a sport.
But a man with a rifle with a telescopic lens going out after an elephant in the wild?
Excuse me if I speak Welsh for a moment, for the occasion, for nothing else will do: HOW THE FOOK IS THAT A SPORT?
I know, I know, some of you think that there is some chance the elephant might turn on the hunter, that it is a fair fight. But you'd be wrong. Take the words of a NSW Upper House parliamentarian Robert Borsak, of the Shooters Party, whose words I have quoted before. Here is a burst from his blog detailing his killing of a couple of bull elephants in northern Zimbabwe: "I took a deep breath to settle my nerves & let it out slowly, it looked like he was going to walk right up to us through the green screen of bush. Mentally I went through the routine, rifle ready, safety off, here he comes. In a matter of 5 seconds he was there, not walking straight up, but angling to my left, a great huge head with a small hazel eye stared down at me, clearing the jess, as I swung the Heym onto him. My reflexes took over as the rifle fired the right barrel at 6 paces from the brain of the giant, he went down, as if in slow motion . . . I put the second barrel into the top of his head and it was all over . . . It was awesome, he did not know what had hit him. I started to shake, this hunt was over. Four days into the hunt I had taken the first of my two bulls. The 500-grain Woodleigh solid had found its mark, above the left eye, angling across the skull, through the lower brain, cleanly and instantly killing the bull ...
"All too soon it was over, in a flash, 37 years of shooting and hunting experience brought to bear with a shot at the bull just on a trunk's length away. I could still see that small hazel eye, looking at me, without recognition, before the bullet put out his lights forever."
This stuff makes me sick to my stomach. It makes you sick to your stomach. But not, presumably, the likes of the Reverend Fred Nile, who was one of the first to defend McGrath, wishing him, and I am not making this up, "Happy Hunting!" on twitter. Yup, the Reverend Fred presumably loves all of God's little creatures, and the big ones, too, but still doesn't mind seeing them blasted at with guns. Is that, too, part of God's plan, sir?
At least, I guess, Nile put his name to defending hunting, which can be rare. For here is the strange thing about a lot of these hunters. Despite their "bravery" with gun in hand going after defenceless animals, when you ask them to engage with actual people and defend their actions, they are GAWN! I've tried on Twitter – come out, come out wherever you are, you mighty hunters, we won't bite, we just want to talk you through this – and they are generally nowhere to be found. Our erstwhile premier Barry O'Farrell noticed the same about Borsak, last year: "Whilst he talks up a good hunt, when facing opponents who did not have an armament disadvantage, he was never quite as good."
Still, even Borsak went into print yesterday in the Sydney Morning Herald, maintaining that the killing of elephants and other wild animals in Africa is in fact all part of conservation. In response, I quote my friend Peter Allison who has more than 20 years experience as a safari guide in the African bush and is now an author and passionate advocate for conservation.
"Hunting," he says, "works for conservation like slavery works for economic growth. A guaranteed but morally awful way to achieve a goal. There's an act where a man takes advantage of a woman just because he wants to, and is strong enough that he can. That's not a sport either. We stop kids from pulling the wings off flies because it is cruel, and a worrying way for them to have 'fun'. How is this any different?"
I have no idea. But perhaps the brave hunters will tell us. Come out, come out you 'fraidy cats. Tell us all.