Daniel Thwaites, Contributor
Bird-shooting season is on in earnest. When the church people talk about hating the sin but loving the sinner, I know exactly what they mean - because of this 'sport'. For the record, I know and like many bird shooters, but still I dream of the day when the birds will evolve to shoot back. Then it would be exciting, you know, something worth watching.
I read The Gleaner's story 'Bird boys swoop down for hunting season' (August 14, 2013) with an appreciation that this 'murderation' of the birds brings money into the countryside. The bird boys get a money for scouting the birds, picking them up and, perhaps, cooking them. But am I the only one who doesn't like the 'bird boy' talk? Didn't 'bud-bwoy' go away with all other kinds of 'bwoy' in the '70s?
Well, it's not just birdslaughter that attracts sizeable numbers of men from Upper St Andrew, Manchester, and St James into the bush. I'm not bussing any secret, I think, when I point out that there is also a phenomenon of 'trapping' birds that walk, which goes on alongside the shooting of the ones that fly. Not that I have a problem with that! But why kill the flying birds? Just hunt the walk-foot ones.
I'm sure that if we had proper monitoring of this activity, we would see that there is an uptick in deliveries nine months following the season. Because some are firing birdshot, some blanks, and some live rounds. Meanwhile, there's the attendant phenomenon of 'bud-bush widows', who probably enjoy bird season more than their husbands. Bud-bush weekends are a very busy time for the side man and the loader man. And as one scoundrel told me: "If man-a-yaad inna de bush, there's no telling who will tek ova."
Hunters, in general, I find to be a strange lot. Sure, there was a time prior to the agricultural revolution when hunting skills were necessary for survival. But that has been superseded by the domestication of crops and large animals that feed us quite handsomely.
I feel that nowadays, hunting is the preserve of the man, full of braggadocio, but secretly just in search of an excuse to abandon his family for a weekend. That most of this crew overlaps with the upper class of Jamaica doesn't surprise me at all, because that's the kind of upper class we have.
The rifle is, of course, the most obvious phallic symbol, meaning that it reminds men of their penises. And, of course, some actually refer to their tool as 'the rifle'. Why they are so fascinated with rifles is anybody's guess. But they spend hours shining them, admiring them, showing them to their friends. This nonsense has to stop. Who suffers? The poor birds next day.
When I think on bird shooting, it reminds me that man is, at core, a base creature, with all the weaknesses of ordinary animals but with a mind that amplifies those weaknesses into greater perversions. Whereas other animals kill for food, we are among the elect that kill for sport.
And even then, some classes of sport killing are forgivable because there is some further purpose to the kill. I think of deer hunting, for instance, for if one enjoys the venison, there's at least that side justification for the joy of killing the animal. But what additional excuse is there to kill the little avians? It can't be the thumbnail of flesh to be had from a little white-wing dove.
Sometimes you will hear that the bird-killing actually is for the meat. But as I understand it, nobody really eats the birds; or nobody really wants to. If this hunting was all it's cracked up to be, these white-wing and bald pates could take the place of the chicken back that has gone short. But no - it will not happen. That's because the pretence of eating these animals is a fraud. Nobody wants to consume the scrawny little creatures. If the hunting is anything other than an excuse to fly from the usual womenfolk, it's just a miniaturised drama of bloodlust and the desire to kill.
THE LYING GAME
I've suffered through barbecues with the distinct impression - based on the talk - that the eating was a sort of obligation. What little meat can be had is gamy and distasteful. Every 10th man or so will tell you he enjoys it; every 10th man is an inveterate liar.
Then there's the activity of stalking through the bushes of the countryside like great white hunters. The British aristocracy stalked lions in Africa; the Jamaican aristocracy stalks pea doves in Clarendon! The subliminal message to the natives is the same: "Careful we don't hunt you!"
I would love to understand better the history of bird shooting in Jamaica, which I doubt is glorious, but I can report what I see. The hunt is a mime and a dress rehearsal for the repression of riot and rebellion, carefully observed and resented by many folk in the countryside.
So while there may be truth to the argument that bird shooting irrigates the countryside with some money that the wealthy 'town man dem' come and spend, the social cost may not be worth the dollars.
Plus, I'm of the view that how we treat animals is close to how we are likely to treat other human beings. There's some scientific evidence for this. One of the early signs of psychopathy and sociopathy is the desire and willingness to gratuitously hurt and maim non-human animals. It isn't long before the graduation ceremony into killing and maiming the human animal.
I can't help but recall that during his reign, Prime Minister Bruce Golding found his way into foreign lands to kill and maim South American birds. As if there hadn't been enough of a bird shoot in Jamaica! But this is a bipartisan affliction, with newcomers anxious to imitate the habits of the old and adopt their social mores and behaviour patterns. Thus, there are some notorious killers littering both parties. I just wish the birds would evolve to shoot back. It would be a better country.
Daniel Thwaites is a partner of Thwaites Law Firm in Jamaica, and Thwaites, Lundgren & D'Arcy in New York. Email feedback to email@example.com.