By William Markiewicz
Last month we learned about a sheep that escaped shearing for six years, hiding alone in caves in the New Zealand wilderness. To live solitary is already against the sheep's basic instinct and the absence of the predators made its survival possible. But nobody, as far as I know, has posed the question: what made the sheep escape shearing, its flock and humans? I feel I may have answer:
Many years ago, I won't say where, I witnessed a sheep shearing. Decent looking young men in their twenties behaved as if the sheep were not living creatures. There was indifference melded with bestiality in their fast mechanical movements. The sheep's legs were tied so that it lay on its side. One guy slipped and fell on the sheep with his whole body, knees first, like on a bag of sand, and, without paying the slightest attention to the animal, just got up. The sheep struggled a longtime trying to stand up before it finally calmed down. I don't know how it survived the impact nor for how long. All was totally silent; suffering sheep just don't protest vocally. I saw other sheep, already shorn and dead. Not far away there was an exhaust pipe coming from below ground. I heard a motor running and saw a dark exhaust of burned gasoline coming out. What was down there -- could it have been a washing system for the wool? I wasn't in the mood to ask anybody. But the strange thing was that the sheep, having plenty of space, gathered tightly around this low narrow pipe as if inhaling the smoke! It was not for heat; the weather was warm and the chimney generated very little heat, only an abundance of smoke, and the sheep, immobile, appeared to be glued to it, inhaling. I don't suspect that they wanted to commit suicide. I believe that they were just terrified and passive. I didn't stay long enough to see if there was any collective intoxication effect.
The New Zealand sheep, probably smarter than the others, and having a better memory, escaped before the next shearing might come. What happens to animals in the anonymity of their martyrdom is what happens everywhere to everybody who is weaker. May this testimony raise concern among animal lovers and all anti-sadists.
Another gruesome situation I witnessed in a University laboratory a long time ago:
The tied, anaesthetised, small animals, probably young guinea pigs, were stitched up by the students after the operation. At least one woke up during the stitching and screamed like a fire siren while the girl continued to stitch with indifference! Those things happen more often that we think.
I remember seeing young men in students' uniforms, in their twenties, looking sophisticated, like lords from old photos, kicking a pigeon unable to fly. I presented myself as a member of the Humane Society, and - oh surprise! - they seemed aware of what the word meant.Back to the index of the Vagabond