No, this is not a lecture on how to get rid of your mother-in-law /teacher / unfaithful spouse / boss or even the President, though you might say it is, in fact, a lecture on applied modern cannibalism.
This is about how to get rid of man’s worst foe, the wolf. You didn’t know that the wolf is man’s worst foe? Well, in that case you should come to Norway, because here, in modern Norway, where nobody I personally know has ever seen a wolf – because they have been virtually exterminated – there are a lot of people who hate the species so violently that they will risk their lives to shrink, zip and share the last remains of the population. Yes, risk their lives. Not that there is anything heroic about wolf hunting. You could probably even lie down and pretend to be dead and no Norwegian wolf would come within a mile’s range of you, because here wolves are scared of humans and do not eat them for breakfast. There is nothing heroic about pulling the trigger of a powerful weapon, though obviously a lot of cognitively impaired men (yes, mostly men, but of course there are some pretty imbecile women too) think otherwise. But risk their lives, they have, nonetheless.
I’ll tell you how: The police have just launched a tremendous operation to round up 12 men who are suspected of having organised a secret wolf extermination programme. If found guilty, these men will serve hefty prison sentences and their lives will have been wrecked. The men stand charged of very serious environmental crime, aggravated by the fact that it was organised and has been going on for many years. You might not think that a long prison sentence is so bad. After all, you can read and write and watch TV. You can even study – though I doubt these men have the intellectual balls to do any such thing. But you will be estranged from your wife and children, from your friends at the pub and many people will shy away from you when you get out. You may not find work. The police will of course have impounded your splendid weapon, the banks will have taken your house, and you will no longer be able to afford a car to match the weapon. You may find that you are so lonely that you must seriously consider ending it all.
Normally, that is, after a long prison sentence. But these guys, if found guilty, will be celebrated. When released from prison they will be carried as heroes through their towns. Welcome to Norway.
Norway might be the country you thought was covered not by cities but by wilderness, with the second lowest population density in Europe (approx 15 persons per square km). But all is not as it seems. You are welcome to hike almost anywhere, to pick berries and mushrooms and even to pitch a tent for two days. But what will you see below the tree line? Mostly uniform so-called forest, which is not really forest, at least not wild forest. It is regularly harvested wood, so that only rapidly growing trees will be found there, i.e. little other than pine and spruce and birch. Here and there along a river or shore there will be small patches of greater diversity. Of course birds live in harvested forests as well, but unfortunately few bird species thrive in coniferous trees. Rabbits of course live anywhere … oh, sorry. We don’t have rabbits. Foxes we do have, and hares and elk, but there is the hitch, you see, because we also have hunters. And the occasional wolf. Wolves and hunters both hunt hares and elk, and hunters have more splendid weapons.
Yes, we do indeed have these great big, overweight, beer drinking hulks who are desperately in need of something to boost their mid-life crisis egos, and only the splendid weapon will do the trick. In Norway we don’t really believe in battering women. I mean, of course there are some who do, but even they – the ones who batter – consider such acts heinous, loathsome. So they don their expensive forest gear, go out and blow off a few rounds into a passing hare or fox or elk, and come home rejuvenated.
I can understand the Spanish who kill mocking birds and the like: They are hungry! There’s a crisis out there! But there is absolutely no reason other than psychological for a Norwegian to kill anything whatsoever. Not even war. We don’t have wars here. Or at least we didn’t.
But we might be getting one. Because the right to kill animals in the forest is as important for these… er … men as the right to kill people perceived to be lurking in gardens in USA. Listening to the radio a moment ago I heard two men practically come to blows about the issue. They were howling at each other! That I have almost never heard in this country. Here, even hulks take great pain in never raising their voices, never getting excited, never being emotional. One of the men is a normally smooth-talking politician, the sort of guy you imagine in elegant and expensive casual wear and trim haircut. The other is a lean biologist whose expertise the broadcasting company often turn to, and whose phlegm normally annoys me. (“Here we are,” I often shout at the radio, “doing nothing to prevent the destruction of the climate, and you just… just…!” I scream, practically weeping.)
He was shouting. More than that, he was screaming, practically weeping. They both were.
And I shudder at the consequences if the 12 are actually convicted of the crimes they are charged with. The outrage of all those men out there whose self-imposed right to kill wolves has been challenged will most definitely not end with a few skirmishes in the press.
Now, just for the record, I shall add that the wolf-killing party claims self-defence as their defence. Or to be more precise, they don’t admit to killing the wolves, but they demand their right to do so, because, they say, wolves kill their sheep and, they say, wolves want to kill their children. Also, to be fair, there is no doubt that wolves do kill sheep, not least since sheep in this country are not minded. They just roam the so-called wilds as freely as hares and foxes and elk. And the rare wolf.
But to my knowledge, no wolf has killed any child for as long as I have lived. Last year 190 people lost their lives in road traffic accidents in this country. Do I hear anybody wanting to exterminate cars?
And if you say that my venomous descriptions of wolf hunters is over the top, you might just possibly be right. But that just goes to show how shallow our civilised dignity is. Scratch a little, so that the paint comes off, and behold: We are hardly more civilised than the beasts we hunt. Scary, isn’t it.