Man and ‘the killer ape’

British restaurant critic and ‘man about town’, AA Gill, created a storm of protest some years ago when he wrote about shooting a baboon ‘to see what it would be like to kill someone’.

This last weekend Mark Chavez, owner of Gunhawk Firearms in Los Lunas, New Mexico, organised a simple competition: the team who killed the most coyotes won a free shotgun or a pair of automatic rifles.

In response the local paper, The Albuquerque Journal, wrote: ‘at its core, real hunting is about respecting wildlife and its ecosystem. It understands a species’ role in its environment and habitat. It is not about a blatant disregard for life that glorifies a weekend of blood sport for the sake of nothing more than mass killings.’

Currently the shooting/hunting season in Britain is in full-swing: it is big business, underpinned by time-honoured social mores, traditions and etiquette that ultimately all feed back to ‘male bonding’ through the shared experience of killing birds and animals. This occurs within the arena of ‘the shoot’, a rural location which for some people is the nearest equivalent to being in the ‘wild’ in the sense that it allows them to throw off the conventions and shackles of everyday life and feel ‘free’ and unfettered.

The fact that the shooter-participants are 99% male suggests among the psychic tropes being played out one obviously is ‘the hunter’, even if the participant has moved on from bows and arrows and mobility is conditioned by a 4×4 rather than pulsating bipedal power: AA Gill was probably at the more extreme end.

According to the travel writer, Bruce Chatwin, all the clues to history’s story of conflict were set early in the existence of Mankind and lay as evidence in caves outside Johannesburg.

From the discovery of hundreds of skulls in those caves Chatwin decided that early Man had been engaged in a life and death struggle with the predatory Dinofelis, or False Sabre-Toothed Tiger; lose and early Man would become extinct but victory would conserve the future of Mankind. From there the urge to conserve, protect, fight and look for added resources expanded.

It was also the belief of Chatwin and others that the earlier experience of conflict in the caves meant that conflict had become ‘hard-wired’ into human DNA which was tied up with the ‘killer ape theory’: this argued that Man had an inherent urge for violence that was a fundamental part of psychology and a major driver of evolution. Jasper Humphreys, The Marjan Centre

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