Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Death in the countryside

click photo to enlarge
What feelings does this picture of dead moles hung on a barbed wire fence provoke in you? Revulsion? Sadness? Anger? In Britain today some suggest that these emotions will only be shared by people who live in towns and cities. They maintain that there is a difference in outlook, understanding and knowledge between people who live in the country and those who do not. Often these arguments are raised when defending country sports and pursuits - hunting with dogs, shooting, etc. - against those who seek to control such pastimes.

I don't think these differences exist. And in saying that I know that some will immediately think, "Ah, a bleeding-heart, liberal 'townie'." However, I was brought up in the country, and my father and his brothers worked on country estates as gamekeepers and foresters. But, I have lived in towns and cities too. And consequently I consider myself better qualified than most to give an informed view (as opposed to a self-interested one) on this matter. I find that in both urban and rural areas there are those who take opposing views on this argument, and that neither area has a monopoly of wisdom or understanding.

The killing and hanging of moles seems to continue due to inertia rather than need. Yes, they can spoil the appearance and evenness of pastures, but realistically, how much grass is lost to their little hills of earth. Like most wildlife, their population is largely self-limiting. And, the hanging of them is simply to demonstrate that the gamekeeper or mole catcher is doing his job. Surely no one really believes, as I did as a child, that the sight of them will deter other moles!

I took this picture for the shame it represents. I was going to photograph just the bodies in a row, but felt that including some surroundings - fencing, post and background - gave added visual interest. It also places the death of these inoffensive little creatures firmly in a pleasant rural setting, and this contrast heightens the feelings that I had when I saw them hanging there - revulsion, sadness and anger.
photograph & text (c) T.Boughen