SABA Episode #15 — Bad Things White People Do in Africa (And How to Repent) 

The goal of this episode, according to Kahiri and Miha, was to make the shortest podcast so far, and listening to the action-packed 13 minutes above we certainly managed! But it definitely wasn’t our goal to end up with the most delayed SEE AFRICA BREATHE AFRICA ever. I will take the blame because of — DOGS DOGS DOGS!

I would be hard pushed to tell you which people made me give up on the human race. I can’t choose between the Lord Resistance Army (LRA), the Ugandan military making money out of not catching the LRA, or the British Foreign Office who said you should not cricitise President Museveni’s failure to help the child sex slaves of Congo “because he doesn’t like criticism”. Throw in the cowboy builders and lawyers who messed up my flat (for the details see The Worst Date Ever or How it Took a Comedy Writer to Expose Africa’s Secret War).

Either way, I decided to go live up a mountain in an unheated shack with large feral animals for flatmates instead of humans. Me and the animals share biscuits and chat amongst ourselves. The only way I can feel better about the world is volunteering at an animal shelter helping animals who had never hurt a fly, let alone charge that fly GBP 25,000 for legal advice so bad it ended up costing him a quarter of a million in interest payments.

It’s a funny thing: I think realising animals have full consciousness is like entering the third dimension. You suddenly get it that you are surrounded by animals that can think and talk, and humans who think they can treat them appallingly and get away with it.

Funnily enough, the way people respond to animal cruelty is a lot like the way the charities excuse doing business with warlords, thugs and various arseholes. They can’t help it, they’re poor. Rubbish. in Spain, a goatherder waved his smartphone at me to show me videos of thousands of sheep being herded by two small dogs.

“I’ve got two thousand sheep,” he boasted. The dogs that kept him rich lived chained to a tree, in rain so cold it hurt. The dogs’ salary was hard bread rolls thrown out by the baker as inedible. I took one dog to the vet; the bones in his feet were splayed by malnutrition and he had so many blood-sucking ticks that his fur felt like it was full of peas. I got the police round who seized the dog for breach of animal cruelty laws.

“What did the goatherder say?” I asked a member of the force afterwards.
“He gave us one dog, and the other he agreed to keep in his cortijo from now on.” A cortijo. This so-called poor goatherd had a nice farmhouse all the time!

In Ethiopia, I watched a man pull a goat down a hill on a rope. The goat tripped and fell over. He dragged her along the ground on her belly, the tarmac scraping her skin bloody. I ran after them and asked him to at least let the goat get up again.

“You shouldn’t have done that,” said the guide. “Here we care about the children, not the animals.” The children had Unicef and any number of local charities to make a tidy living out of their suffering. This town didn’t even have a vet.

But they don’t know any better, people tell me. There is an answer to that: bollocks. Firstly, that is the same patronising rubbish that has excused everything from wife beating to the slave trade. Secondly, if everyone including the man can hear the goat screaming, he’s not ignorant, he’s an arsehole. “They are just ignorant.” Bollocks. They love it. On some level, people enjoy cruelty to animals. Or they like the money they make out of it. Cheap milk comes from taking the calf away from its mother while it is so young the mom is still producing milk to feed it. The cows cry for up to a week. If you hear that cow crying and think it’s OK, then you’re not uninformed. You’re an idiot

I am not entirely sure if and when I am coming back down the mountain. One thing I do know is that if you want to feel better about having to live among the human race these days, don’t pay a therapist to talk guff into your ear. Don’t spend money on clothes that will be naff in ten minutes. Don’t give one red cent to a charity or they will spend it on renting a five bedroom villa in Nairobi for their Head of Operations.

Go and buy a bit of meat and a comfortable dog bed, then Google your nearest branch of the society for the prevention of cruelty to animals. Go and look in the cages and find the one that no one will ever take home. Take him home. Or better still, find an animal that some monster has chained up in a back yard, and swap the animal for the arsehole.

photo by Marcus Westberg