Barney the crocodile found dead at Kranji Reservoir

From ‘Death of wild crocodile a mystery’, 4 May 2014, article by Feng Zengkun, Sunday Times

A 400kg crocodile, probably one of the largest to have roamed wild here in decades, has been found dead on the Kranji Reservoir grounds. Fondly nicknamed Barney by anglers, its death has puzzled experts as the creature had seemed relatively young and healthy, and had no visible injuries.

National water agency PUB, which oversees the area, said it was informed about the dead reptile about three weeks ago. The 3.6m-long saltwater crocodile was disposed of at a nearby farm.

More saltwater crocodiles – the world’s largest reptile and known to be formidable predators – have been spotted in Singapore in recent years. Last year, about 10 of them were found living in waters around the north-western coastline, up from two in 2008.

There have also been regular sightings at Sungei Buloh and around Kranji Reservoir, although PUB said none had been reported in Kranji in 2012 and last year.

…Anyone who spots a crocodile should keep away from it and not provoke it. Once at a safe distance, they should contact PUB’s 24-hour call centre on 1800-284-6600 or the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority’s Animal Response Centre on 1800-476-1600.

This croc tips the scales

Reticulated pythons seem to be under the charge of a different agency (ACRES), though both reptiles can be nasty predators. So what happens if one finds a python swimming in a reservoir? Call PUB, ACRES or AVA? Saltwater crocodiles are the world’s LARGEST living reptiles, and I thought naming the deceased beast after a singing, purple dinosaur that haunts every parent’s dreams was pretty clever. So a tiny country like ours with limited wild spaces has both the largest crocodiles and largest pythons on EARTH. How are we still ALIVE?

Here is a quick social history of crocs in Singapore:

Croc trapping: In 1894, a croc was sighted in what was known as the ‘Impounding Reservoir’ on Thomson Road and men attempted to snare it using an elaborate trap called a ‘nibong’, which involves a dead duck as bait and a coconut. This cruel device  lacerated the croc from within after it swallowed the bait, and was found dead soon after. We didn’t give them affectionate names then; it was just called a BRUTE. Well thankfully, trapping has become more humane since, though these bait-and-cage devices  kinda makes the living fossil look pretty dumb too. Even if they’ve been around far longer than our own species.

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Badass Croc killers: In 1911, a croc was gunned to death at Serangoon River by a certain D.C Cook with a Browning automatic pistol. Aw Boon Haw, of Tiger Balm fame, himself tried to shoot one with his revolver but missed (1925, Katong). We had our very own ‘Crocodile Hunter’ in the form of Boey Peng Kow, who was charged for reckless shooting in 1935. 2 years later, an Australian showed his prowess in HARPOONING crocs as if they were sturgeon. An instructor for the Singapore Trade School showed off his trophy catch after killing one with a single shot (1939), posing in the kind of photo that today would earn a million ‘Likes’ on Facebook or Instagram. Such Crocodile Dundees don’t exist anymore. We don’t conquer wild animals and pose with our feet on them like hunters do. We do SELFIES, or worse, COLLAGES of selfies of some utterly meagre accomplishment. Or tell everyone that we completed a 3.5 km jog on Runkeeper.

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Croc attacks: A child went missing after being dragged into the Ulu Pandan river by a croc (1946). An Indian labourer was MAULED by one which he kept as a PET.  In 1989, the Police opened fire on a charging croc in Seletar. Other than these rare cases, you’re probably as likely to be eaten by a croc as being gored by a wild boar. Heck, there’s a higher chance of you being stung to death by angry bees.

Croc harvesting: Croc skinning and tanning was a thriving business in the 1930’s. In the late 40’s you could even BUY your own baby crocodile for about $25. So much in demand was croc leather that people would resort to stealing baby crocodiles. In 1970, FIFTY FOUR of these babies were nicked from croc ‘nurseries’. Singapore’s Heng Long Tannery was one of the top five croc tanneries in the WORLD in 2011, recently acquired by French luxury group LVMH, which also snapped up Crystal Jade. Of course Singaporeans get more worked up about local companies getting bought over by Europeans when food is involved, caring little about crocodile hide processing.

Croc haunts (other than rivers and reservoirs): In 1949, a 41/2 foot long croc was found in a Geylang DRAIN.  In 1991, another sighting took place in a monsoon drain at Fort Road (Crocodile spotted in monsoon drain at Fort Road, 22 Sept 1991). One wandered onto Tuas SHIPYARD in 1998.

Croc attractions: The Jurong Crocodile Paradise was conceived in 1987, and cost $8 million to build. It closed down in 2006, only to be replaced by The Village@Jurong Hill, a suburban mall. The theme park featured a female croc named HULK HOGAN, who bit off part of a performer’s FACE during a show in 1989. Less well known was a place in East Coast Park since 1981 called the Singapore CROCODILARIUM, which featured crocodile WRESTLING. Even earlier than these, we had the crocodile farms of the 70s. The longest surviving one, the Tan Moh Hong Reptile Skin and Crocodile Farm, closed shop in 2012. Today, you can find the most crocodiles, or rather what’s left of the reptile, in the bag wardrobe of socialite Jamie Chua. Or you could just head down to Kranji Countryside’s Long Kuan Hung Crocodile Farm. Gone are those head-in-jaws of death stunts, the only thing I remember about my trip to the gone-but-not-forgotten Jurong attraction. If you want death-defying thrills in Jurong these days, there’s Jem mall.

Croc love: In 1979, a woman in Tampines kept a pet croc named – wait for it – CROCKY.  In 1988, the press portrayed elusive crocs in Seletar reservoir as our very own ‘Loch Ness monsters’. Maybe we should name the next croc we spot ‘Nessie’.

Croc logos: Clothing giant Singapore Crocodile had a legal tussle with Lacoste in 2006 over similar logos. Our brand eventually won, partly because the court found that the ‘head of the Singaporean Crocodile poses towards left while the French Lactose’s head towards right’. Lacoste was formed first, by the way, 10 years before Crocodile in 1943.

Croc pervs: Crocodile in Malay is ‘Buaya’, a term used to describe a different kind of ladykiller altogether, though rather outdated in my opinion. In 1936, a ‘buaya’ was a ‘favourite epithet for an untrustworthy scoundrel, guilty of evil deeds’. It wasn’t until the 90’s that it was used to describe flirts and womanisers.

Croc eats: Crocodile meat seems more palatable than python. Braised crocodile tail is a popular dish which you can snap up at the ‘Old Geylang’ eatery. We also used to have a stall at Old Airport Road named ‘Singapore King Crocodile’, which sells ‘croc meat bak kut teh’. Presumably it tastes like a hybrid of chicken/pork. No surprise that Barney was sent to the nearest farm then. Maybe you can have a taste of him when you can buy CROCODILE BAK KWA.

UPDATE: ST Forum published a statement by PUB (PUB probing crocodile’s death, 16 May 2014, ST) revealing that Barney might have been hunted down by poachers, as he was found with a large fish hook in his mouth and a metal rod impaled in his eye. The only croc farm remaining in Singapore, Long Kuan Hung Crocodile farm, has denied that it received Barney’s carcass as what the ST previously reported. The killers remain at large, while everyone else is caught up in the media frenzy over 5 boys who spray painted a wall.

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14 year old student throwing cat down 10 storeys

From ‘Cat thrown down 10 storeys; suspect is a teen’, 1 May 2013, article by David Ee, ST

A cat survived a 10-storey fall from a Nee Soon Housing Board block on Sunday. The animal is currently in a stable condition at Mount Pleasant Animal Hospital, but may have to undergo surgery for a fractured front paw, said the Cat Welfare Society (CWS) which is monitoring the case. The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority said it is investigating the case. The Straits Times understands that the suspected culprit is a 14-year-old student studying in the area.

This is the first publicised case of animal abuse since the National Development Ministry accepted an expert panel’s recommendations to strengthen animal welfare last Friday. Among the recommendations are harsher penalties where convicted animal abusers face a fine of up to $50,000 and/or a three-year jail term.

…Cases of cruelty to animals have risen in recent years, with a total of 1,426 reported cases in 2011, up from 1,162 in 2007.

A study conducted on cats thrown off buildings in New York suggests that cats flung from higher than 7 storeys had less injuries than those than fell from lower floors. Although this ‘miracle’ that has attributed to the 9 lives myth is due to the feline having more time to perform its ‘righting reflex’, what’s more disturbing is that tossing cats out of buildings is common enough for scientists to generate sufficient data to study this phenomenon.  In 2011, a British cat plummeted more than 12 storeys after being thrown by ‘yobs’, suffering nothing but a broken tooth. She was henceforth named ‘Everest’. In Singapore, a cat that survives a 10-storey plunge will probably be named ‘Lucky’, just like 80% of all cats, dogs and hamsters reared as pets in Singapore.

Last year, a $1K reward was put up to find the person responsible for throwing and killing Cheeky, a black and white cat in Ang Mo Kio. This was later raised to $6k by an anonymous donor. Yet, in most cases of animal abuse, the killer usually goes scot-free, with or without a bounty on his head. Behead a cat, or toss an entire box of kittens down your flat and you have a good chance of escaping jail-time unless you’re dumb enough to record your stunt on your mobile phone. Spray paint ‘Democracy’ on a war memorial, on the other hand, and the police will run extensive investigations day and night to haul your vandal ass into court within 3 days, that even without anyone paying you a single cent for clues.

Why the lack or urgency in catching animal abusers then. Isn’t mutilating an animal a more ‘deplorable’ act than defacing a wall? Do we need to have a bounty hunter system just to entice people into bringing perpetrators of such gruesome crimes to justice? But the real question here that no one can answer is WHY is this even HAPPENING. A booming economy and a prosperous nation without wisdom, humanity or compassion, and having to create the illusion of that so-called humanity through ‘the arts’ and severe penalties, is a failed society, one driven by the basest of impulses, whereby an educated adolescent may excel academically but is nothing but a heartless wretch inside. No, it’s not just a kid with a sick agenda and very itchy fingers that needs help. It’s all of US.

Community work or probation may not be the ideal punishment here. This kid could still fantasise about running kittens through a paper shredder. Cruelty against animals calls for brutal conditioning. Strap the bugger down and have a bunch of vengeful cats use his legs as a scratching post, to an endless loop of copulation induced meowing for 48 hours. Rest assured he won’t be going anywhere near a cat, not even an adorable video of Lil Bub, without first foaming at the mouth.

Wen Wen the dolphin dead, age 10

From ‘Dolphin at RWS dies en route to Singapore’, 22 Nov 2012, article in Today online.

Wen Wen, one of the 25 dolphins at Resorts World at Sentosa, died en route to Singapore today.

Marine Life Park has issued the following statement:

We are deeply saddened that Wen Wen, one of our 25 dolphins, died en route to Singapore today. Wen Wen, a male dolphin estimated to be ten years old, died suddenly less than an hour into landing during the three-hour flight. Two marine mammal veterinarians and eight marine mammal specialists accompanying and monitoring the 11 dolphins on the flight responded with emergency medical treatment.

…The Marine Life Park’s four veterinarians have a combined experience of successfully transporting more than 500 marine mammals. The same veterinary team, with a collective experience with marine mammals of over 70 years, as well as the team of marine mammal specialists on the flight, successfully completed our dolphins’ transport to Subic Bay and the recent transport of our 14 dolphins to Singapore.

A necropsy was performed this morning in the presence of AVA officers. Over the next few weeks, further laboratory tests will be conducted in Singapore and the United States to assess any contributing factors.

…Wen Wen was a sociable dolphin that survived a shark attack in the wild and had the scars of a shark bite on his torso. Wen Wen and his trainer had developed a strong bond during their four years together. He will be sorely missed.

Bottlenose dolphins like Wen Wen can live up to 40 years, but if you’re going to spend the rest of your years living the Flipper lifestyle entertaining kids you would want to end your misery early too. The Marine Life Park was quick to emphasise the amount of research and dedicated expert care into ensuring the well being of their stars, as well as hinting that Wen Wen would have been shark fodder if he had not been ‘saved’ from the atrocities of the wild. What the RWS spokespeople fail to mention is how Wen Wen and his Seaworld inmates got into this mess in the first place, or how heavily invested we are in this dolphin-napping operation to not back out now.

27 bottlenose dolphins were captured off the Solomon Islands, of which 25 survived captivity in the Phillippines waiting to be shipped to Singapore (2 died in Langkawi in 2010 following a bacterial infection). They were KIDNAPPED, not invited, adopted, rescued from Jaws nor born out of Dolphin World already equipped with hoop-jumping abilities. In 2009, Senator Jorge Ordorica of Mexico wrote a letter to then National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan to think twice about dolphin shows after a dozen died within 5 years of their transport to a Cancun water park. One died from transport-related stress, which is deemed a ‘common occurrence’ and looks very much like what Wen Wen succumbed to in this case. Mexico then proceeded to ban all dealings with cetaceans for entertainment purposes, while our authorities decided to go ahead with its gaudy, expensive oceanarium circus anyway, which the way I see it, was planned to preserve the allure of IRs in the event of loss of interest in the casinos.

This isn’t the first time we’ve had dolphins suffering or dying in captivity. In 2003, an endangered pink dolphin from Sentosa’s Dolphin Lagoon named Jumbo had to have 11 teeth EXTRACTED due to wear and tear, apparently from fighting with another male captive. Earlier in 2001, another pink dolphin Namtam died of acute gastritis. The same Namtam, along with another female named Pann, also had to deal with a tragic miscarriage barely a year earlier. When we first set up the Dolphin Lagoon in the late nineties, the AVA made a ‘clerical error’ in reporting the acquired animals as ‘bred in captivity’ when some were in fact caught from the wild. The SPCA in 2010 judged the size of  the dolphin enclosure at Underwater World to be that of a ‘swimming pool’, too small to accommodate the six dolphins, while the company insisted that it surpassed guidelines. That’s like saying Bedok Reservoir is comfortable enough for the Loch Ness monster.

All this for the sake of a wet and wild showcase that is as campy as training Kai Kai and Jia Jia to ride unicycles while holding paws. You can make one dolphin do more tricks with a football than the entire Lions squad, or get cosy with international superstars like Mariah Carey in 2000. The singer reportedly refused to get off her plane like a spoilt brat while demanding to frolic with the Sentosa darlings.

Mimi emancipated

So it’s not just ‘homesickness’ that dolphins have to deal with while keeping our kids entertained. They fight, they suffer strange diseases and they deliver stillborns. According to a Today writer and a fan of ‘The Cove’, more than half of all captured dolphins die within two years of captivity. But you could argue that animals die prematurely and horribly in captivity all the time, in the zoo, or a lab and that it’s easy to get riled up about dolphins because they’re ‘almost human’. This Wen Wen incident, like shark’s fin soup, will be divided between animal lovers and people accusing animal lovers of being hypocrites. Nobody goes to the aid of the guinea pig getting paralysed in a botched experiment, or the monkey forced to wear a tutu for a busking hobo. ACRES was deathly silent about the thousands of sheep flown here for ritual korban slaughter. Maybe sheep just aren’t smiley enough.

Putting aside arguments from a compassionate standpoint or how sentient dolphins really are compared to bunnies in a cage, or whether they’re really smiling or being ironic when they splash about to Katy Perry music, perhaps we should talk about ‘necessity’ instead. Do we need this so much that we’re willing to let some animals suffer for it? Is science worth drilling a monkey’s brain for? How about tourism dollars? Seeing a child with terminal illness or the disabled pet a dolphin on the nose? Will Mariah Carey ever set foot on our shores again without dolphins? What can I get out of Marine Life Park that I won’t out of National Geographic on cable? Is there anything less controversial that I can use to replace vulnerable cetaceans? A giant squid that predicts football results perhaps?

If we can achieve the drastic result of banning sharks’ fin from supermarkets and hotels, we can also put pressure on unnecessary ‘dolphinariums’ that really serve to bolster casino earnings and pander to megastar fantasy rather than to ‘educate’ the public or contribute to ‘conversation efforts’. If 100,000 petitioners won’t do the trick, hopefully one shocking, and jarringly for RWS – embarrassing, loss of life would sound the death knell of this aquatic circus-prison once and for all. As I would turn to our PM Lee and say, losing a Dolphin Park  is not the ‘be-all and end-all’ of the entertainment/tourist/marine industry. A backflip at this point of the project and slowly re-introducing the animals back into the wild may well be the respectable thing to do without compromising the rest of the less adorable marine attractions. The IRs are already contributing to human suffering, let’s not drag other mammals into our moral decline too.

Giant Pandas in Singapore for a decade

From ‘Giant pandas Kai Kai and Jia Jia arrive in Singapore’, 6 Sept 2012, Today online

Singapore welcomed two new residents, giant pandas Kai Kai and Jia Jia from Chengdu, China this morning. The pandas are in Singapore on a 10-year loan from the Chinese government to mark two decades of strong ties between China and Singapore.

Kai Kai and Jia Jia boarded a Singapore Airlines Boeing 747 cargo freighter at 3.45am this morning, arriving at Singapore Changi Airport about four and a half hours later along with a team of five keepers and vets from both China and Singapore who were also on board to ensure the pandas’ well-being.

…It was the pandas’ first time away from home, and extra care was taken to minimise stress for the animals.  The departure and arrival times were scheduled to reduce climate-related discomfort for the pandas. The cabin temperature was kept between 18 to 22 degrees celsius, consistent to their native habitat in Sichuan, China.

Fruits, water and about 90kg of bamboo were also carried on board for the pandas’ meals. Wildlife Reserves Singapore also brought along bamboo from Guangzhou, in case the pandas need time to adjust to the taste of locally-grown bamboo.

This is only the third time in history that Singaporeans have seen pandas in the flesh. Cute and cuddly national treasures aside, KKJJ are beasts turned political gifts as part of China’s bid for world domination. In 1988, JIAO JIAO arrived here as part of a Circus troupe, performing tricks like riding a horse and eating with fork and spoon at the Kallang Theatre. These acts, of course, are totally unnatural to the poor creature, which spends most of its time gnawing on shoots, sleeping, or tumbling down playground slides. Perhaps the pandas’ new loft has the latter to deliver hours of solid entertainment to the zoo folk, though it may distract the pair from the REAL purpose of planting them here: To grow our very own SingaPanda, failure of which Kai Kai may have to be prodded by a gland-stimulating stick in order of us to save face. We may have to do that to our childless couples too some day.

In 1990, we took custody of AN AN and XINXING for 100 days without them dying. KKJJ will be here for a decade, by which time they would probably feel right at home, not so much because we would have devised a way of genetically modifying our local bamboo into panda chow, but because it wouldn’t be just their caretakers and feeders who’re China-born, but maybe half the population here as well.

Pandas are notorious for their dismal libido and diet preferences, though pop culture has made them synonymous with kungfu fighting. All this fanfare and media blitz over KKJJ aside, it’s worth noting that rent-a-panda schemes still risk ending in disaster despite the good intentions, technology, attention and money involved. Only recently, a panda cub perished in Japan’s Ueno Zoo barely after birth. In 2010, also in Japan, the unfortunately named LONG LONG died after an unsuccessful bid to extract his SPERM in a breeding programme. Casting out pandas as ambassadors to China without doing one’s homework of hostile environments led to the demise and suffering of many a panda in the last century. The first envoy to cross the Iron Curtain Ping Ping died 3 years upon arrival in Russia in 1961. In a time when white men and former US Presidents in trilby hats shot down rare exotic animals as trophies, a panda died on a voyage to London from China via Singapore in 1937. It was painted BROWN to avert unwanted attention. Today, people paint brown dogs into PANDAS.

Cue commercial spin-off into commemorative plush toys, coins, sweets and all sorts of panda memorabilia to celebrate the arrival of two endangered, temperate animals in a hot, strange land, with their names changed (JJ used to be HU BAO, while KK was WU JIE) , eking out a lavish honeymoon in a place called a RIVER SAFARI while incubated in their below-20 C enclosure. Perhaps Breadtalk could relaunch their ‘Peace Panda Buns‘ in honour of KKJJ. Although this is all politics, Sino-relations and tourism marketing in the name of ‘conservation’ of the species, you’d have to wonder just how costly and carbon-unfriendly rearing pandas could be in a tropical climate like ours, and how beneficial this panda exchange programme will be for the EARTH in general. Air-conditioning 24-7, flights to and fro China transporting bamboo and ‘pandalogists’, setting aside land to grow something that can’t sustain any other animal, humans included.  For 10 whole years. The amount of money spent playing panda match-maker could have went into other local green projects and animal welfare, unless we discover a renewable energy resource in panda poop.

If only there were as many panda souveniers as there are panda puns; If I had 5 cents for every time someone mentions the annoying word ‘pandamonium’, I would have enough money to foster KKJJ myself, or send them back into the reserve where they belong.

The silencing of the Boars

From ‘Crossbows to cull wild boar’, 11 June 2012, article by Feng Zeng Kun, ST

KILLING wild boar with bows and arrows may sound primitive, but the National Parks Board (NParks) is considering the method to curb the animal population. The Straits Times has learnt that the agency met animal welfare groups last month to discuss using powerful crossbows against the animals.

It told the groups that the silence of the bows would avoid alerting the animals, which travel in groups. In trained hands, a single bolt could also kill a boar instantly.

…The Straits Times understands that most of the groups did not favour the method and considered it inhumane. The agency said it would enlist the help of trained archers to do the job, should it decide to go with this culling method.

…Mr Louis Ng, executive director of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), says NParks could sterilise the animals instead. ‘Culling doesn’t work because the animals breed every year. You would have to cull them every year’ …’Put up fences. Wild boar are big and powerful, but they can’t jump,’ he said.


Boar hunts have been documented in Singapore as early as the late 1870s, where white men with a pack of dogs chased these beasts around the Bukit Timah area with a shotgun, occasionally finding a boa constrictor getting to the prize first. Locals stalked boars with guns even up till the late fifties, and anyone who happened to be plucking leaves in the forest may find himself at the wrong end of a buck shot after being mistaken for a pig. In 1957, a wild boar hunter was charged for murder for firing at and killing a certain Abdul Kareem. Today, you’re unlikely to get hit by bullets, but you may fall into a pit intended to snare these animals, or have your foot maimed in an illegal trap. Seems like the $1000 penalty for killing them isn’t severe enough to stop some Singaporeans from living out their Man vs Wild fantasies.

Only Theseus can slaughter this monster

But how much of a nuisance are these pigs? In the 60’s, boars were known to charge at and almost gore amorous couples at Macritchie Reservoir.  On Malaysia’s highways, a charging boar may cause fatal accidents, a freak scenario which is unlikely to happen here, though you can have other breeds of swine ramming themselves into innocent people on our roads. We don’t have crops for them to ravage, nor do they steal our grocery bags or scratch and bite like the monkeys do. They don’t shit all over our cars or air-con compressors, nor spread airborne diseases. For all intents and purposes, man and boar have been left pretty much to themselves.  More animals and humans have been injured by wannabe boar hunters than the tusked beasts. If there’s any wildlife that bugs the hell out of us it’s the damned birds, and before we hire Green Arrows, Legolases, Hawkeyes and Katnisses to do the dirty work for us, perhaps we should control our pesky mynahs, crows and pigeons first. Hell, maybe we don’t even need to pay hunters to trap boars at all; our road barriers can do a pretty decent job as it is.

It’s not funny if it’s your kid in it

One of the arguments cited for culling is that wild boars ‘trample and destroy the forest undergrowth’ (They destroy forests, 16 June 2012, ST Forum), especially since they have no known ‘natural predators’. Well, there’s another animal higher up in the food chain which no other being eats and destroys forests and old cemeteries for development at a faster rate than a bunch of seed-gobbling, soil-digging pigs. Us.

Even if the authorities eventually attempt to equilibrate whatever’s left of our ecosystem through controlled murder, I’m not sure about crossbows as a weapon of choice. Our ‘archers’ (most likely members of some sporting club because the army no longer plays Cowboys and Indians) may need just one shot to kill a pig in the quickest, most painless, squeal-less way possible, but you probably need an experienced poacher to tell the difference between a pig and a foraging human from a distance. A poorly judged snapped twig may make all the difference between an impaled hog, or a pierced stray dog. You need someone with the seasoned, pricked ears to tell the difference between a frightened porcine grunt and something more human.  If these sharpshooters don’t bring home the game, at least their very presence, or even the very thought of arrows flying all over the place,  would deter people from having sex in jungles.

Why not blowpipes loaded with tranquiliser darts, where at least there’s room for mistaken identity, after which you can proceed to make a proper meal out of the animal and feed the needy, or Wong Ah Yoke?


Postscript: A few weeks after this post, a boar reported charged at a CISCO officer (who hurt his hand in the ensuing escape) and a child (who wasn’t harmed) in Bishan Park, and Khaw Boon Wan, a self-declared staunch Buddhist, publicly supported the decision to ‘manage’ the wild boar population because ‘protecting our babies’ is more important. Maybe we should leave it to the real boar-killing professionals below.

Snakes in a Drain

Wong Ah Yoke eating shark’s fin

From ‘Aiyo, Ah Yoke’, 3 March 2012, Life! Mailbag

(Lee Kun Yu): I refer to the restaurant review by Wong Ah Yoke (Chinese Revolution, LifeStyle, Feb 26).

I was completely appalled when I read about how he enjoyed, as part of the $250 menu, ‘the thickest strands of fins I had eaten in a long time’. He then returned for lunch, where he picked the cheapest $80 menu, and declared that ‘the shark’s fin in the dumpling soup was much thinner’. What sort of message is this meant to send out to Singapore?

Ah Yoke is a well-respected and long-standing food columnist, and his reviews are widely read – what he says, people will follow. I really think he’s done a huge disfavour to every person and organisation that advocates a ban on shark’s fin.

Food critic Wong Ah Yoke’s opinion of Tong Le’s shark’s fin took up the entirely of three lines in his ‘Chinese revolution’ review, as follows:

…That was followed by a braised superior shark’s fin in ‘tanfu’ sauce, boasting the thickest strands of fins I had eaten in a long time and a delicious creamy soup…Also, the shark’s fin in the dumpling soup was much thinner. (Chinese revolution, 26 Feb 2012, Sunday Times)

That was it. The rest of his piece was relentless, orgasmic gushing about other dishes like  ‘lobster and goose liver paste topped with caviar of Heilongjiang sturgeon served on a thin slice of crispy mantou that crackled in the mouth’, which made the shark’s fin description as unsexy and subdued as a punctuation mark. He didn’t say stuff like ‘The shark’s fin’s rich, luscious texture blended in symphony with the earthy, lip-smacking, meaty broth, a perfect nerve-tingling, stomach-pleasing food for the gods and a must-have for anyone dining here.’.Contrast this with a 2011 New Paper piece on a panel of food critics voting Empress Jade’s shark’s fin soup and crab roe the ‘best of the set’, with its ‘generous amount of fins’.  Be warned, the following image may induce nausea, distress and overall disappointment in mankind.

Anyone who read ‘Chinese revolution’ would have glossed over the shark’s fin details, which the complainant singled out with wrath here. Just because a celebrated food critic gorges on live baby squid or braised koala bear doesn’t mean ‘followers’ would do the same. Since Sumiko Tan drew blood for eating shark’s fin, ST journalists, including food critics, are held ransom by a moral conscience forced-fed upon them. Having an ‘ethical eater’ for a food critic makes food reviews as bland as shark’s fin itself. You never hear of vegetarian food critics; reviews should be soaked in fatty juices, blood, guts, novel flavours and combinations, mysterious body parts, Michelin stars, exotic creatures big and small to vicariously feed our primal sense of adventure, curiosity and gluttony. Most readers are unlikely to have the time or money to eat  at wherever and whatever Wong eats.  It’s the gustatory equivalent of a travel brochure, the next best thing to travelling itself.

But just how much shark’s fin has Wong Ah Yoke eaten really? Here’s a list of shark’s fin reviews:

  • Shark’s fin with tikuanyin tea (Fancy shark’s fin cooked with Chinese tea? 1 June 1997, ST)
  • Shark’s fin soup in papaya (11 April 1999, ST)
  • Double-boiled chicken essence soup with shark’s fin and Morilles morels (Pavillion)
  • Abalone and shark’s fin rice (Metropole Herbal Restaurant)
  • Doubleboiled superior shark’s fin in supreme broth accompanied with crispy spring roll served in Japanese stone pot (Taste Paradise)

  • Shark’s skin, shark’s fin and diced cucumber and yam in a sour dressing (Tokkuri)
  • ‘Sinfully rich’ braised shark’s fin with hairy crab meat and roe (Li Bai Cantonese Restaurant)

The list and images above may very well disappear from our menus and cookbooks before we know it. Dining on shark’s fin has given ‘sinful’ eating a whole new literal meaning. To muzzle a food critic for commenting on a single offensive dish when he has opened the eyes, mouths and stomachs of readers to a world of  both local and far-flung epicurean delights is like punishing an artist for using endangered monkey hair for one of his paintbrushes. Thanks to the anti-shark’s fin lobby, until the day  when this classic dish is universally banned, Wong Ah Yoke will have to either eat it in secret, or forever restrain his euphoria, like a man trying to curb an ejaculation, even if he chances upon the best or the last shark’s fin the world has left to offer.

Remy Ong running over a stray dog

From ‘Dog’s death: SPCA gets Remy Ong’s statement’ 21 Feb 2012, article by Lim Yan Liang, ST

…In a Straits Times story on Monday, Mr Ong, 33, said he was unaware that his car’s (Porsche Boxter) licence plate had fallen off until he returned to the scene some 20 minutes after the incident for which, he added, he accepted responsibility.

‘The dog came out of nowhere. I felt a brush so I thought it went underneath the car. But I came back later because I felt something was wrong,’ he added.

Mr Ong, who is in Dubai for two bowling tournaments, told The Straits Times on Monday that he had lodged a police report on Sunday night after fielding queries from reporters.

Asked about the number 300 on his car’s licence plate, the bowler – who expects to be back in Singapore on March 4 – said it referred to a perfect score in a bowling game.

Under the Road Traffic Act, any motorist involved in an accident where a person or an animal is injured must stop to help the victim. The Act defines an animal as any horse, cattle, ass, mule, sheep, pig, goat or dog.

…Drivers who fail to stop and render assistance after an accident can be fined up to $3,000 or jailed up to a year. Repeat offenders can be fined up to $5,000 or jailed up to two years.

The dog run down by Remy appeared to be a mid-sized breed, not a chihuahua, so given that our national bowler had a fleeting glimpse of the animal and had a hunch that it ‘went underneath’, shouldn’t he at least check back right away to see what exactly he went over? Remy already has his fair share of online flaming for failing to attend to an injured animal on the spot, though the attention seems to be more on the fact that he owns a Porsche rather than his apparent gross negligence. But he has accepted responsibility and we await a just punishment, though whether Remy is SPARED (hurr hurr) from penalty, or as bizarrely and unnecessarily reported in the article above, what his damn LICENCE PLATE number symbolises, doesn’t concern me here. It’s how this incident has exposed the relic that is the Road Traffic Act, more specifically section 84: Duty to stop in case of accident.

The list of creatures defined as animals (horse, mule, cattle, ASS, sheep, pig, goat, dog) sounds like this piece of legislation was written during biblical times, or by Old MacDonald (last updated 2002). You have 3 species of ungulates, but ‘pony’ is excluded. You have three farm animals that are as likely to cross a busy road in Singapore as a chicken, and dog is the only common ‘pet’ in the entire list (no mention of cat, rabbit, hamster or chinchilla). Another glaring omission is ‘birds’ and ‘reptiles’, though running over a pigeon, crow or mynah is fine since they’re considered pests by the AVA/NEA. Chances are you’re more likely to run over a python than a goat, and yes, they forgot about MONKEYS too. The list appears to refer to animals traditionally domesticated by man for food or agricultural labour since the dawn of time, which suggests an ancient symbiosis with humans that explains such  entitlement (though it doesn’t explain the missing chicken, duck or goose). According to law, it is your DUTY to turn back and save an ASS, but not a pregnant or baby monkey.

But what does the Traffic Police know about animals, you say. This is how AVA defines it in the ‘Animals and Birds Act’, more specifically Part IV Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

In this Part, unless the context otherwise requires, “animal” includes any beast, bird, fish, reptile or insect, whether wild or tame.

It would be fair to say that a genuine ‘hit and run’ felony is a cruel act, ‘cruel’ defined as failure to assist a fellow sentient being even though you are the one responsible for harm. The Act goes on to state that any person who:

a) cruelly beats, kicks, ill-treats, over-rides, over-drives, over-loads, tortures, infuriates or terrifies any animal

…d)by wantonly or unreasonably doing or omitting to do any act, causes any unnecessary pain or suffering or, being the owner, permits any unnecessary pain or suffering to any animal;

…shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both

So, has Remy failed in his ‘duty to stop in an accident’, which would cost him a $3000 fine at least, or has he ’caused unnecessary pain or suffering’ by omission and hence guilty of animal cruelty, which amounts to $10,000? If we accept the argument that not bringing a ‘beast’ as defined by AVA to the vet after driving over its legs, and being FULLY AWARE of one’s actions,  is considered ‘an act of cruelty’, then you are punishable by law if you so much as knock over a fishbowl or sever a lizard in half, provided someone could prove beyond reasonable doubt that you have indeed caused unnecessary pain or suffering. What’s the point of listing ‘insect’ under the list of animals protected by law anyway? People ‘wantonly’ destroy these critters everyday and you don’t see anyone hauled to court for putting superglue on spiderwebs, do you.

Sumiko Tan had shark’s fin soup coming out of her ears

From ‘ You’re what you eat’, 5 Feb 2012, article by Sumiko Tan, Lifestyle, Sunday Times.

…Growing up, I had shark’s fin soup coming out of my ears. At any one time, we’d have pots of it in the fridge where it would have turned into jelly and had to be heated up…While I didn’t dislike the dish – the fins are tasteless but the soup is flavourful – I developed something of a phobia for it.

Those days, no one batted an eyelid about eating shark’s fin soup. The Chinese have for centuries revered shark’s fin as a delicacy and it was served as a treat – a symbol of respect, honour and prosperity. Today, no one can escape the bad press surrounding it.

…I would never order a bowl of shark’s fin soup for myself…But if I am served a bowl of shark’s fin – like at my recent Chinese New Year’s Eve reunion dinner – I will take it.

I’ll take it because it is there. I’ll take it because the soup is tasty. I’ll take it because it will be a sheer waste of money to leave it untouched to be then thrown away. Mostly, though, I’ll take it because it will be rude to my host if I don’t.

…In my world view, animals – unless they have been domesticated – were created to be killed by humans for food. And if you’ve watched documentaries, you’ll know animals in the wild are vicious. They rip apart and kill each other all the time, whether for food or to protect themselves or their young. It’s all part of nature and the cycle of life, so why are some people so hung up about what animals might be ‘feeling’?

(See more of her article under Comments below)

Perhaps at some point in history sharks were as abundant as ikan bilis, that Sumiko could afford to ‘get sick’ of shark’s fin soup, but from my own experience encountering unsavoury comments from shark-lovers on a previous post, she’s asking for a brutal slugfest from eco-warriors all over the country.

Here are some nasty remarks from the Twitterverse:

Sumiko Tan – you might want to read a few books on ethical consumption before you excrete what’s passes for an opinion. I am happy to help.

Sumiko Tan the Apex predator

Who cares if you continue to eat sharks’ fins or not Sumiko tan! Waste of newspaper space. Completely skipped her musings n read abt fd.

Sumiko’s argument on the ethics of eating shark’s fin against the backdrop of inevitable cruelty in our domestication of animals for food seems sound, until she brought up the biblical concept of man’s ‘stewardship over the planet’, and how animals were CREATED to be killed for food. If animals were created solely for food, you would have headless, fat unfeathered birds without beaks, claws or wings to fend off attacks from hungry homo sapiens. You would have suckling pigs sprouting out of the ground like flowers in the spring, and crabs would be just be a couple of overgrown, non-functional pincers. Heck, you would just need to set up a hotpot by a river bank and fish would just leap happily into it.

If sharks were created to feed us, why the razor sharp teeth to chomp swimmers’ torsos off with? Why not do away with the body altogether and just have fins latching onto rocks like barnacles? Fins evolved to steer these mean killing machines, not to make guests happy at Chinese wedding banquets. Every appendage of ‘God’s creations’ was built for survival, whether it’s a tiger’s penis or a scallop’s adductor muscle, and only happen to be delicious (don’t know about tiger penis) because that’s nature’s way of motivating carnivores to prey on them for their own survival.

As omnivores with no compelling reason to depend on animal flesh as part of our diet, it’s hard to take an objective stand on eating other sentient beings without appearing heartless or hypocritical. Sumiko has chosen the former, and at the same time suggesting that people who shun sharks’ fin like monkeys’ brains are hypocrites if they so much as eat Chicken McNuggets. Meat lovers who take the ‘humans are entitled to eat other animals’ approach should rear an animal from birth and then personally slaughter it for dinner, and perhaps they would think twice about that ‘face on the plate’ before talking about animals’ ‘feelings’. Anti-shark’s fin lobbyists should state for the record what they wouldn’t consider cruel eating, before boring wedding guests with their depressing statistics on shark kills which they took off Discovery Channel.

I do not deny enjoying meat, but I don’t believe a cow willingly sacrificed itself for my sake. I ate an animal that another human killed, and the animal probably suffered more than it deserved to. Blood and guts were spilled, and perhaps somewhere out there a calf is yearning for its dead mother. I’ll be the first to admit that I won’t slit a chicken’s throat so that I may eat it, though I may turn into a vegan for a couple of weeks if forced to do so.  Better someone who savours every last drop of a depleting resource than one who eats it halfway and tosses it aside. So yes, Sumiko can have her soup and drink it and no one should stop her, though the looming soundtrack of ‘Jaws’ may play insidiously in the background while she’s at it.

Postscript: I’m floored by the amount of heated attention generated out something as trivial as Sumiko Tan eating shark’s fin soup. Many provocative opinions from both sides of the fence on this one, and here’s a summary of what has been said both by those against the practice and those who don’t mind the occasional delicacy.

1. Eating shark’s fin is cruel and eating a farmed animal is less so. Hell, you can’t even compare the two! I’ve seen the infamous Gordon Ramsay video myself of how sharks are sensationally dumped after being finned. Any argument on cruelty is assuming an anthropomorphic stance on how the victim might suffer under the circumstances. Because farming is industrialized and certified to conform to certain ‘minimisation of unnecessary suffering’ protocols, we usually assume that farmed animals have it easier.  Still, a chicken spends its entire life cooped up and ‘enduring’ hock burns and all sorts of disfigurements, whereas a shark spends most of it in the wild prior to its untimely, ‘agonising’ demise. Sure you can be ‘humane’ in treating and ultimately killing an animal for food, but only by our own standards of what suffering means to them. Those who rely on the ‘farmed animals suffer less’ argument should spend some time at a chicken farm/slaughterhouse and see for themselves before one takes their views seriously.

2. Sharks are endangered and if they go extinct, eventually we would too. There are other ways whereby we’re already indirectly destroying the oceans, by widespread overfishing, going on luxury cruises, or supporting oil companies with a history of spills. Shark conservation is just one of many other proactive deeds we should be doing, and we shouldn’t be obsessing over a ban on one product while ignoring the blight of other hazardous human activities like tourism, industrial sewage or global warming on no less relevant marine lifeforms. If we elevated the shark to deity status while allowing its prey to dwindle through our actions, it kinda defeats the whole purpose, does it.

3. Sharking finning is not ‘sustainable’ and wasteful. Farming isn’t exactly ‘green’ either.

4. We shouldn’t impose our beliefs on others. This is personal, of course, and if you think embarrassing someone at a banquet is worth it for ‘the greater good’, then by all means, as long as you can define what that ‘greater good’ is, and are well prepared to be challenged on the subject. A related hot button is about ‘personal choice’. The question, then, is whether we have sufficient grounds to stop someone from making one. Smoking, for example, is a personal choice, and its effects are immediate (second hand smoke), and you have an obligation to your fellow man to intervene. Can you do the same for someone ordering shark’s fin soup, say, your grandmother on her 88th birthday?

5. Not wasting food is not an excuse. What’s the alternative then, if you’re stuck at a wedding table with 9 shark-lovers and you’re the only one who doesn’t think it’s ‘such a big deal’? The only way to make such a rejection effective is a dramatic walk-out (not that the bride and groom would host another banquet any time soon anyway). Otherwise leftovers would just be  shared backdoors among the kitchen staff or nonchalantly dumped. In fact  if you’re a true eco-warrior you shouldn’t be wasting ANY kind of food, and better find a means of it being consumed or put to good use. Yes, even if you’re being served monkeys’ brains.

6. All animals are fair game. No it’s not fair game.  Animals are defenseless against our tools of capture. If not for technology we’d still be chasing rodents down burrows for dinner, not to mention catching trout with our bare hands. We eat large wild beasts today because we can, and part of the reason why shark fin eaters  annoy us is because they don’t really HAVE TO eat the damn thing, especially since it lacks any significant nutritional value, or taste for that matter.

No more shark’s fin at NTUC

From ‘Don’t curb our taste for shark’s fin soup’, 7 Jan 2012, ST Forum

(Colin Loh):…While I understand that the inhumane way in which sharks are culled for their fins may be a major concern to many, I still enjoy my shark’s fin soup and hope that the farming of sharks happens soon. As long as an animal is not unduly subjected to unnecessary suffering, all meat is, pardon the pun, game.

After all, pigs at abattoirs are herded through rings where they are either stunned by electricity or gassed before they are slaughtered. While it is one thing for restaurants to discourage diners from ordering shark’s fin soup and substitute it with similarly tasty concoctions, it is another to loudly proclaim during a wedding dinner that fellow diners should be ashamed of consuming the dish.

The ‘healing properties’ of exotic animal parts are not ‘alleged’ but anecdotal. Similarly, should we ban traditional Chinese medicine, which is experiential rather than scientific?

I wish for reasonableness to prevail this year.

While this shark’s fin soup lover was preparing this letter in response to the Vegetarian Society for complaining about stir-fried snake, NTUC decided to pull all shark’s fin products off their shelves come April. This was followed by Carrefour in a string of copycat proclamations of ‘social responsibility’ in light of the ethical, and politically charged, issue of shark finning. But what’s absurd about this sudden surge of empathy is that these major chains did not submit to any concerted, well argued call to ban the sale from environmentalist groups. No, this wasn’t a decision made in light of facts and figures of declining shark populations, contaminated mercury or new studies showing that sharks die a slow, painful death with their fins lopped off. This came from an exaggerated outrage to a Facebook post by a Thern Da Seafood employee about ‘screwing the divers’. It was reported that Facebook flamers and trolls threatened to boycott Fairprice for manager Chris Lee’s indiscretion, who has since been fired and unwittingly become a shark saviour and martyr,  whose thoughtlessly profane comment accomplished within 24 hours what the anti-shark’s fin camp with all their marine research, catchy slogans, emotive sob-stories and pie-charts have been trying to do for more than a decade.

Anti-shark's fin ad campaign in 2001

The inhumanity of finning has been argued as somewhat of an exaggeration or ‘urban legend’ if you will. According to animal expert Giam Choo Hoo, most fins are taken after death, and shark MEAT itself is still consumed in many parts of the world (In fact, if you want to feel good about yourself ‘not wasting the poor shark’, you can check out Hwee Kee in Hong Lim Complex, Chinatown). Nonetheless, it’s not the scientists and activists that purveyors of the delicacy are worried about, but rather their Facebook-savvy potential customers. In 2009, Meritus Mandarin pulled out a bizarre concoction of ‘sharks’ fin mooncake’ in response to online vehemence. Posts include:

“Hello, it’s a terrible shame that your restaurant owners are publicly displaying a total lack of intelligence by selling shark fins. You should be ashamed of yourselves.”

“…This barbaric act of promoting overpriced shark’s fin mooncake reflects badly on the hotel, Chinese people and Singapore in the eyes of the world! We are all standing united to boycott Meritus Mandarin and Pine Court Restaurant!”

Again, the use of the ‘B’ word. It’s likely that such crusaders spew diatribes against the shark’s fin industry and how it’s a disgrace to CHINESE culture on one hand, yet slurp up drunken prawns and suckling pig with gusto on the other. I personally wouldn’t miss the taste, or rather lack of taste, of shark’s fin (in broth or mooncake form), a food that I suspect could be chemically synthesised to perfect mimicry if there wasn’t a fear of incurring the wrath of the global conglomerate of shark’s fin suppliers. The only reason for shark’s fin soup’s appeal is not so much for its gustatory pleasures, but rather that it’s expensive, and anything expensive and scarce must be good stuff.  It’s like mediocre wine packaged in a grand bottle with a hefty price tag and we wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Food journalists and chefs used to wax lyrical over this revered piece of cartilage, calling it a ‘measure of sophistication’ and ‘luxurious’.  In the 50’s foodies were already proudly publishing recipes like shark’s fin in BROWN sauce, and feeding this to royal guests like Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh.  Today, anyone swooning over shark’s fin or even suggesting how they should be cooked would be treated with the same contempt as one who feasts on aborted  foetuses.

Still, NTUC’s reaction to Facebook postings may be counterproductive to the Cause, as shark’s fin lovers may rush to stockpile the delicacy before the ban in April. Traditionally regarded as a prize dish to woo guests as a display of pomp and generosity, the ethics of shark’s fin soup has emerged as a fiery polemic short of making its way into Parliamentary debate over the past decade. To date it has been banned from Cold Storage (2011) and RWS in 2008, though one has to be skeptical if these big-time players were genuinely jolted by a sense of duty and moral conscience rather than merely pulling off a publicity stunt on account of sustainable fishing. In fact, RWS was caught out serving the supposedly banned dish only to high rollers, which makes its ‘moral’ position somewhat dubious. Shark, of course, isn’t the only depleting marine resource in the oceans, and no one is going to pull TIGER PRAWNS off the shelves since, well,  prawns presumably don’t suffer as much as sharks.

In June last year a British woman suspended herself with fish hooks in protest against the violation of shark rights. And all that’s needed here was a Facebook ruckus. Now, if only Finding Nemo had been about a lost baby shark instead of a clownfish…

Buffalo hunter caught with bullets at Changi airport

From ‘Aussie woman found with live ammo at Changi airport’, 3 Jan 2012, article in news.

An Australian woman was let off with a warning after she was found with two rounds of live ammunition at Changi Airport on 12 October last year. According to a Northern Territory News report, Jessica Powter, 34, had left the two 8cm-long bullets used to shoot buffalo in her camera bag after a one-off hunting trip three years ago.

“The bullets were rolling about in the car so I put them in my backpack and forgot about them,” she was quoted by the paper as saying. The camera bag had supposedly passed several airport checks previously, including two at Brisbane and one at Cairns.

Powter, who was returning to Darwin via Singapore from a holiday in Thailand, said that she had been detained for 23 hours and that she had her passport confiscated, was searched and interrogated, then handcuffed and escorted from the airport.

Aussie huntresses who gun down innocent animals aside, Filipinos have also been known to be detained for bringing in live or spent bullets, commonly used as ‘talismans and amulets’. In 2008, a Malaysian woman was caught for wearing a belt made of empty cartridges, the reason given by a ICA inspector was that these could be ‘filled with gunpowder and used to hurt someone’.   It’s far easier to fill plastic bags with boiling water and drop them onto random passers-by from the top of a building, than find an underground local lab to synthesize gunpowder, then nick a police officer’s pistol to discharge your bullets. If I were to bring in a cannonball would I be detained as well, considering the nearest weapon that it can fit into, though unlikely to be shot from,  is at Fort Siloso, Sentosa? According to the Arms and Explosives Act, a cannonball would possibly fall into the classification of a ‘projectile’ or ‘missile’, though it’s unlikely that customs officers would be able to distinguish this medieval ammo from a bowling ball.

2 years post 9/11, anything resembling phallic ammunition got customs officers fired up into a frenzy. In 2003, dummy missiles on a model aircraft were mistaken for live rounds, leading to a Briton being detained for 10 hours despite the filial intentions of buying the offending article as a gift from Vietnam for her father.  Which means GI Joe toys or anything that so much as squirts shots of goo would come under scrutiny as well. Like Powter, a case of absent-mindedness was a convenient excuse for a Malaysian cop in 2002, when 1o bullets were found in his bag at Changi. In 2001 itself, a French soldier was caught by local customs for carrying a bullet as a souvenir in his WALLET. Incidentally, he also managed to whisk it past the Australian authorities at Sydney airport, which either suggest lax security Down under, or that buffalo-hunting equipment is as commonplace and acceptable as fishing lines and hooks.  The contraband was confiscated and he was let off with a warning, though one wonders what if he had bought a boomerang instead.

Today, you’re not allowed to bring in lighters that even resemble bullets, in fear that terrorists or bank robbers in the guise of taking a smoke, would suddenly wave it around threateningly at people going ‘Don’t move! I’ve got a BULLET!’. ICA officers generally give the benefit of the doubt for people leaving ammunition in their luggage, though the shameful handcuffing and warning is a slap on the wrist for anyone trying their luck and succeeding in lying their way out of it. Powter had to ‘bite the bullet’ through detention as she was a special case; a buffalo hunter, meaning someone who’s not commissioned to use firearms to enforce the law or protect a country, but more likely to succeed at a distance killing shot than the average person. According to an Australian report she ‘felt like a criminal’. Tell that to an animal lover, or the woman detained for buying a harmless toy airplane for her father.


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