Save the sheep

A while back a friend berated me for making fun of the peta nitwits. This was kind of a surprise, since I had no idea anyone with any sense would take offense at idiots being made fun of. Besides, I have an obligation to point out stupidity. It’s similar to W. C. Fields’ axiom that it is morally wrong to allow a fool to keep his money. So, once in a while, I go to peta’s Web site to see what the rocket scientists are up to. I did that the other day and found this headline: Joaquin Phoenix Stands Up For Sheep. Joaquin Phoenix (not his real name, surely) is the actor who played the evil tyrant in Gladiator. He’s a good actor, but he doesn’t seem to have a real solid grasp on reality. The sheep Joaquin is standing up for live in Australia, and they are raised for wool. Joaquin is upset about that, which makes me wonder if he realizes the sheep are shorn and turned loose to grow more wool. It sort of makes you feel sorry for old Joaquin. He’s obviously trying to overcome the damage his career has suffered from being the guy who killed Russell Crow at the end of Gladiator. He must have gone to peta in desperation and asked to be allowed to have his name attached to some cause. Joaquin: ‘Can I be the spokeshuman against people wearing fur coats’ Peta: ‘No, Pamela Anderson is already doing that.’ Joaquin: ‘How about pharmaceutical companies testing drugs on animals’ Peta: ‘Sorry, Alec Baldwin is our drug guy.’ Joaquin: ‘Leather’ Peta: ‘Paul McCartney.’ Joaquin: ‘Spaying and neutering pets’ Peta: ‘John McEnroe.’ Joaquin: ‘Hey, come on. I need to be against something. What have you got left’ Peta: ‘Well, they shear a lot of sheep in Australia. It probably causes mental anguish, stress, and baldness for the sheep. Nobody really cares, since it’s like a haircut, but you’re welcome to make a video. Try to look sad and whine a lot.’ For good measure, Joaquin is also complaining about the way Australian sheep farmers treat their animals for diseases, but it hasn’t helped much. It is a testament to the shallowness of Hollywood that an actor would officially condemn shearing sheep, when half the rich people in Los Angeles go around with poodles that look like shrubbery groomed by Richard Simmons after a three-day binge. Besides, there are plenty of animals that are really in danger and really need human help. Beavers, for example. With human encroachment into beaver habitat, the furry critters are getting the short end of the stick, no pun intended. America’s beavers need help. To be honest, I have a hard time working up a tear over the beavers, but it’s easy for me to complain about their treatment, since it doesn’t happen anywhere near where I live. There aren’t many beavers in Central Texas, and what there are don’t cause any problems. If beavers build a dam on a creek or river in Texas, and the landowner doesn’t want it there, he shoots the beavers and knocks out the dam. Problem solved. Things are different in Colorado, especially in a place north of Boulder called, according to the Denver Post, Left Hand Ditch. The folks in Left Hand Ditch are apparently not allowed to just shoot pesky beavers. When the critters start causing problems, and word gets to the local animal control people, they send out (I am seriously not making this up) the beaver-busting backhoes. I’m sure Dave Barry would say that Beaver-Busting Backhoes would make a great name for a rock band. But the residents of Left Hand Ditch, or most of them, don’t really want the backhoes to kill the beavers, or knock their dams out, or whatever they do. So the folks in Left Hand Ditch recently called a woman named Sherri Tippie, who has an Isuzu Trooper named Bubba. She is the only licensed beaver live trapper and relocator in Colorado. Sherri uses Bubba to haul trapped beavers from where they aren’t wanted to somewhere else. I take that to mean she lets them go out in the boonies where there’s plenty of water and trees, but not many people and no backhoes at all. Sherri loves her job and she loves beavers. She does more than stand up for them. She hugs them. And kisses them. Literally. So Joaquin Phoenix has a long way to go with his sheep before anyone is going to take him seriously. Making a video with a frowny face and whining about how the poor sheep get all their wool cut off a couple of times a year isn’t going to cut it. When people see Joaquin on television, hugging and kissing Australian sheep, then they might decide to take action. Granted, the action will probably be putting Joaquin in a padded room. But then, that might be the best thing for the sheep’ ‘ Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist who never hugs wild animals unless they are really good friends. Write to him at P.O. Box 1600, Mason, Tex. 76856 or

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