Friday, March 30, 2012
We Bought a Lie
While I'm contemplating my roots and wrestling with the question of whether I will have to return to England, now that I have severed all ties with my Elite controllers, I recall my childhood and stories about the Somerset countryside.
Idyllic times, at least in my imagination, full of mystery and fable. Crops circles, UFOs, ghost hunting, and witches covens, just a few intrigues of the era.
Reading Fortean Times, with its regular Crypto zoological articles, naturally added fuel to this teenage fire. Stories of mythical creatures roaming the West Country moors, terrorizing farmers in the night, and killing the livestock, leaving little trace as they vanished into dewy dawn mists.
I lapped this stuff up like a happy Labrador at dinner time. Amazing pictures of strange black creatures on grainy home videos, proof of their existence for sure. There definitely was something un-earthly roaming the countryside.
A little history:
Sightings of the Beast of Exmoor (a puma-like creature) were first reported in the 1970s, although the period of its notoriety began in 1983, when a Devon farmer named Eric Ley claimed to have lost over a hundred sheep in the space of three months, all of them apparently killed by violent throat injuries. The Daily Express offered a reward for the capture or slaying of the Beast.
Blurred photographs and a succession of intriguing sightings followed. At one stage the legend rivalled that of the Loch Ness Monster. Countless bounty hunts, safaris and expeditions - one conducted by Royal Marines - failed to pin it down. Sheep and farm animals continued to be mysteriously slaughtered across Exmoor.
Believers in the Beast's existence claim it is a feline creature, roughly the size of a puma, and dark in colour. The Beast is said to stand very low to the ground, and to be somewhere between four and eight feet in length (from nose to tail), with the ability to leap over 6-foot-tall fences with some ease.
No physical evidence of the Beast's existence has been discovered, a fact which has been explained by some as proof that the Beast is from another dimension and can enter and leave our plane of existence at will. Most observers and scientists believe that the sightings are merely of escaped domestic cats whose size has been greatly exaggerated, or else of large dogs that have been misidentified.
A similar beast story relates to the Beast of Bodmin, (a black panther-like creature), which is supposed to prowl Bodmin Moor in Cornwall. There have been around 60 other big cat sightings recorded in the area since 1983, and experts believe there is a population of big cats in and around mid-Cornwall.(Source: Everything Exmoor)
While at my local English language bookshop, I experienced a Eureka moment as I picked up the newsletter detailing all the latest releases. ‘We Bought a Zoo’, by Benjamin Mee caught my eye. As I read the synopsis I started laughing quite loudly, and the man at the check-out looked over at me, as if to say, ‘Oh no, I think we’ve got a live one!’ As I chuckled into the photocopied black and off-white paper in my hands, I realised that I had discovered truth again.
I wonder if anyone else has realised what I just did.
‘We Bought a Zoo’ is the true story about a young family, a broken down zoo, and the wild animals that had changed their lives forever, goes the by-line… the family invest their savings into a dilapidated zoo on the edge of Dartmoor. With over 200 exotic animals to care for, including an African lion, a wolf pack, a Brazilian tapir, and a jaguar, they have their hands full trying to keep the bailiffs at bay.
Dartmoor is an area of protected national park on the edge of Devon (sandwiched between Somerset and Cornwall). In 1968, the zoo that was eventually bought and rebuilt by Benjamin Mee, was known as the ‘Dartmoor Zoological Park’.
According to Wikipedia: A 2001 report by the Captive Animals Protection Society raised questions about the welfare of the animals and the conditions in which they were kept, even though there had been no accidents in the zoo's 33-year history. The group criticised the living conditions for the animals and the safety barriers, calling for the zoo's licence to be revoked.
The council were reluctant to revoke the zoo's licence, due to concerns over the future of the animals, but did charge owner Ellis Daw with 16 offences after the zoo was investigated. All but one of these charges was dropped, but Mr. Daw was found guilty of breeding Siberian tigers outside of an organised breeding programme, and of keeping them in poor conditions.
"I am very angry," said Mr. Daw "They are great big enclosures with vegetation and trees, a new style which we started 10 or 12 years ago which other zoos have copied."(Source: BBC South West)
Is it such a big stretch of the imagination to believe that a poorly kept zoo, with a myriad of illegally bred wild big-cats, is responsible for all the so-called 'Beasts' roaming the nearby moors?
Surely we haven’t been THIS STUPID for THIS LONG?
Look, even Matt Damon knows the truth... http://www.dartmoorzoo.org/
(Note: Another interesting feature of Dartmoor is that part of the land is leased to the Ministry of Defence, and has been used for over a century as a military training area. The stories of beasts roaming around can serve as a very convenient way to keep people out.)