Cane Toad Capers and Moral Dilemas

Do our reactions in the moment reveal our true feelings and intentions? Or another way to think about it. When given time to think before we speak, or in the case of my recent experience scream out, will we portray a more refined, and rational version of ourself. My experience this weekend gives a glimpse into my true feelings towards cane toads, and offers a glimpse into the state of my acculturation into life ‘upside down’ in Queensland, Australia.

I was driving back to the Uni Friday night in my Holden cruze rental car when I saw a distant blurry object on the road. I didn’t think much of it until I was upon it and I heard a thump under my car tire. I was driving with P. at the time. My immediate reaction was to yell out YEAH! then I pumped my hand and did my best impression of the surly guy at the brewery when Queensland defeated New South Wales in the state or origin rugby match two weeks ago, yelling “QUEENSLANDER.” It all happened in a moment. I was so tired I don’t know how I even mustered such a boisterous response.

P. looked at me in disgust. Her judgmental glare was matched by her response, I can’t recall what exactly she said but it was along the lines of “are you serious? you have no respect for life of any kind.” I laughed in the moment and she didn’t share in my exuberation.

I am a biology teacher. Am I a hypocrite, living a double life teaching about fora and fauna of every kind, espousing the virtues of caring for the environment, and conservation? At the core of who I am, am I a cane toad killer who takes joy in the sound of a fat toad popping under the weight of my car tire at 60 km/h.

I don’t regret my response. I think if I had more time to think about it I would not have been so boisterous. Australians share my joy in killing cane toads. The website Cane Toads in Oz writes; 

“Just hearing those words creates fear and loathing in many Australians. These feral amphibians have become a major invasive threat to Australian biodiversity since their introduction in North Queensland. Reports that these poisonous amphibians have invaded through the Northern Territory and have just reached Western Australia fuel this national sense of fear and loathing. Community groups have been mobilized in the attempt to quell this stampede.”

More info on the documentary Cane Toads: An Unnatural History.

There have been two documentary films on the topic by the same director as I mentioned in a previous post Cane Toads: The Conquest. and the original Cane Toads: An Unnatural History. first released in 1988. The films have been compared to the humor of Monty Python.

In June 2011 Elizabeth Farrelly wrote an article discussing some of the moral dilemma that I am blogging about today. She recalls the scene that I relived this weekend,

“…the toad-popping scene. An orange Kombi driven by a Cairns resident, Brent ”I really go out of my way to run over cane toads” Vincent, veers from side to side of a country road whose surface, we see, is strewn by small brown lumps.

”Well I line them up with the driver’s side front wheel . . .” drawls Vincent, deadpan. ”I know that I’ve made a good clean kill if the animal is facing the vehicle head-on. Then the air that’s inside the toad is trapped within the head and blown out towards the back end and the toad really goes off like a balloon.”

A great question posed by the Farrelly’s article is, “Do we hate the toads for their destructiveness, or because their destructiveness is really ours? Or should we, on the other hand, defend them as no less God’s creatures than, say, the cattle we so strenuously protect from Indonesian butchery?”


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