Armadillos are apparently bullet-proof. Yesterday’s news from the state of Georgia included a story about one of these roly-poly little hard-shelled mammals wandering along minding its own business when some redneck jerk pointed a gun at him and pulled the trigger. Being the total badass that he was, this particular armadillo who I’m calling Neo for his resemblance to the chosen one from The Matrix, simply raised up his armadillo hand, a la Neo, and the bullet bounced off him. Boom—bulletproof. But that’s not all: The bullet, from a 9 mm handgun mind you, ricocheted off of our bony friend and hit the shooter’s mother-in-law, who was all the way inside the house at the time. She wasn’t seriously injured, since Neo’s casual raise of his paw had slowed the bullet to injuring-only velocity. This is the best possible outcome of any news story involving the words “accidental shooting.”
Or this is the end I want the story to have. I want the armadillo to be a badass bulletproof critter giving no f*cks about failed attempts on his life. Sadly, that’s not how the story ends. Unfortunately, the armadillo was killed by the shot. The rest of this tale is true though; the bullet did ricochet off his shell and hit the shooter’s mother-in-law, so at least he got his revenge. I hope the mother-in-law never forgives the gun-happy SOB.
Stories like this make me angry. What the hell is wrong with people that use other living beings for target practice? Oh look, a helpless animal minding its own business. I think I’ll kill it because it’s there. And I am not talking about hunting either. Humans eat meat, and the hunters I know are careful with their guns and the way they dispatch the animals that they intend to consume (mostly deer and birds in these parts.) There isn’t a casual pointing of a 9 mm handgun from the porch of the house at an animal with no good recipes to its name just because. (I could be wrong about the recipes thing—maybe people enjoy armadillo casserole in Georgia.) The point is, casual cruelty isn’t the same as hunting for food.
There was a story from my home town a few months back about two teenagers out for a joyride with a shotgun. They were taking pot shots at birds from the car window and actually hit a bald eagle. What. The. Hell? Not only is the whole idea of shooting a shotgun out of a car window inanely stupid for so many reasons, but bald eagles are literally the most iconic, recognizable animal in the United States. Who raised these boys? Saddam Hussein? The bird proved heartier than poor Neo the armadillo and was rescued later by a wildlife rehab team. The boys were arrested by the county sheriffs but the slap-on-the-wrist punishment they received hardly seems fitting to the wanton intention of mindlessly inflicting pain on other living creatures. Stories like this make me hate my own species.
I remember a news story from a number of years ago (also in my home state) about three boys who went into a cat rescue with baseball bats. They killed or maimed many of the cats (some of whom were tiny kittens) and left thinking it was all a good time. They were eventually arrested but, like the eagle shooters, not charged with a felony. I wanted to be alone with them in a small room with a baseball bat. Why isn’t animal cruelty treated like a more serious crime? I don’t understand. People who commit violence against animals make me want to punch those people in the face. I like to imagine that these cats were reincarnated as the bears that ate Timothy Treadwell. It's the only way I can sleep at night.
In summation, the religious right is worried about god’s judgment of our immortal souls with good reason; killing things for no good reason is why we’re all going to hell.