Trail of disinformation

August 18, 2011

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Trail of disinformation

P.S. Cottier

‘Does it really matter, love?  After all, we’re talking about a snail, aren’t we?  I put down bait for them.  Or squash them.  It’s them or my veggies.’  Bill smiled, ate a peanut, and drank a little more beer.

‘It’s a special snail.  A green one. Tiny.’  I sounded vaguely desperate, and I knew it.

‘But it’s still a snail, green, orange or purple.  Rainbow even.  I just don’t see the point, worrying about an ugly little bugger like that.’

Bill had hit the nail, or the snail shell, on the head.  We were just talking about ‘ugly little buggers’.  We wanted to prevent the development of a proposed mine because of the presence of rare miniature green snails, only found in one small pocket of rain-forest.  If it were koalas, once the subject of a bounty, we would have been national heroes.  A rare species of bird would be understandable.  Everyone can see beauty in a bird.  But a mollusc is quite a different kettle of fish.  Too far beneath our eyes to count.  Too near our feet.

It was Jennifer, my best friend and fellow conservationist, who came up with the idea to give our campaign to save the habitat of the endangered snail a certain indefinable…je ne sais quoi.

I knew we were onto a winner the next time I ran into Bill at the pub.  He was reading the newspaper, the one that Jennifer had just leaked her ‘secret information’ to.  It trembled in his hands.  I noticed that he wasn’t smiling, or cracking jokes like errant carapaces amongst the beans.  Indeed, he seemed a little angry, a little red in the face.

Bill turned the paper over so I could read the article he had just read.  I had to cover my nascent smile as I read:

French offer to take Aussie snails

 This paper has heard that an offer has been made, through official channels, for all the endangered miniature green snails in the area currently being considered for the development of a new mine to be removed and relocated to France, at the expense of the French Government.  It is hoped that the species may prove edible.’

‘Bloody cheek’, said Bill, as he took a long drink of beer.  ‘They’ve got their own snails.  Poor little buggers.  Why do they want to steal ours?’

He’d forgotten his previous comments about pellets and gardening.  We had wrapped the miniature green snail in the flag, rendered it as Australian as the kangaroo.  We eat them, but that’s different, apparently.

Despite vigorous denials from the French embassy, the story stuck.  The public was outraged.  Next week, the Government officially declared the snail habitat protected.

And deep in the bush, the tiny snails act out their slimy lives, safe from the development of a new tin mine.  And of course, safe from any forced repatriation to the restaurant rich and risky boulevards of Paris.

One Response to “Trail of disinformation”

  1. Tim Jones said

    An elegant solution! I wish the snails described in Janis Freegard’s poem Giant had found such patriotic backing here in New Zealand.

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