Don’t waste your breath imploring me to change my mind. Cameras will stay banned whenever I wrestle alligators.
My resolve is stronger than ever thanks to Bryan Champagne. If you want to admire my technique as I flip a gator and dive on to hold him in a vise-like grip, you’ll have to meet me down the bayou.
There is no way of denying that the experience, for an alligator, is quite traumatic. If a video got out, I could be in serious Dutch with PETA.
That’s what happened to Champagne, although he couldn’t be accused of any real rough stuff. All he did was swat a gator on the noggin with an oar. Gators, not being delicate creatures, this one was probably thinking, “Is that all you got?”
Alas for Champagne, who runs swamp tours out of Breaux Bridge, his attempt to provide his customers with alligator action was filmed, presumably by one of them.
The footage made its way onto the Internet and came to the attention of the grim-visaged guardians of animal rights.
PETA demanded Champagne be prosecuted for cruelty and for illegal possession of the baby alligators the video showed him holding for his customers’ inspection.
This was not, by PETA’s standards, a particularly absurd cause, but it was obvious the cruelty charge would never stick. When Assistant DA Chester Cedars and his colleagues viewed the video, they determined Champagne had administered no more than a “tap.”
“There is no way a St. Martin Parish jury is going to find this man guilty of cruelty to animals — no way,” Cedars said. That would have been true even if Champagne had struck with a little more force.
Had he gone to trial half the jurors would probably have ordered alligator sausage as a starter at lunch. Fishermen and hunters would have been well represented.
PETA’s view that all creatures have the same rights as people clearly belongs on a different planet.
Although Champagne was not prosecuted for cruelty, he was obliged to cop a plea to illegal possession; he got off with a $250 fine. Perhaps it would gone worse for him if he’s been charged with intent to distribute.
PETA must have known that smacking alligators never was a hanging offense in south Louisiana and could hardly have expected a better outcome. Sure, the chief reaction to its complaint was mirth, but that will be jake. It’s the publicity that counts.
As PETA director Ingrid Newkirk has acknowledged, “We’re stunt queens. We have to be. We have to escalate so there are more gimmicks than there used to be, because otherwise there is silence.”
The approach certainly works. PETA raises millions every year and celebrities line up to pledge support and take the vegan vow.
PETA did not just ask that Champagne be convicted; it also wanted him banned from any contact with wildlife for “as long as legally possible.” That would be no trivial sanction for a professional swamp tour operator, but human welfare is none of PETA’s concern.
Thus, for instance, Newkirk would never favor animal experiments just because they offered a cure for cancer or AIDS.
It is true that a visit to a slaughterhouse or a battery farm might horrify the most dedicated carnivore, but there just isn’t enough of PETA’s preferred diet — roadkill — to go round.
PETA is trying to put us off fish by calling them sea kittens, but, let us face it, speckled trout just aren’t that cuddly. They taste better than cats, too; that’s my guess, anyway.
Regardless, few of us want to try life as PETA would have it lived. With no fish or meat to eat, dinner would be a bore. There would little point in venturing into the great outdoors. The Fair Grounds would close down, and we’d have no idea what to do with the horses.
The alligators would be glad, though, if wrestling were banned. Maybe that would be just as well. Sometimes, I feel quite sorry for them.
James Gill’s email address is jgill@ theadvocate.com.