There has recently been considerable controversy over the use of 1090 fox bait to control Victoria’s fox population. In his article ‘They’re pests but cruelty is inexcusable’, writer Dmitri Kakmi puts forward a logical and, at times, emotive argument about how cruel and inhumane the use of this bait is.
In the introduction of the article, Kakmi relates an anecdote about how his dogs died ‘horribly’ after eating fox bait. The use of the word ‘horribly’ helps to position the audience to believe that this form of population control is particularly cruel. The anecdote itself also helps to personalise the issue, readers may imagine how horrible it would be if their own pets died in a similar manner.
Early in the article, he describes the death of foxes as ‘slow’ and ‘agonising’. The use of these adjectives helps to convince the reader that the use of this bait is cruel.
Farmers, who have to deal with the devastation caused by foxes, are one of the groups who may support the use of such baits. Kakmi attempts to get these people on side by taking a self-deprecating tone, calling himself a ‘dweeb from the city’, which values the experience of rural readers and builds support for his case.
Midway through his argument, Kakmi turns his attention to the foxes themselves. After describing the ‘cruel’ and ‘barbaric’ fox bait, he uses imagery to describe the foxes in very favourable terms which further helps to persuade the reader that this fox bait is reprehensible. He describes the foxes as ‘beauties of the animal kingdom’, describing how people are ‘wonderstruck’ by a ‘sudden flash of auburn bushy tail’. The phrase ‘wonderstruck’ helps to highlight how beautiful these animals are. Similarly, he describes their gaze like being watched by ‘an intelligence from another world’. This make the reader feel that they are aware, intelligent. Who would want to inflict cruelty on such an animal?
Although Kakmi describes the symptoms of the poison in a very detached, almost clinical manner, he explains that watching an animal die like this is ‘distressing beyond words’. This underscores the cruelty of this bait and encourages the reader to support his point of view. In the next paragraph, he uses graphic and disturbing imagery—’they were screaming and chewing off their lips’—to describe the death of his dogs. This highly emotive description encourages the readers to feel a sense of sympathy for these animals and encourages them to believe that the use of this bait is cruel and inhumane. Similarly, the image of a foxes who ‘chew their paws off to escape’ is equally upsetting.
To round off his argument, Kakmi provides an alternative to the current bait, describing an ‘ingenious’ plan by CSRIO scientists to put a contraceptive vaccine inside ‘yummy bait’. The use of language here describes the alternative as much more favourable than the ‘cruel’ and ‘barbaric’ 1080 fox bait.
Towards the end of his argument, Kakmi asks, “How would we feel if some sunny day a remorseless higher authority posited a convincing argument for our eradication and came after us with an arsenal?” This rhetorical question asks the readers to sympathise with the foxes and the cruelty of this measure for controlling them.
Kakmi’s argument ends comparing this issue with the ‘abolition of torture’. Comparing the death of foxes with human torture again encourages the reader to sympathise with the plight of these foxes and makes the issues of cruelty towards animals seem particularly important.
Throughout this piece, Kakmi uses a range of rhetorical techniques to encourage the audience to have sympathy for the plight of foxes and oppose the continued use of 1080 fox bait.