The elephants… are inconsolable

Sad Death of an Elephant Trainer in Sheffield

It happens. Elephant trainers are every bit as mortal as the next guy, and when the Grim Reaper comes calling, even their big, thick-skinned, flappy-eared grey friends can’t do anything about it.

See here:

And I quote:

SAD DEATH OF AN ELEPHANT TRAINER IN SHEFFIELD

In the early hours of this morning the accident to Fred Hartley, who was in the employ of Messrs. Sanger as elephant trainer, terminated fatally. Such a sad ending to what was considered only a slight mishap was not expected until within the last day or two. It appears that during an afternoon performance on the 19th inst. the deceased, who was a promising young fellow of 26, and a great favourite with the visitors at Messrs. Sangers’ establishment in Pinstone street, handed to one of the elephants a horse-pistal [sic] for use in a trick. The weapon went off suddenly, and the wadding lodged in the palm of Hartley’s hand. The wound though painful was not regarded as serious, and the injured man was medically attended at his home for a few days. On Sunday, however, alarming symptoms began to manifest themselves and his removal the the hospital was advised, where after lingering in dreadful agony, he died as stated. Lockjaw is returned as the cause of death. The deceased has been in the service of Messrs. Sanger ever since he was a child and his loss to them is felt very keenly. The elephants, with whom he could do anything, are inconsolable, and it will be a matter of no little difficulty to fill his place in their affections. The funeral will take place at the General Cemetery on Sunday.

Lockjaw – or tetanus – is caused by Clostridium tetani. A simple vaccination or dose of metronidazole would have saved this “promising young fellow”. But this snippet from the Sheffield Telegraph (and shamelessly borrowed off Facebook) is likely from the 1870s, and they hadn’t quite got their heads around the microbiology of it all back then. Still, it’s a good reminder of where we’re headed with increasing antibiotic resistance and anti-vaxx idiots.

Because yes, even a mild injury to your hand, caused by an elephant shooting you with a horse-pistal [sic] could be fatal again soon.

It’s something we all need to be cautious of.

You want pure nature? OK, die young.

I spotted a nice little rant from Jeffrey Kluger on Time.com on anti-vaxxers.

I hope that writing it was some sort of cathartic experience for Jeffrey, as while it carefully explains all the reasons that anti-vaxxers are foolish, short-sighted and downright wrong, it will have about as much effect as bringing a banana to a gunfight. But I recognise that sometimes you just need to get these things out of your system before the frustration makes your brain go totes cray cray and you start using sloppy internet slang.

Parents who oppose vaccines are not only misinformed, they’re spoiled, having grown up in a world that stands behind the berms built by the scientists and vaccine developers who came before them. If you’ve never seen measles — or polio or whooping cough or mumps — you have the luxury of believing they don’t exist.

Forget the pretty flowers and the Instagrammable sunsets. There’s another side to Nature: viruses, evil bacteria, disease, sickness. Yep, sadly, it turns out that Nature is actually a bit of a bitch. As Jeffrey points out, science (or “messing with nature”) allows us to live longer, it means that we don’t die in childhood, it means that simple infections don’t kill us anymore (for the moment, anyway).
Because those were all things that happened a lot before science happened (see here).
Now, I think that those are good things. Positive things. Fine reasons to embrace and celebrate the progress we have made. Working in science, it’s disappointing when others don’t feel that way, but it’s tragic when their irresponsible decisions impact on the defenceless individuals in our society.

I’m not going to carry on. My rant would have about as much effect as Jeffrey’s and rather than raising my blood pressure by thinking about the idiots, I’d rather be doing my (little) bit to stop quite so many people dying of TB. That said, do click through and have a read of Jeffrey’s column, because it does make very good sense.