Still, I suppose you know what llamas are like. Most people these days have at least some familiarity with what was once regarded as exotic wildlife – at least in places far from their natural habit – through the medium of the TV nature documentary.
Although, even these days, there are still some people who are surprised by the llama’s natural antipathy towards any form of bureaucracy. Many wildlife programme-makers have been somewhat lax in this regard, and not just with llamas. Often, they prefer to fill their programmes with sweeping panoramas of herds migrating across the great plain in some far-off and unspoilt region of the globe. Or documenting the struggle or survival in a harsh landscape where every moment is a battle against predators or with prey. Very few wildlife documentary makers have paid any attention to the plight of, say, a Thompson’s gazelle filling in its tax return, or an elderly lion’s seemingly futile attempt to apply for a Disability Living Allowance.
Of course, there are exceptions. A lot of critical acclaim was lauded upon the recent documentary, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, about a family of meerkats and their attempt to get some form of social housing from a seemingly utterly indifferent and incompetent local authority housing department.
Then, of course, there was the recent worldwide scandal about the herd of migrating wildebeest who had been offered temporary accommodation in a handful of substandard ex-rabbit hutches. Although since Bonio, Sting and Bob Geldof organised the Live Wildebeest Aid concert at Wembley last summer, there has been some progress made in the standard of migrating herds throughout Africa. Even so, there have been some tabloid reports of herds of zebras living it up in five-star hotels at taxpayers’ expense.
However, it is the seeming belligerence of llamas – when faced with any form of bureaucracy – that has attracted the hostile attention of the tabloid press in recent weeks. There have been – for many years now – many herds of immigrant llamas living entirely legally in this country. Many of them do not encounter social services, preferring to register mainly as self-employed wool producers. However, a minority do cause concern with their belligerent attitude to state intervention into their lives, even if such intervention is for ostensibly benevolent purposes.
The supporters of these contentious llamas and their occasional militant action against the forces of the state claim that allowances must be made for these llamas. After all, the llamas come from a very different culture. One where intrusion by the state into what a llama regards as its own private affairs is entirely unknown.
Some celebrities have come out in support of the llamas and their claim to a private life free from state intrusion. However, others argue that this is a dangerous precedent, mainly because the state only has the best intentions towards immigrant llamas, and other non-indigenous species of wildlife (especially the cute ones).
However, it remains to be seen if the proud – if not haughty – herds of llamas in this country will eventually adapt to the amount of state involvement in their lives. Or if – somehow – the overweening state bureaucracy itself can learn some lessons on how it treats all creatures – not just llamas – that come into contact with it when it attempts to fulfil its social obligations.