Monday, October 08, 2007

Animal of the Week -- October 8, 2007

There's somebody at the door, there's somebody at the door!

Those of you who observe the days of the Saints may have marked October 4, the feast day of renowned hermit and animal lover Francis of Assisi, by having your pet blessed at your local catholic congregation on this Sunday just gone. And what pet did you have blessed? Maybe a cat or a dog, or a cat, or a dog, or another dog? Poor priests, the highlight of their day would be some batty ageing zealot bringing in a fluffy toilet-seat cover. Well, here's some wonderful news for priests in the UK, next year's animals may include any one, or perhaps all, of 33 species for which a special licence is no-longer required to keep them as pets. And what a list of species--do you fancy owning a kodkod (a miniature spotted cat), a cacomistle like Paris Hilton's Baby Luv, perhaps a raccoon called Bert, or maybe this week's animal of the week Dromaius novaehollandiae (emu).

An emu is approximately the length of a man's arm from rear to beak, its blue-purple shiny plumage and bright red neck make the bird instantly recognisable. Emu can afford to be showy and conspicuous, because its terrible temper ensures that it has no natural enemies but for a fat green witch, but when threatened the emu seeks shelter in a pink windmill with a bunch of kids and a strange old man who looks for all the world like the love child of Willy Wonker and Wurzel Gummage. JUST KIDDING, THAT WAS A KIDS TV PROGRAMME FROM MY YOUTH YOU SILLIES! (Although I didn't watch it because it was on ITV.)

At 2 m tall, emus are the largest birds of Australia and the second largest extant birds. Like their cousins, ostriches, cassowaries, rheas, and kiwis they are flightless. Rod Hull's emu, much like the man himself[thanks A Watts], was also flightless, but real emus are brown-grey with a blue-grey neck, and very rarely have a man hanging out of their bottoms...mind you, some parts of Australia are very remote and a man could get lonely. Able to run at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour for sustained periods of time, emus leg muscles make up a similar portion of their body weight as do the wing muscles of birds that have not lost the power of flight, and like turkey breasts, the legs of emus are a tasty low calorie treat. Besides their meat, emus are farmed in Australia, North America, Argentina, and Chile for their leather, feathers, eggs, and oil. Yes, their oil...used mostly in cosmetics and dietary supplements, emu oil is also thought to have anti-inflammatory properties.

So, there you go UK folks, no longer do you need to worry about getting a licence for your emu, hiding it when the inspectors come around, or insisting you only use it to watch DVDs. Get one, rejoice, and next feast day of St Francis, take it to your priest and brighten up his day with a little variety. Or simply feast on your emu if you aren't that bothered about saints.

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