Crunching the numbers

 Thabela Thabeng - view

I was driving back from Thabela Thabeng in the Vredefort Dome (suffice it to say that if you need a lot of solitude, or just a little rest, GO THERE, 056 818 1116), listening to the radio and catching up with Chris Gibbons on what was in the papers this weekend since I have been utterly out of range for 48 hours. Really. No phone, no TV, no papers. The new health plan sounds… er… like very bad news. We hope for the best. I am sure this week the media will churn out nothing but reassuring updates.

After Grasmere plaza Jenny came on with the 702 Birthday Wish-thing, and today some lovely woman who runs a cat sanctuary was the lucky winner.  I forget who this woman is or where she works from, mainly because I was so astonished by the numbers in the story. I tried to find the information on the 702 website but according to that, I imagined the whole thing.

Anyway. Apparently (let’s call her Lilian) looks after 750 cats. I am not kidding you. That is what the report said. Seven-hundred-and-fifty. She gets up at 4.30 am to start cleaning and cooking. Sometimes she gets a friend to help. (I think this friend is a bit bored with the whole thing as she was the one who sent the SOS to 702. She’s like, please somebody take this away from me, and I can completely understand that.) Lilian relies solely on donations from the public to fund her noble endeavour (and then, on whatserface’s help with the feeding, obviously).

Jenny, bless her soul, connected Lilian with Royal Canin and their public relations person, Taryn. (They did say her surname, but again…) Taryn made a long speech about how Royal Canin is impressed with Lilian, and how grateful they are for the opportunity to make a contribution. They were happy to donate 1.2 million tons of cat food, and 1.6 million tons of dog food. One point two million TONS! Jenny gushed, that’s a LOT!

And dog food? Jenny probed. Oh yes, Taryn enthused, she did a little digging, and discovered that Lilian also feeds some stray dogs. About 17 of them.

Now… please, somebody, help me. Taryn does an investigation, and decides that Royal Canin will contribute almost 100kgs of food per dog, and less that 2kgs of food per cat. It seems the company is not called Royal Canin for nothing. Dogs are the kings over there. And either cats are not high on their list of priorities, or somebody in distribution went to the Julius Malema School of Numeracy. Or they simply have no idea how much cats eat. WHAT they eat, maybe, but HOW MUCH? I doubt it.

A quick call to a cat owner revealed that less that 2kgs of cat food MIGHT, IF augmented with this-that-and-the-other, feed a cat for a month. So, even if Lilian feeds the dog food to the cats, I think she is sorted for about two months – no more. (Toughies for the friend.)

Lilian was surprisingly, completely helpless with gratitude, and I am sure the SPCA was green with envy. They should get THEIR friends to send their OWN birthday wishes to Jenny.

So my point is, Royal Canin can clearly not count – sending radically lopsided provisions for the animals in need. Unless of course it was the last stores of the melamine-tainted batch from China.* And Jenny cannot count, because I don’t think she figured out that she has helped the woman for maybe two months tops.  Hmm…or maybe she did.*

Lastly, but most importantly, Lilian can definitely not count, because the cost of feeding 750 cats every day would bankrupt Anglo American. (I exaggerate, I know, but I am making a point. Er… they are not perhaps bankrupt already are they? Things move so fast in the world these days, and I HAVE been out of town….) But I digress. For a single person, feeding these cats cannot possibly be sustainable in the long run, no matter how hard or how often you pray. Really. Hmm… unless Lilian has Something Else Going On on the acre of land that some other cat fanatic (she CLAIMS) donated to the sanctuary. *

I know the credit crunch may well have soured the nation’s relationship with mathematics and all that it encompasses,  but surely now, more than ever, it is important to keep tabs on the figures, right?

And so on. Ruth, my source* on the nutritional requirements of adult cats, was puzzled about why the story got in my bonnet in the first place, and I said I was not sure. It simply irritates me when people cannot do simple calculations on the radio and somehow expect laudations from listeners when they are being impractical, if not completely ridiculous.

So that is my rant for the day.

Now I have to go back to sources theory and agenda-setting.


* About the little stars that so litter the text: I am aware of the fact that I might come across a tad the conspiracy theorist in today’s blog, but I have been holed up far from Real Life, which normally would have meant at least peripheral contact with naive cat lovers, PR types and blond talk-show hosts. I have been immersed in the theory of media, written by extra-ordinarily clever people (if sometimes a little paranoid, in the case of Noam Chomsky) and have been trying to formulate an insightful answer to the question of “Who Uses Who?” when it comes to investigative journalists and their sources. So you see. I am not quite back home yet.

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5 thoughts on “Crunching the numbers

  1. filblanc 8 June 2009 / 17:46

    In Parys, not far from Vredefort Dome, there is a a wonderful Irish couple. I met them in Killarney mall, they use to sell pies in a small shop next Pick’n Pay. Murray was always writing on a piece of paper. One day I couldn’t resist and apologetically ask him what was he writing about… He was actually writing a book, that has since been published, titled Tehaka’s Journey. It’s about an old soul travelling from one body to another…from Zanzibar in Livingston times to today’s New York. Anyhow,once the book was published, they sold the pie shop to some indian couple, and decided to retire in Parys, Murray with the idea of pursuing his “carrière littéraire” and Margaret starting an orchard. A couple of months later, I managed to reconnect with them, and invited them for a vegeterian dinner in JHB. (Murray does not eat any living creature). The concept of retirement for Murray and Margaret consist in feeding everyday… 350 kids!!! Margaret fills up every morning her little Korean car with food at Pick’n Pay, and prepares the food for the kids, lunch and dinner. Murray manages to get some funding from some German NGO. I simply love these people. They do not talk much, they simply DO. I just love them. I don’t know why I am writing all this here. It was the cat feeding scheme maybe, or the Vredefort dome? I simply think that I am privileged to have met them. Maybe next time you feel like going to the dome, go to Parys and meet with Margaret and Murray X

    • Betty Noire 8 June 2009 / 17:57

      Thanks for that, I think I might do that next time I go. I really love Parys, an I may go again in the next few weeks. I met Murray, with you one day. We stopped at the pie shop to say hello to him, and you told me the story. (Was Murray about to go on some kind of publicity trip that time?) I think what they are doing is amazing. Must have been hard for him – the pie shop – if he eats no flesh. Yes?
      Anyway. I have been wondering what happened to him. Now I know. I like that.

  2. hardspear 9 June 2009 / 08:14

    You think you are jealous of me making sourdough bread… you have no Idea how jealous I am of you being able to go away for a weekend. Since it is a stone throw away from where I live, I will definitely go. Lamb and I so need a weekend away. We haven’t been since before Image’s birth 7 months ago. This place sounds perfect. We can have Lamb’s Mom look after Image.

  3. peege 9 June 2009 / 11:58

    I am allergic to both cats and dogs an ditch terribly when either one species comes near me. This is a great tragedy for my daughter who wants more than anything to cuddle one or both of the species. After reading your blog, I realise that I would probably have more than itches if I grot (past tense of gritted) my teeth and bore my allergies to satisfy my daughter’s need for canine/feline cuddles! It costs enough to feed a couple of humans! And maybe you should focus your conspiracy theory on the price of cheese – just ordinary old gouda!

    When watching the French Open Women’s finals, my daughter and I thought that Safrin (sp?? – you know the one who lost) reminded us of you. The length and shape of those legs!!! And I’m sure that she has a theory or two about her loss. Love your blog – clever, funny and informed, a rare combination.

  4. Betty Noire 9 June 2009 / 13:59

    Peege, thanks very much. Also for the tip on the gouda. As soon as my friggen essay is done I am onto it.

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