It’s pannage time in the New Forest. Hundreds of pigs are let loose to hoover up acorns, doing a favour to ponies and cattle whose stomachs can’t cope with such delicacies. It’s fun to see pigs out and about in their couple of months of freedom.
The dong of cow bells rang out over green pastures below snow-capped mountains – a thrilling introduction to the beauty of Switzerland on my first visit to Europe many decades ago. The cows have freedom – but within certain boundaries. Thanks to the bells worn round their necks, farmers can locate their animals.
Lions in captivity are kept – one would like to think – out of human reach and their muscly power and handsome looks may be admired from a safe distance.
In each of these happy scenarios, however, there is a caveat. Beware! Yesterday’s newspaper revealed that a pig bit a man in the Forest, a handful of people complained about the noise of cowbells, and a rugby player who decided to try and stroke a lion, got more than he bargained for.
Life is lived within certain bounds for pigs, cows, lions – and people. Human beings like to be free but tend to function most effectively within certain boundaries. Who sets those boundaries? “All the animals in the forest are mine and the cattle on thousands of hills,” said God. He wants people to enjoy, respect and care for his world. Just try to avoid being bitten.