I once met an extraordinary man called Luis, who made me promise I’d write a book about all the other incredible men I’ve also met (platonically), and title it “Men I didn’t want to sleep with”. You can read Luis’ story here.
This is the story of Oliver.
For the purpose of this post, I have had to change the name of this extraordinary man and I cannot include his pictures. Not because I don’t want to acknowledge him. But because our bizarre society, on the verge of collapse thanks to the environmental disasters created by us spinning in our hamster wheels, depleting its resources and producing waste, considers his behaviour as a smart and responsible consumer to be illegal.
Oliver ran a zoo where I once worked as a volunteer. An energetic man with a beautiful family, who presided over many volunteers from all over the world. My deep admiration for Oliver stems from his ability to use existing resources that would otherwise have been wasted: he kept a huge zoo going with nothing.
All the animals were either unwanted and donated or rescued from other zoos or farms that wanted to put them down. The carnivores in the zoo were fed male chicks that arrived in huge frozen boxes. As volunteers, we had to throw these boxes on the ground, let them thaw, and then chop up the contents. Very tragic. But what you don’t necessarily know is that every time you eat chicken or eggs, you’re giving money to an industry that separates males and females at birth, takes the females for egg-laying and sends the males straight into the meat grinder, either while still alive or after gassing them to death, still adorned in their tender feathers. Oliver was one of the few to retrieve these and use them for a purpose.
Meanwhile, the zoo’s herbivores were fed on the prunings of forest plants. The huge quantity of dung produced by the zoo’s animals was wheelbarrowed into the woods by the volunteers, where it fertilised the soil and kept the forest growing.
The remainder of the zoo’s food came from the town’s restaurants, which had been instructed not to throw away a single scrap, whether from preparation or the leftovers on customers’ plates. Huge bucket-fulls of mixed leftover food arrived at the zoo every evening, for us latex-gloved volunteers to painstakingly divide for each type of animal: prawns for the turtles, meat and bones for the dogs, and anything for the pigs — except onions, which they don’t like.
As I’ve already said, the labour was free because of the volunteers who came from all over the world. We came to work every morning on bikes. But how were we fed? Every day, supermarkets all around the world throw huge quantities of out-of-date food into the rubbish. Some people choose to retrieve this via Dumpster Diving, which is illegal. In recent years, an app called ToGoodToGo has enabled people to locate and buy about-to-expire products before they are thrown away. Oliver was even smarter. In a country of drinkers, he bribed the supermarket staff with bottles of fine whisky, which resulted in him being handed all the food which was about to be thrown away, even though it was in perfect condition, neatly packed in grocery bags, for his family and all the volunteers to consume.
To me, Oliver is the ideal rebel citizen we should all learn to be.