If you’d told me that at some point last year I’d be watching a group of killer snakes chasing an iguana, I’d have assumed you meant I had, once again, fallen asleep watching the Horror Channel.

The hero of “one of the most gripping and emotional pieces of TV” Nick watched in 2016.

If you’d then told me it would be one of the most gripping and emotional pieces of television I watched all year, I’d have assumed you were finishing off the leftover wine from Christmas (and possibly eaten a dodgy out of date mince pie).

Actually, I had been watching – along with many of you, I suspect – the ever-excellent Planet Earth II.

Iguanas are not creatures I find it naturally easy to empathise with, but watching that plucky reptile attempting to escape from some, well, equally plucky reptiles, it was… well, you had to be there.

Alternatively, you could watch it on YouTube.

Too much?

It was the same with a similarly gripping sequence about a pride of lions in the Kalahari Desert attempting to bring down a giraffe.

Spoiler – they fail. The giraffe escapes and the brief moment of elation you feel for the giraffe is very quickly tempered by the knowledge that the pride of lions is now one step closer to starvation.

I get a lot of clients asking for “natural products”, or voicing their concerns about vaccinations because they “aren’t natural”. They want “natural foods” because the current pet diets are too… well… they often aren’t quite sure what they are “too”, but whatever it is, there’s definitely too much of it – too many “additives”, too many “preservatives”, too “processed”. Natural, that’s best.

The thing is, these clients are absolutely correct. There’s nothing “natural” about vaccinations, antibiotics or processed food, and here’s what I always want to tell them (although I’m too much a client-pleaser to put it as bluntly as this) – it’s a bloody good thing, too.

Nature’s battleground

It’s quite natural for an entire pride of lions to starve to death because they have failed to kill enough prey to survive.

It’s quite natural for an entire pride of lions to starve to death because they have failed to kill enough prey to survive the dreadful conditions of the Kalahari Desert. It’s natural to die of cholera because you drank water filled with Vibrio cholerae organisms. It’s natural to die in childbirth, or from an abscess, polio or distemper.

Nature is a battleground. It’s called “the wild” for a reason – every single creature that lives in it is competing against something else in a very literal fight to the death.

Nature, I want to tell my clients, can stick it. We’re well rid of it. Those of us privileged enough to be living in the First World are healthier than any humans have been throughout history. The epidemics we struggle against are growing fat and getting old – something those facing the Black Death might have felt sounded more like paradise than pathology.

When humanity passed through its bottleneck after a supervolcano eruption 70,000 years ago, when there were only 10,000 humans left on the planet, I can’t imagine many of those survivors would have extolled the virtues of natural living.

Wild existence

Richard Adams
Richard Adams reads from his acclaimed novel Watership Down in 2008. Photo by AndrewRH (CC BY-SA 3.0)

At the time of writing, I have just heard Richard Adams – writer of one of my favourite books of all time, Watership Down – is, very sadly, one of the many celebrities not to have made it to the end of 2016. I loved that book because it was the first “animal” book I had read that took it seriously; that showed us what it was like to live in fear of death every single day of your life. That’s what it is, to paraphrase Roy Batty, to live in the wild.

Conventional medicine and modern technology don’t always get it right. Mistakes are made. Very occasionally, people die because of these mistakes. When that happens, we hear about it, because it is flashed on to whatever screens we happen to be looking at. What we don’t hear about are the millions upon millions of lives that have been saved by sanitation, vaccination, medication and agriculture, because “Child doesn’t die of measles” doesn’t make a good headline.

I’m preaching to the converted, I know. Many of you feel the same, and put it far better than I can myself. Maybe I’m just feeling defensive in this brave, and scary, new world of anti-intellectualism and anti-science.

We should be proud of the achievements made by the giants that came before us, so maybe, just maybe, the next time a client asks me “do you do homeopathic vaccines?” because they don’t think our normal vaccines are “natural”, I’ll nod, smile and say: “No, they aren’t. There’s nothing natural about them at all – and thank God for that.”

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