The killing of the Magic Pudding Chef and the consequences for conservation

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This short essay comes from a presentation at the “Killing for Conservation” symposium organised by RZSNSW late in 2017. It uses the conceit of a literary killing and its fall-out to examine broader issues around the topic of killing for conservation, and conservation more generally. The essay takes its title from an Australian children’s classic, The Magic Pudding. Although less fashionable in twenty-first century Australia, and while there can be many arguments about the author’s intent in writing the story, and the views he promotes through it (Eipper 1999), it is essentially about the phenomenology of the central actor, Albert, the magic pudding. A brief precis of the story (Lindsay 1918) is as follows: The story is of Bunyip Bluegum the koala, pushed out of home and deciding to see the world, taking only a walking stick. Quite soon he gets hungry and by happenstance meets Bill Barnacle the sailor and Sam Sawnoff the penguin who are eating a pudding – Albert. Albert was a bad-tempered, ill-mannered pudding: but however much you ate, Albert the pudding regenerated at once. By rotating Albert, you could also change flavour, from steak-and-kidney to apple-pie. Since Albert’s only pleasure is being eaten, he insists that Bill and Sam invite Bunyip to join them. Glossing over details, Bill explains to Bunyip how he and Sam were once shipwrecked with a ship’s cook on an iceberg where the cook created the pudding which they now own. In fact, as Bill and Sam starved on the iceberg, the chef became fatter each day, and one night they discovered the cook eating Albert. Although “shrouded in mystery” they were so enraged they rushed at the corpulent cook, who being round, and the ice slippery, rolled off the iceberg and was killed in the freezing waters – hence the title of this paper. Eventually Bill, Sam and Albert returned to Australia, where they had to constantly defend Albert from being stolen by a range of different pudding thieves. Several (temporarily successful) occurrences of pudding thievery occur, the last unsuccessful once finishing in an affray, leading to the Albert being charged with disorderly conduct and taken to court. In court, the judge and the usher are distracted (playing cards), while trying to adjudicate on this matter. They are also eating the defendant, lubricated by generous swigs of port, and, unsurprisingly, cannot come to any decisions. Further chaos ensues until the pudding owners grab Albert from the dock and make a getaway safely to a quiet place.There they settle down for the rest of their lives, keeping the Pudding carefully fenced in to avoid being thieved or escaping.




Bridgewater, P. (2019). The killing of the Magic Pudding Chef and the consequences for conservation. Australian Zoologist. Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales.

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