By Simon Barnes / October 11, 2014 3:40 AM EDT
"I eat like a vulture,” Groucho Marx said. “Unfortunately the resemblance doesn’t end there.” William Brown of the Just William books, required by his fragrant school-teacher to write a poem about birds, came up with:
“I circle round and round and then
Dead men I eat, I eat dead men.”
Which is as elegant a tribute to the vulture as we could wish for.
So yes, humans have always felt uneasy about vultures, uncomfortable with their association with death and finding their scavenging habits sordid and uninspiring. The vultures’ tendency to naked and unfeathered heads and necks makes them ugly in human eyes; we don’t consider the fact that feathers get clogged and matted when repeatedly stuffed into corpses. Nor would we find that thought helpful in exciting sympathy for vulture kind.