In a recent post, I discussed why we should respect all life – no matter how small! Writing the post made me think about how we unfairly classify the creatures which inconvenience us – however mildly – as ‘pests’.
We’ve divided the Earth up into chunks which individuals can ‘own’, just like animals marking out their territory – except we have the nerve to believe that the land actually belongs to us.
Once we ‘own’ a piece of land, woe betide the other creatures which inhabit it. Some – like songbirds – might be tolerated, but many are not so lucky.
This is effectively illustrated by the word ‘vermin’, which labels entire species as filthy scum if they dare to invade our space. I’ve come to detest that word, as it allows people to justify the use of cruel methods in order to eradicate some species.
Having a piece of paper which states that we own a certain piece of land doesn’t mean we have more right to be there than the wildlife which inhabits it – after all, it was there first!
We already do so much harm to animals by destroying their habitat so we can use the land for our own purposes. Incidentally, this habitat destruction is one of the leading causes of species extinction. Animals are increasingly being forced to live around us rather than amongst us.
We also exploit farmed animals for their flesh and secretions, contributing heavily to climate change in the process, and kill the predators which threaten them. We pollute water, contaminate land, hunt entire species to extinction and strip the oceans of life. But even that isn’t enough; we have to wage war on the little creatures in our homes and gardens too.
Much as the concept of a weed is subjective (referring to any plant which grows somewhere where humans would rather it didn’t), so is the concept of a pest.
It’s true that there are situations where it’s necessary to remove certain animals from our homes for the sake of our health and safety – if they carry disease, for example. But I think it’s important to consider the ways in which we do this, and whether it can be done without harming the creatures concerned.
For example, about a year ago my housemates and I had a problem with rats, which kept finding their way into the house (and eating our food!). To my distress, the landlord reacted by putting down poison. It all disappeared virtually overnight, but the rats kept on coming. We took matters into our own hands, finding the places where they were getting in and blocking the holes with bricks. The problem soon went away.
The point I’m trying to make is that we’re often too quick to decide that unwelcome creatures need to die. It seems an unfair punishment for the ‘crime’ of existing in a certain place, especially since they have no idea that we consider that space ours! If you do need to keep animals at bay, it’s worth exploring alternatives like humane traps and better fencing.
As I mentioned in my previous post, it isn’t always possible to avoid harming animals – cockroaches are difficult to get rid of humanely, for example. But we can all do our best to minimise the harm we do, spreading compassion rather than cruelty. Let’s make the world a kinder place.