- An event that causes someone to die
- The act of terminating a life
We all hear that “killing is wrong,” yet we all do it every day. “Not me,” says you, “I have never killed anything or anyone in my life, I am a lifelong vegan and do not eat or wear any animal products or by-products.”
I too do not knowingly eat any animal products, nor knowingly wear animal products, but that’s not to say that I’m not a cold blooded killer!
The vegetarian cold blooded killer
I believe that all life is precious, and should be preserved, but a lion would disagree with me. For me it’s a philosophical and ethical choice, for the lion, it’s the choice between life and death (his). He has to eat meat, he has no method of processing, letting alone finding, potatoes and carrots! So my view on killing is instantly different from an animal who requires meat to stay alive.
One day we may all be vegetarians, and no one will have to put up with the gory sight of a predator tearing apart its prey; instead it will be the carrots being brutally torn from the soil using machines!
As a recent (seven years) vegetarian, I have often heard people using the argument:
“You say you don’t eat meat, but how do you know that the vegetables aren’t suffering, hmm, what about that, vegetarian?”
To which I have to reply: “You’re right, I have no idea if the vegetables suffer, but until I hear evidence that they do, I think I’ll keep eating them!”
But it did start me thinking.
When I chose not to eat meat, I, like most people who have become vegetarian, was probably thinking about large animals, or at least animals, birds and fish I used to eat like beef from cows, chicken, haddock, pork from pigs, etc. I wasn’t really considering the entire population of tiny animals, insects or microbes.
For me, choosing not to eat meat was a statement. A statement that it’s wrong to kill animals, and that Man does not have to be a meat eater to live a healthy life. Looking back, I seem to have missed out several thousand species that it seems I was prepared to kill without a second thought! Those include ants in my kitchen, all the bugs on my windscreen and headlights I have summarily executed at 130 kilometres per hour; all the creatures that have habitats in the grass where I have run them over and chopped them up with the lawn mower; entire colonies of germs in my toilet, assassinated with bleach; and millions of micro-organisms in the cows milk before it was pasteurised (when I used to drink milk); not forgetting the mosquitoes I squashed on holiday last year.
So you see, I am a hypocrite. Every day I walk around in my big shoes stamping everywhere without a second thought for the tiny creatures that may be on the pavement – I’m too busy to be worrying about that!
When I was volunteering on the scottish island last year, we used seaweed from the beach to mix with our compost, thereby destroying the habitat of millions of tiny creatures. Without the habitat I had destroyed, they would then die. I can hear you now shouting: “Killer!”
So just because I eat no animal products do not be fooled by the peaceful exterior. Inside, I’m as cold blooded as the lion who tears his victim apart. Except I don’t eat the creatures I kill, I just casually leave them on the path to die in agony.
Last night as I was walking up the path to my house, I heard this crunch underfoot, and as I looked down I could see I had crushed a snail. “Oh I’m so sorry” I said, but it didn’t hear me. It didn’t nod and say: “Oh, that’s ok, it happens all the time, don’t worry, there’s a million more like me, we’re used to being stepped on.” I just had to pick it up and put it in the bushes where it probably died or maybe is still suffering.
Oh well, as long as I can’t see it suffering, that’s ok. The same goes for any animal that gets in the way of the car as I am driving along country roads. Bam! And that’s the end of it for them (or maybe they suffer for some time before dying).
The thing is, we are tuned into the suffering of larger animals more because their cries seem to have an emotive effect on us. If you have ever heard a pig or cow suffering when they are being killed you will know what I mean. The difference with the tiny creatures, insects especially, is that they don’t make any noise at all, they just squirm about until after a short time they stop moving, and we can pronounce them dead.
My mother taught me a great trick with ants in the back garden. First, boil a kettle of water. Second, take said water and pour all over ants. Ants then seem to disappear and don’t come back for a while. Wonderful. All without the use of harmful chemicals. An organic solution! The environmentalists would like that.
I never stopped to consider what was actually happening when the water hits the ants bodies at 100°c. I am not sure of the technical details, but I can imagine what would happen if someone poured the equivalent temperature for our size, on us. Excruciating pain followed by death I would guess. The difference between the ants is (a) we scream and they don’t and (b) we think ants are pests. We do not know what part they have to play in the ecosystem, they aren’t cute and cuddly like a labrador, there’s billions of them, and actually, we’re scared of them! In the great battle for survival, the resourceful human invents as many nasty ways to dispose of things he (a) doesn’t understand and (b) doesn’t like.
I guess that by eating non-organic carrots I am a vegetarian cold-blooded killer because they spray the carrots (and all veg) with pesticides (a chemical used to kill pests). Oh, and don’t forget herbicides (a chemical agent that destroys plants or inhibits their growth) that are designed to kill anything Man considers a weed. I wonder how many micro-organisms and small creatures I have been responsible for the death of? Probably more than a couple I’d say.
Every time Man (oh, that’s you and me by the way) gets an idea into his head about how to better his lot, someone else’s ecosystem suffers. When a forest is logged for example, how many different species die or lose their habitat? But who really cares? We get nice desks, chairs, paper, etc. and our needs are greater than anyone else’s, right?
Imagine if all these creatures had the use of language and organised themselves as humans do, how different would it be?
Us: Right then squirrel, badger, fox, and owl, we’re logging this forest and there’s nothing you can do about it!
Them: That’s what you think. We’re taking this case to the court of human rights!
We don’t like a fair fight, we like an easy fight; and animals, birds, fish, small creatures (not to mention the ones we can only see under a microscope) are just that. Easy. They can’t talk back. They can’t fight back. They suffer silently. They die quietly. They are no match for our technology and our weaponry. We are the supreme hunter. We won. We’re the top dog!
But like everything we do, it comes with a cost attached. The more we destroy habitats and change them, the more we interfere with the ecosystem as a whole. We have no idea why most of these creatures are on the earth, especially the ones who seem to be doing everything to make our lives difficult. But they don’t know us; they just do what they can to survive.
Some of you may argue that that’s all we’re doing, but we’ve gone way beyond just surviving. We want it all, and we will let nothing stand in our way.
What to do?
I think we’re all going to have to agree that if we can’t see it, we can’t really stop ourselves from killing it accidentally, right? And if a rabbit runs out in front of the car and we can’t stop, it’s just an accident, right? And if we happen to tread on a snail accidentally, it’s just too bad. The same goes for micro-organism habitats etc.
But seriously, it is hard to avoid killing something at some point during the day, especially if you can’t see what you are killing, and we will have to accept that sometimes it happens. There is no point in we vegetarians getting on our high horses and assuming a holier than thou position, preaching about not killing, when in fact we are all killers at sometime or other, even if we don’t realise it.
The most important thing is that we acknowledge that there are tiny creatures who exist on this planet, whose job may be unclear to us. And it is our job to try not to wipe the planet clean of any creature however large or small for interfering with our plans for planetary domination.
We kill foxes because they try to get to the sheep, but all they want is to eat, and in the pens there are plentiful sheep – the foxes only want a few! We see it as a battle of good vs. evil, us vs. the animals who want what we have, but you only have to take a cursory glance at the “natural world,” as opposed to our unnatural world, to see that they operate in harmony with each other, something we have long since given up doing.
We need to develop our awareness of the world around us, and be aware that if we are going to keep concreting and urbanising green land, and cutting down forests, we are affecting the ecosystem, possibly irreversibly. We cannot continue to trample all over this planet as if it were our playground. This planet provides the means by which we can all play.
Let us tread carefully