Occasionally we spot an insect in the house and need to get rid of it. My usual approach to these situations is to scoop it onto a piece of paper and throw it out of the house. Sometimes though there’s no option but to squish it and I feel horribly guilty. It preys on my mind for quite a while afterwards.
Once we had to lay mice traps and I had to get rid of them once they were caught. I was told to just throw the traps away with the mice still in them, but this struck me as pretty cruel. The animal would die a lingering death from starvation, exposure or something worse. So I gave them a quick death by summary execution outside. This is more painful for me, but I tell myself it’s the least I can do.
My question is – does everyone feel this way?
I try my best to avoid killing anything. While this may strike one as a good thing, the corollary is that I treat all life equally – human or animal. Given a choice to kill a random human and a random dog, I would flip a coin. Given a choice between a dog I know and a random human, I would always choose the dog.
So two things are odd in me. First, I have a problem killing spiders, ants, insects etc…which many may view as a good thing. But second, my value for human life doesn’t seem to be the same as that held for it by others. Many individuals I have seen place human life at a higher value than all other forms of life – even when the life in question is no better than a bunch of cells as in a fetus.
People will happily eat eggs, chickens, and cows and yet raise hell when a woman wants to have an abortion of a fetus that is just a few days old and is clearly nothing more than a bunch of cells! I agree that there is a time limit above which a fetus can qualify as human in the later stages of pregnancy. But before that, even insects like ants and mosquitoes have more consciousness and life. The hypocrisy of those who claim abortion violates the “sanctity of life” and who eat animal products or kill mosquitoes or cockroaches takes my breath away.
A common argument put forward to support the idea that a human life is inherently more valuable than an animal one is that we humans are capable of higher thinking and consciousness. That’s true. We do have this greater ability. But animals have many things we humans do not. Some can fly, some can run fast, others have stunning eyesight, smell, hearing etc. When it comes to raw abilities, humans are actually pretty lacking. Our progress and development is because we’re able to share knowledge and build upon what others have done before us.
Also if mental capability and quality are reasons to place humans on a pedestal, what of those individuals who are mentally retarded, old people with Alzheimer’s, and children? Last I checked, all such people are given the same rights as the rest of us. Shouldn’t we given them fewer rights in line with the animals because of their reduced mental capacity? But that doesn’t happen and it’s hypocritical.
It’s “speciesism” nothing more. The idea that your species is special for no other reason than that you belong to it. You might pull the religious card and say that the bible or whatever puts humans on a higher footing with animals. But if the bible is proof of the existence of god, then superman comics prove the existence of superman :). Let’s not bring god into this.
So what do you think? What would you do if you had to pick between your pet’s life and a random human stranger’s life?