Why There’s No Such Thing As A Pest

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.


4 comments / Add your comment below

  1. What a wonderful, thoughtful post, and so very true. I remember my brother getting upset that a hare was chewing on a young tree he had just planted in his front yard. He said he was going to send his dog out to kill the hare! I got very angry about that and told him that he was the dummy who had planted a type of tree hares like to snack on! I told him about several different ways he could deter hares from snacking on his precious tree, none of which involved killing the hare, who–as you point out–had no idea the tree was off limits because it “belongs” to a human! Ridiculous.
    I have had co-workers tell me about how they have poisoned or trapped mice, or poured boiling water on ants because they “hate” ants. I’ve had people talk about shooting magpies (noisy black and white birds we have in our neighbourhood–they are cheeky, bold, and very smart!), and killing beavers for felling trees at my family’s cabin.
    I am so sick and tired of everyone leaping to killing as a way of dealing with other beings. I guess it’s just easy for some people to just kill any animal who gets in their way, but as you say, there ARE ways we can live WITH these animals–you just have to be willing. And I find it very, very sad that most people are not willing. The world could be such a wonderful place if people were willing to make it so.
    Thanks for the great post!

    1. It really saddens me to hear about these things. Just this morning I noticed that one of my housemates had put down salt by the back door to prevent slugs from coming in. It really upset me because it’s not like they do any harm! But I think people’s attitudes are slowly changing and hopefully soon we’ll live in a kinder world. Thank you for reading 🙂

  2. I agree, what gives us to right to decide we are better than other species and have more right to inhabit any given space? Really good post, it’s an interesting topic

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