DEAR READERS: We all have a fear of certain animals, a response that is partially innate and partially learned. Regrettably, our response to this fear, all too often, is to kill the creatures we dread, whether insects, snakes rodents or otherwise.
Such extermination, when widespread, disrupts the environment and can make us more prone to diseases and famine, as when we kill pollinators with insecticides. When we destroy bat roosts, we eliminate allies who control disease-transmitting insect populations. Snakes are welcome in many countries since they help control invasive rodents.
Finding the path of avoiding harm calls for an ethic of care based on respect and understanding, even for the most venomous and invasive. One example of convenience and market-promotion over caring and understanding is the use of electric bug-zappers outdoors: These kill many beneficial insects, in turn starving bats and other insectivores. Better options are citronella candles, a good bug-spray deterrent and mosquito netting.
We must all be vigilant with the spread of nonindigenous species and various diseases associated with climate change. The case of dengue fever reported recently in Florida's Miami-Dade County brings the total number of cases in Miami-Dade and Broward counties to 11 this year. And two cases of West Nile virus have been reported in the state's Escambia County. (Full story: Outbreak News Today, Aug. 15)
Chief Dan George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation famously stated, "If you talk to the animals, they will talk to you, and you will know each other. If you do not talk to them, you will not know them. And what you do not know, you will fear."
Biological scientists, ethologists and ecologists, all of whom "talk" to animals via objective observation, have documented why we should take the path of least harm to other members of the animal kingdom. In biodiversity lies the regenerative potential of the Earth community upon which our own health depends.
Making the lives of animals raised for consumption more humane is all very well, provided we all eat less animal produce in general. The agricultural livestock industry is a major contributor to the climate and extinction crises, at significant cost to public health.
The various cultural and religious rules about which animals we can and cannot eat are not without merit, but need to be modernized, as do the traditions behind them, most of which have yet to honor the rights of every creature and the sanctity of all life in the natural world.
All animal caregivers have considerable responsibility for their animals' health and well-being, as well as to the environment. Too many cat owners are delinquent, allowing their cats to roam free, kill wildlife and become a potential threat to public health from diseases they can harbor and transmit to us.
DUMPING OF 'THROWAWAY ANIMALS' ESCALATES
Animal shelters rejoiced as people adopted pets at record rates during the COVID-19 pandemic. But shelters are now filling back up rapidly due to several factors, including financial challenges faced by owners and behavioral issues cropping up as owners return to their offices. Stephanie Filer of Shelter Animals Count suggests donating to shelters, fostering and/or adopting animals, and volunteering for animal-related causes to help mitigate the problem. (Full story: Vox, Aug. 16)
This is a sad reflection of how little some people care for the animals they adopt, an attitude that is a small step away from child abandonment and abuse. Lack of money is no excuse. Pet owners can take several steps to be prepared for the costs of their animals' care, including buying pet insurance, designating personal savings or seeking second opinions on recommended medical procedures and their costs. The American Veterinary Medical Association provides a list of accredited veterinary programs that may charge an adjusted rate for low-income pet owners. (Full story: NextAvenue.org, June 22)
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