What defines a pest? According to Google, it’s ‘an organism that sickens or annoys humans, hampers human activities, damages crops or food products, harms livestock, or causes damage to buildings’. That includes fleas infesting our houses, foxes eating our chickens, rats burrowing into our grain stores, or simply anything that encroaches on the short, difficult lives of that rare species we call humanity. For indeed, when human populations are declining so rapidly, and it’s all we can do in the western world to find a morsel of food, why should we put up with other creatures taking such liberties?
Perhaps we should look at the facts…
– In the last 20 years, the world population has increased by 30%.
– One third of all food produced for human consumption is wasted before it’s eaten.
– A herd of cattle consumes 8 times more energy than they produce in meat.
– Half of Britain’s ancient woodlands have been lost to new roads, electricity pylons, housing and airport expansion in the last 80 years.
It doesn’t take much to realise how wasteful and destructive we are in our food and building industries. Yet we blame rodents, insects and other small mammals for eating our food, simply trying to survive in a rapidly changing environment.
Why is it that we believe our lives are worth more than others? I don’t just mean in a dog-eat-dog, Hunger Games kind of way; we travel through our comfortable lives, carelessly wasting and consuming everything in our path, and choosing to ignore the consequences of our actions. How many people bother to read about harmful microbeads in their cosmetics, or remember to bring shopping bags to the supermarket?
Why is it that we treat certain species with such disdain, simply because they’ve managed to survive the destruction we’ve unleashed upon nature? My favourite example is the humble pigeon. Pigeon plumage is beautiful; with the pink and green sheen of their feathers and the smooth grey roundness of their bodies, I believe we would value them more if they were a rare species. Yet because they are common and enduring, we cast them aside. While I personally think it’s a good idea to discourage people from feeding them in central London, to seek to destroy them is another matter.
We have a family of grey squirrels living by our bins at work at the moment; the management have decided they are causing too much damage, and are trapping and killing them one by one. It’s all very legal and above board, but I wonder how easy it would have been to simply strengthen the bins? I always find it fascinating how horrified we are when somebody is murdered, yet we find it so easy to snuff out the lives of other creatures, simply trying to survive and feed their young.
I’ve always thought it sadly amusing how blindly we label creatures as ‘pests’, when humanity tramples through life consuming and exploiting everything in its path. I’ll finish this angry little post with a quote:
I have been studying the traits and dispositions of the “lower animals” (so called) and contrasting them with the traits and dispositions of man. I find the result humiliating to me.
Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth