Some Thoughts on the Killing of Insects

Don’t be upset when someone encourages you to avoid killing or encourages you to avoid participating in killing. Be glad that someone cares enough and tries to encourage you to be nonviolent. It’s rare today. Even our everyday language revolves around killing and harm. The media and some younger people today talk about “killing it”, “nailing it”, “destroying it” when talking about being successful and achieving their aims. Why do we use such violent language even when we are happy?

Short of living in a cave and eating nettles, we cannot avoid unintentional killing and harm but we can do our best to avoid intentional killing. We don’t have to kill. We choose to kill. We don’t have to kill an insect but we choose to, simply because we feel they are inconvenient. We take their life (an already short life that is precious to them) over often such trivial reasons. I hear people defend their actions saying they are “defending themselves”. Really? Defending oneself from an insect? It may take just a little more effort to shoo an insect away or relocate the insect using a small jar and a piece of cardboard than it would to kill the insect, but is it such a hardship? It may take a little more effort to try to create an environment so as not to attract insects and spiders, but it’s not difficult and it’s definitely worth the extra effort.

I remember a few years ago watching an interview in which US President Barack Obama killed a fly during the interview. I remember his playfulness at first telling the fly to “go away now”, which quickly turned into him focusing on the fly, pausing for a few seconds, then swatting him. He was quite pleased with himself, as was the interviewer. Later footage was shown of the dead fly laying on the carpet.  Shortly after, the footage of this incident of  Mr. Obama killing a fly was everywhere in the media. As I watched this and the subsequent excitement over this incident, I remember feeling very sad. I felt very sad for the fly because his/her death was a source of amusement and meant so little. I felt very sad for all other species on the planet. I felt very sad for our species, that we kill so easily, so thoughtlessly, so often and with much satisfaction.

Some people might say, well Mr. Obama tried to shoo the fly away, and the fly did not leave him alone so he was justified in killing the fly. Really? Did he really have to kill the fly? Was this tiny insect any kind of threat to Mr. Obama? Well unless the fly was a very tiny drone, of course not. Did Mr. Obama kill the insect because he thought it was more “presidential” to kill an insect rather than ask someone to shoo it away for him, or simply stop the interview for a moment and have someone relocate the fly outside? Possibly. But how sad that our ego, our pride is more important than a vulnerable life.

We do so, because we CAN. Isn’t this the story of our species? One could say it’s almost our species’ mantra: We do so because we can.

“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.” Laozi

No attitude or action exists in a vacuum.

Unfortunately over time we as a species have developed an attitude that we have an absolute right to exist, and every other species is either a resource, or a “pest” or some “thing” we have not found a use for or they are something to amuse us. But in truth, we are as much a “pest” as any being we believe to be a “pest”. In fact we are more so.

The human species is in overshoot and collapse. A sustainable population for our planet was around the 400 million mark (around the time of King Henry VIII). We are now beyond 7 billion and exponentially increasing. We have overpopulated the planet, used up most finite resources, mostly destroyed our own nest as well as the home for 99.99% of the planet’s population who are nonhuman.

Now we have created an ongoing situation in the melting Arctic (widely under-reported) where massive spears of methane (some a kilometre wide) are now rising from the East Siberian Arctic shelf. The clathrate gun has been fired. The tremendous warming effects of this ongoing massive release of CH4 (plus 17 irreversible positive feedback loops) may result now in runaway global warming (a predicted 8 degrees Celcius increase by 2030/2039), an effect which has not been factored in to current predictions. (Please see an article and a report by respected climate scientist Malcolm Light).  This will probably have extremely dire effects on every single species (including plants) on the planet including our own. The sixth mass extinction which is completely anthropogenic is currently underway in the and protect flies

The truth is, we are not nearly as smart as we think we are. We have separated ourselves from and have become the enemy of the natural world and of all other species. We ignore the reality that just like many other species who have become extinct, we most likely will join them but this time we will take most species with us. We like to tell ourselves that we are superior, that we are not an animal, but we *are* animals, a very destructive species who has evolved to use technology often in extremely short-sighted, foolish and destructive ways. We are animals who have turned on our own species, who murder and exploit for selfish and ignorant reasons and for greed. We are addicted to violence and we target those (including our own children) who are vulnerable and / or different. We have developed medicine and technology which has allowed us to continue to breed at an alarming and unsustainable rate.

After we are gone, the planet will go on without us. Even if we kill every species except bacteria due to anthropogenic global warming, in 10 to 15 million years bacteria will have evolved again and we will see a different kind of animal and plant diversity similar to levels seen prior to the last mass extinction 252 million years ago. During Permian extinction, 96% of all marine species and 70% of terrestrial vertebrate species became extinct. As Dr. Chris Langdon (a University of Miami biologist who is a pioneer in ocean acidification research) noted that carbon was being injected into the atmosphere today far faster than during the Permian extinction. If mass extinction occurs, it will be highly unlikely that the planet will see the likes of our species ever again. We are not exempt from species extinction. We are not exempt – no matter how special or superior we believe we are –  from the very real possibility of our own extinction at our own hands, and it might be sooner than we think.

With that in mind, I would like us to consider that if our species has a very limited amount of time left on this planet, isn’t it possible that we just stop the violence of exploiting and killing other animals and go vegan? Every species who exists on the planet has just as much right to be here as we do, every single one, and they deserve at least one very basic right – the right not to be used as property, as a resource. Can’t we at least do that? Just leave them be? We need to do our best to change our attitude toward other species, and stop thinking of them as something to be tolerated, something to be used or eradicated and that starts with us becoming vegan. Until we significantly change our way of thinking toward other species, we will never know peace. We may think “oh it’s just an insect, or a spider, or a snail, I will just kill it”, or “oh it’s just a pig, or a chicken” but that attitude never stops there. It expands to other areas of our lives and this attitude is in great part why we as a species are in the terrible mess we are in today.


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Filed under Arctic, Arctic methane, Barack Obama, CH4, clathrate gun, Climate change, Drone President, Drones, East Siberian Arctic shelf, Flies, global warming, Ice melting, Insects, killing, Malcolm Light, Mass extinction, methane emissions, Permian extinction, Sixth Mass Extinction, speciesism, veganism, veganism vegan abolition

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