Tuesday, May 04, 2010

My Views on Wildlife

So I have always had respect for wildlife, whether it be an animal or a plant or even the general landscape. I grew up in rural PA surrounded by woods and farm land and lived in a house full of animals. My parents taught me to respect living things and to take care of the environment, but I also believe a lot of it was inherent…common sense…general knowledge…the “good” or “correct” thing to do. So when I hear people talk about “nuisance” wildlife it is hard from me to comprehend what they mean. And then to hear people discuss “removal” of wildlife…just the mention of “pest control” makes my skin crawl. Yet, people pay pest control companies good money to kill wildlife; and I bet business is booming now more than ever with our continual consumption of land, pushing our way into every critter’s backyard. Of course we are going to encounter wildlife and have to interact with the natural world; we are by the way a part of the natural world, NOT apart from it, as too many people would like to believe.

Yet, like I said, everyday people call “nuisance wildlife control companies” to “take care” of their animal problems for them. (Sounds more humane than pest control, doesn’t it? Either way, they are the same thing.) So these companies show up your door to deal with anything from rats in the basement to a squirrel in the attic. Many of these companies will also come out to deal with a feral cat(s) hanging around the property, though others will defer these situations to local animal control units, who will do the killing for them.

And I enjoy how these companies portray that they care about wildlife and that they want to help the animals too. They say they will only target nuisance individuals; one company refers to the animal(s) that is “causing you the headaches.” Some companies even claim they don’t want to hurt the animals, that they will relocate animals if they can BUT they go on to say that in most cases “humane” euthanasia is the preferred method of disposable. So even if they show up at your house with a live-trap, chances are that animal will still be killed later.

One company says: “If we feel that an animal should be euthanized, we use what is widely considered amongst the most humane methods: a CO2 chamber. The animal does not struggle. It is able to breathe, but the zero oxygen content of the air causes it to become dizzy, pass out, and gently ‘go to sleep.’ We feel comfortable with this method of euthanization, and if the case calls for putting an animal down, we think that my customers should feel comfortable with this method as well.”

I’m sorry but I don’t agree with CO2 chambers being called “humane” and I don’t think the animals go “gently to sleep.” I immediately think of Nazi Germany and Hitler’s genocide when I hear gas chamber. Or I can see and hear online videos of shelter animals clawing at the glass and screaming for mercy as they are “euthanized” in such contraptions of torture. The majority of the US states never used CO2 chambers as a form of capital punishment; however, several horrifying accounts of inmates being executed by gas chamber have prompted other states to follow in discontinuing the practice. Sadly, the jury is still out on whether gas chambers are humane or not; which leads me to other rather disgusting techniques of capturing, removing, and disposing of animals. Pest control companies spray toxic chemicals to kill or deter animals; plant poisoned bait for animals to ingest; set traps that are intended to kill upon capture or those that live trap so the animal can be killed later; and other heinous methods I probably don’t want to know about. Who’s to say if these methods are humane or not? Too bad we can’t ask the wildlife, who’s being subject to such elimination procedures. I’m sure they would have a different perspective from ours.

And not to just throw pest control companies under the bus, I am on this rant because of wildlife conservationists who continue to try to convince the public that the natural world needs our help in deciding which plants and animals should live and which should die. Again, I have an environmental/biology background and I have some knowledge on ecosystems and invasive species. Yes, it sucks that over time plants and animals have been transported to other parts of the world (thanks to HUMANS) where they do not belong and that they are competing with local species for resources and in many cases, the invasive species are winning…BUT isn’t that life? Isn’t that in a way the “natural” order of things? Us Americans are an invasive species who wiped out, not only entire species of plants and animals, but entire populations of people from this country. I guess as long as things benefit us, it’s okay?

I just wish conservationists would stop for a minute and think about all the killing they are doing. Yes, the world is messed up; yes, things aren’t “the way they should be.” But is killing really the way to “clean up” such a mess? You are a CONSERVATIONIST; you are supposed to be CONSERVING the natural habitat. And NO I don’t believe an acceptable method of conserving is through killing. I cannot conceive how a person, especially one who is supposed to value life, can kill animals?! Conservationists (and everyone) NEED to stop and look at the damage humans are doing to the planet and start brainstorming ways to better live in harmony WITH the environment instead of controlling it AND to stop worrying so much with what other animals are doing. I think it’s safe to say that humans have a far greater effect on the planet than any other animal species. Don’t worry conservationists, feral cats aren’t going to take over the world!

Oh yeah, and to those who call pest control companies, I get that animals can sometimes be “annoying” but please keep in mind, we are in their yard…try to have some patience and compassion for wildlife. Please try non-lethal alternatives when dealing with wild animals and know that when you pick up the phone to call someone to come out and deal with it for you, that means a death sentence for that poor raccoon or squirrel or cat who decided your attic, basement, or yard was a nice place to live.

For information on a humane "pest" control company please see our blog post on August 25, 2008 and visit 911wildlife.

Written by: Maggie Funkhouser, Director of Communications and Public Relations for ACR

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