I am a vegan. I am a vegan because I don't want to eat an animal. I don't believe in killing anyone or anything unnecessarily. People tell me that they eat fish but not veal, or chicken but not ham. They seem perfectly content to eat a cow, but they lose their minds at the thought of eating a cat or a dog.
I'm not a "preachy" vegan. I don't scoff at those that eat meat or lecture them, I just go about my business. But sometimes it bugs me that the meat eaters seem content to eat one, and spare the other with really no rhyme or reason.
We've had some rain at the beach the last few days and as a result, when I went into the kitchen the other day, there were ants on the counter. Without giving it much thought, I grabbed a bottle of counter spray and in one swipe, I wiped them out.
Then it hit me; I am a hypocrite.
If a cat or dog's life is as important to me as a cow's or a pig's, what about the ant?
At first I tried to justify it by telling myself that it's just an ant. But then I thought about all the people who tell me when they eat bacon that it's just a pig. In their minds it is okay to kill the animal because it's life doesn't really matter.
I told myself that it was the ants' fault because they weren't supposed to be here. But how many people have we heard about who have lost their lives because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time? How many people have been senselessly lost because they ended up in a place where they weren't welcomed?
But they're annoying, I continued in my mind (the ants, not the people). Ha! If being annoying was a criteria for murder, I, and a lot of others, probably wouldn't be here!
I told myself that there were a lot of ants in the world, and that these few wouldn't be missed. Again, does that really justify killing them? There are a lot of cats, dogs, and people in the world too; does this mean that it's okay to kill because of overcrowding?
Sure, I hear that deer hunters do it. They tell me it's for the good of the deer because it the population down. Does this mean that when a neighborhood goes through urban sprawl we should start taking people out?
What about countries where there isn't enough food to go around? Do we "thin out the herd for the greater good?" And how do we decide who gets to live? Game hunters tell me that it's okay because they only kill the old and the weak. "Hey, grandma, guess what; your time is up!"
I get that there isn't a lot of sympathy for ants, spiders, roaches, mice, and the like; and even I (clearly) struggle with the ethics of who gets to live and who doesn't. I know it's hypocritical to spare one and kill the other, but all the same, I don't really want a bunch of mice running around my living space.
Questions started to swirl around in my brain. Who am I to decide who gets to live and who doesn't? Who am I to kill another living thing, simply because it wandered into my living space? What if a stray cat came onto my porch? Is he any different than the ant? Does he get to live because he's cute and fluffy? Does one get spared by looks alone?
So what is an animal lover to do? To kill or not to kill; that is the question.
In an informal poll with friends, most were in favor of wiping out the ants and sparing the cats. Most had no issue with eating pork, beef, or fish, but clearly drew the line at dining on Fluffy or Fido. Is the issue of life or death a popularity contest? Has murder become a matter of popular opinion?
When I woke up this morning, the ants were still on the counter. I sighed. I reached for the spray and then stopped short of spraying it. I made my coffee and sat out on the porch, contemplating my next move.
I decided to put the spray bottle away. The ants get to live for another day. But the hypocrite in me can't guarantee them a tomorrow.