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jueves, junio 05, 2008

Do These Gardening Horror Stories Justify Killing Animals?

Today's New York Times features "Peter Rabbit Must Die", a compendium of stories of gardeners killing animals which had the unmitigated gall-- can you imagine the nerve?-- to eat their tomatoes and other plants. The bottom line? In the collision between gardeners and wildlife of all kinds, the animals are killed. Nothing, it's claimed, is as effective as clubbing, drowning, shooting. And, of course, most of these folks claim that they don't even feel the slightest twinge of guilt afterwards.

What disgraceful nonsense. Give me a break.

I've been gardening for more than 20 years in Columbia County, New York. Sure the deer have eaten the Swiss Chard and the sunflower sprouts. Of course the ground hogs have eaten the cucumbers. It's sad when that happens. I get angry, too. But let's get a grip. This garden isn't necessary to feed me or the people in the Village of Chatham. It's not the difference between living and dying, between health and starvation, between prosperity and economic ruin. It's a hobby. It's something I enjoy. Yes, I love my lettuce and tomatoes and kale. So, in fact, do the animals. But does this give me authority to get a shot gun and blast them away when they browse the arugula? I don't think so.

These animals were here long before I was. They were here long before my 160 year old farm house. They were eating crops here before Lincoln was president. They were eating spinach and kale when it was grown by Dutch colonists in the 17th century. So at the very most, I can take non-violent steps to discourage them. Urinating on the garden's boundaries sometimes works. Letting the dog out sometimes works. Letting the cats wander sometimes works. Spraying with cayenne works to a degree. Being present works. Weeding works. Leaving your scent in the garden works. If I left for a week or 10 days and didn't weed, the garden would be eaten in broad daylight because it would appear to have been abandoned.

There have always been collisions between humans and wildlife. I believe in non-violence. And peace. And equanimity. I don't want to think while I'm eating my tomatoes of the dozen ground hogs I murdered to get the vegetables on the table. I don't want to pass the lettuce and think about rabbits I garroted. I don't want to eat stuff zucchini and think about how I got a NY State permit to shoot the deer. I can live very nicely without those thoughts.

There's a bird family living in the kitchen vent in the side of my house. I hear the chicks tweeting for food at sunrise. I see the mother and father bird bringing food and nesting materials into the vent. I get off the porch if they are frightened of my being there and won't go to their chicks. I would never reach in and throw them, their nest and their babies out and stomp them.

How can we expect anything as grandiose as world peace when we cannot find a way to coexist with groundhogs? Can't we live and let live?

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