I have just finished my dinner and settled down with my trusty iPad when, across the screen ran the tiniest ant I’ve ever seen! I’ve seen ’em big, bigger and biggest but never as tiny as this little critter!
The first instinct was to brush him/her away but in the next nano-second I remember to have respect for any living thing, a la Buddhism. So my hand did not descend as rapidly or as strongly as it once would have. But how far do you take this respect for life?
Moths, ants, cockroaches abound. So, do we have to tolerate those invaders equally? The Buddhists, God bless them for their patience, would insist that so-called pests be allowed their right to life. Not only Buddhists of course. I was in Africa and in Lambarene in the Congo (can’t recall what it is called now) there is the hospital set up by Dr Albert Schweizer who set great store by the respect for life principle. Only problem was his compound was overrun by mosquitoes and cockroaches, to the great dismay and frustration of those who went there to learn from him.
Everywhere there were cases of malaria, treated by quinine but pesticides were not allowed. His followers were not required to be vegans so the right to life gave way to kill-for-food principles.
Modern medicine, and even farming, has had to introduce ways to kill off bacteria, fungi, insects that have been found to be responsible for fatal diseases, not to mention the problem of Hendra virus and the poor flying foxes.
Maybe we only rely on the right to life if the animal in question is cute?? Flying foxes, cats, dogs, hamsters, birds, all seem, along with other animals, to ring our sympathy bells. Would we feel the same sympathy for the Salmonella bacterium responsible for typhoid, or for the influenza virus that kills so many vulnerable people across the world?
It was easy to feel sympathy for my tiny ant as he/she presents no threat to me, is not a source of food and there are no small children here to be poisoned, if that was even possible! I have had cats and dogs treated as members of my family whose right to life was never questioned. But do I feel the same about a cockroach that might prowl my kitchen at night? Or a dog that brutally wounded my child?
There is no right answer. Food, pests, and public dangers like mouse plagues, all have to be killed as humanely as possible. Respect demands that much, surely? So my little ant goes free. Good luck to him. His life expectancy is so short anyway. Caterpillars are regarded as nasty, but
“what the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls …. a butterfly”.
Would we squash a caterpillar yet be entranced by the butterfly?
Let’s hope we are given the respect of living our own lives out as we wish, not squashed as a pest. But who knows whose ants are we??