12. Awe and Grace (10/2008)
Last week I was presented with two working dogs which were both caught in leg traps, undiscovered for five days on a farm near Prince Albert. One had died and the other is being treated for severe paw injuries. This shocking scenario illustrates firstly, that leg hold traps (slagysters) are in general use when humane methods of predator control are readily available. Secondly, traps are being used irresponsibly, left unchecked for too long, demonstrating disregard for ANY trapped animal left panic stricken, and enduring unimaginable pain. Inappropriate ‘control measures’ can cause unnecessary pain and suffering to target species, and sometimes ‘innocent’ species are killed or maimed due to careless management. It is virtually impossible to police illegal activities on farms and that is why everyone needs to develop a sense of awe and respect for all life forms, and the strength to demonstrate compassion to all living creatures.
The biodiversity of animal life has developed in a way to accommodate all species. Deviations from natural balance and harmony are inevitably created by man who still has much to learn about the implicit order. Our need to survive, protect ourselves and control the world around us means different species have been adapted for our benefit, while others have been eliminated or reduced. Some species are admired as good, strong, beautiful, fascinating or useful, while others have been labelled bad, dangerous, ugly or irrelevant. Deep ecology recognises the unique, inherent value of every species. It may seem obvious to state that every animal can only be true to itself and behave in a way that is natural for the species. For example snakes are often considered to be the embodiment of evil. Some species can be deadly to man but are not usually a threat if left alone to fulfill their role in the ecosystem reducing rodent, insect or bird populations.
Of the animals perceived to be ‘bad’ are predators and vermin which may or may not be a real threat to livestock or the livelihood of farmers. These include such exquisite creatures as lynx, jackal, eagle, and leopard; and also the no less beautiful and sensitive rats and mice. Understandably farmers need to protect their animals and limit losses and there are humane ways both lethal and non-lethal to achieve this. Undesirable animals should never be ‘punished’ for behaving the only way they know. Individuality exists also in the animal world, even in a flock of sheep, and once understood, invokes wonder.
There is more information currently available and accessible to everyone via the internet through organisations like ‘Animal Damage Control Institute’ which helps to put things into perspective through research and practical guidance. There are also other more extreme views ranging from no kill life preservation policies to the total destruction of certain life forms. These opinions are all important for reaching a sensible ‘voice of moderation’. New concepts which embrace the fullness of life and open our minds to possibilities based on knowledge and understanding need to be considered in context so that we may evolve towards equilibrium similar to the way nature intended.