This Highlighted Archive article from the New York Times Home & Garden Section, "Peter Rabbit Must Die," left me feeling shamed, ashamed of my people -the humans. The article seems to thrill in the confessional talk of killing yard animals -the squirrel, the raccoon, the woodchuck, even birds that chomp the carrots or mow down the tomatoes.
With rhythmic sensibility, the author mentions that killing wild animals may be illegal (as if that seems to matter) or that the reader should indulge in a book by John Hadidian on coexistence with wildlife. But in an article subtitled "Humane Ways to Deal with a Pest Problem", it was the description of the drowning of squirrels in a rain barrel that put me on edge:
"They did, however, as conscientious environmentalists, have a large rain barrel on the roof, which they used to water the garden. Who first came up with the idea of drowning, Ms. Lennig cannot recall, but it was her husband who handled the first executions. The trap, which was long and narrow, fit perfectly in the barrel.
Ms. Lennig has yet to be able to deal with the removal of the corpse, which is then thrown into the garbage. But she and her husband are now so comfortable with this form of pest control that when they visited Ms. Lennig’s in-laws at their lakefront property last year, where squirrels were climbing on the deck and ravaging the planters, they offered to drown them.
“My husband and I said, ‘We’ll take them to the lake,’ ” she says, “but our in-laws were having none of that. We had to get in the car and drive them five miles away. I spent the entire weekend like a soccer mom, driving squirrels around.”Isn’t drowning cruel?
No, Ms. Lennig says. She recalls reading that you lose consciousness and then your heart stops; it’s actually one of the nicer ways to go."
Drowning of squirrels? If a young man did this, people would call the police because it suggests his future as a serial killer -heartless, unable to empathize, no conscience. You know what I am saying here, but somehow in the name of the garden -that's fair, good reason, drown the squirrel. By the way, I once saw a squirrel swim across a lake -not kidding, they can swim.
I have experienced the ravages of squirrels on roses (eats every bud) and tomatoes (one bite, no thank you -next), I've seen the damage of deer and woodchucks. I don't belong to PETA or even the Humane Society, but as a gardener -the kind that I am, suggests that we are not using our brains or hearts if we submit ourselves to drowning of animals that are simply enjoying the things we set out for them. They do not distinguish between nature and culture -that's our pathology!
I live in the City of New York. I got feral cats, rats, birds, and squirrels. I am smarter than them -yes its true. But they have time on their paws. It is my job to outsmart their tenaciousness. Killing is not outsmarting them, its the tantrum of a child, undeveloped. Outsmarting them, that's fun, full of boastful pride.
I am growing vegetables. For the sake of aesthetics I should not build a cage around my vegetables? Build a cage around your vegetables! Put the wire mesh in the ground and all around so that the animals cannot reach your prized tomatoes.
In creating the garden we realize our connectedness to the animals of the world because we see how strongly attracted to that ideal environment we and many animals are. It is a garden for all of us, but only we have the intelligence to build it and protect it. I do not believe that aesthetics, irritations, or petty fears should trump life.