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Comments by Steve - 6 May 2010

In Reference to: Biological Xenophobia

Hello Mary and Frank...

I'm 53 and have been a vegetarian since 18 and a vegan since 19. We raised both of our kids as veggies (compromise with my wife who wouldn't go vegan).

We integrated our animal and environmental (which is also animal) ethics into our lifestyle (I'm better than my wife :) ), with the exception of having 2 children. I've only ever worked for non-profit, marine conservation/education/ research organizations and have fostered dogs for 35 years. I'm highly educated about animal issues on every continent. We contribute financially to several organizations including farmed animal and researched animal sanctuaries. Knowledge and empathy makes life considerably more challenging.

I'm currently developing a business to collect marine debris from ocean gyres and coastal/oceanic islands, as well as to reduce the amount of plastic debris and derelict fishing gear dumped into the ocean. As you may know, plastic debris kills many fish, mammals, birds, turtles and invertebrates everyday.

My interest in helping marine animals live the life evolution has created for them, without being harmed by humans, leads me to consider the impact rats have on seabirds and all the animals who are influenced by seabirds. Rats have exterminated seabirds from islands all over the planet and have caused extinction is some cases. I've spent much time in seabird colonies. There is no way to prevent rats from accessing nests. The question is which animal(s) will die.

Should we allow rats, which we brought to the islands, to kill and eventually eliminate seabirds and other island birds from their environment, along with the domino effect it has on other marine life.

Rats can also significantly impact the flora on islands which influences all the animals who live on islands. Our failure to remove rats has the same effect on seabirds as would walking around the seabird colony trapping/shooting adults, stomping on chicks/ eggs. You know what the birds would prefer. And all the animals that benefit from a healthy seabird colony. Off course, the fish eaten by seabirds would prefer rats and humans to kill seabirds! But the fish who benefit from seabirds eating other fish species would prefer we help seabirds...etc!!! So let's just concentrate on the struggle between a bird and a rat.

I'm conflicted. I like rats. We've lived amicably, but with some concern, with rats for years under both of our decks in our forest. We forced them to leave our garage several years ago without killing/ harming any. I also feel empathy for seabirds and other animals harmed by rats. I have the same concern for all the animals killed/ harassed by domesticated/feral cats living outdoors. If we don't act, we make the decision to allow rats to kill birds. Evolution happens slowly. Adaptive changes in anatomy/behavior can take up to millions of years. So, not only are individual birds harmed by the animals humans brought and continue to bring to islands, entire species can be eliminated by those animals.

Yes, there are billions more animals tortured and killed by humans in various industries as well as uncountable numbers of animals killed by habitat destruction and pollution. But to the birds harassed/ injured/killed by rats, those issues are of no concern. They're too busy trying to survive the attack.

Eventually, a contraceptive in edible form, may be available for rats through the research currently underway to control feral pig populations. Thus rats and feral pigs will do less harm to native wild animals, who desperately need human help. And of course, preventing the birth of more feral pigs will prevent their suffering as well. Unfortunately knowing humans, the researchers developing contraceptives for pigs are probably torturing animals in a lab. If we could only reduce the human population by several billion over the next hundred years or so!

Human behavior continues to convince me that either:

1. God is not Almighty, thus is powerless to stop all the horrible actions humans take against each other and animals.


2. If God is Almighty, then he/she is a horrible being for allowing these actions to occur. For example, if you or I were in a room and a child was being sexually assaulted in the next room, what would most people think of us if we did nothing? Furthermore, some states have laws that would require us to at least call for help, in the event we couldn't stop the assault ourselves. Why should we hold a mere human to a higher standard of conduct than God?


3. God doesn't exist in reality. God is a theoretical concept created by humans to help people deal with the stresses of life and death on Earth. And that, in itself, is good! Unfortunately, too many people use the concept of God/ Gods to empower themselves as they try to impose their religion on others, conduct wars, profit from their commercial enterprises, dominate women, manipulate the less powerful, play sports and, of course, enslave animals. I'm not waiting/hoping for God to bless any nation/culture. I'm hoping people will use their particular version of the god(s) concept to feel better about life's stresses and be kind to all animals, including Homo sapiens who aren't in their "group."

Keep smiling, enjoy life, in spite of everything.