Vegan Uncensored: Pest Control, An Ethical Dilemma

Photo by Moomsabuy

Whenever I think about karma I often think about the idea of non-violence, and specifically the belief that you should avoid harming any living creature.

I’m an animal lover myself, and I’m able to find something to adore or admire in most animals. I give spiders their space and, well, remember my post on snakes? Most vegans would consider themselves animal lovers, and avoid harming animals—if you did harm animals, that would sort of defeat the purpose, wouldn’t it? But what about creatures deemed “pests,” like mosquitoes, flies, rats and (whisper) roaches? If we talk about respecting all living things, we can’t stop at the endearing ones, like bunnies and sheep, can we? Is it fair to say those same rules don’t apply to creatures like mosquitoes because, well, mosquitoes annoy us and can cause us discomfort and/or disgust? But no one would watch a roach scuttle across their kitchen table and think, awww well he has a right to live to now, doesn’t he? Or would you?

I’ve never lived anywhere with a roach problem, but I have lived with a mass of harlequin bugs. These bugs are commonly referred to as “stink bugs” because when they feel threatened (read: when you’re smooshing them) they let out a stinky smell. Going to school down south, these bugs paraded around my dorm, and later, my apartment, like ants on a forgotten peanut butter sandwich. Seriously—they were everywhere.

My room-mates and friends would constantly gripe about these bugs, which are a plain, greyish brown, roughly the size of my thumbnail with long, inquisitive antennas. They complained about their irritating presence and, of course, about their smell. But I have never smelled a stink bug, because I have never killed one.

“They are sort of cute,” I would say, watching one crawl slowly across my desk. I admit, “cute” is a bit of a stretch, but I still was never able to kill them. Their presence and smell—which, as I have mentioned, is only released when you go after them—was never enough to warrant me killing them.

This is an important ethical question for vegans. It has been the topic of forums, and while some vegans have made their peace with insects, others have not. What do you do when carpenter ants invade your home? Or rats? Is there a friendly way to dissuade them from settling in? I try to remain mindful about this whenever I am irritated at a mosquito or grossed out by a cockroach crawling across my boyfriend’s bathroom floor (eeech! Boys.). Pests deserve our compassion just as much as the other animals we defend and protect daily; you know, the ones we abstain from eating, invite into our homes and campaign for? While it might be hard to view a mosquito or rat compassionately when they are getting our our way, I like to view it as a show of strength of character. It’s easier for me to show compassion to my cat by cuddling it, or to a dairy cow by passing by the dairy section at the store, than to a mouse who’s getting into my pantry or a fly buzzing around my ear. Showing compassion to all creatures is a challenge, and I like to test my stubborn disposition by attempting to extend my compassion even if it makes me a bit uncomfy and/or means I get covered in mosquito bites.

So what do you guys do? How do you feel about killing “pests?”

By | 2016-10-17T10:40:19+00:00 April 26th, 2012|Lifestyle, Vegan Issues, Vegan Uncensored|3 Comments

About the Author:

Zoe Eisenberg is an editor and freelance writer with work appearing in various print and online publications. She received her B.A in English and Creative Writing, and has a background in holistic health promotion. Zoe loves to cook, laugh, play and learn. She lives in Connecticut with her cat, Zucchini.

  • Liz

    Love this <3 I feel the same way. A bit before I thought of going vegan I started refusing to kill little critters.  It just came sort of naturally to me, the connection that insects have a right to live too. I'm not going to allow lice to live in my hair or anything but I do try to live and let live as much as possible, I even blow off mosquitoes from my arm 🙂 It doesn't matter if I a critter is cute or not, it doesn't matter if they feel pain or not, I wouldn't kill them simply because they have a right to live too. =)

  • Fanli

    There are so many ants in our home right now that too often they are killed by accident (drowned in water, stuck in almond butter, crushed when accidentally tread upon, etc…); several times I just want to chase them away from my bowl of food while I’m eating (I don’t want to eat them, from all perspective), but end up killing at least some of them because there were so many and I got desperate and less gentle… Now I feel like if I don’t find some way to keep them out of the house, I’m actually massacring them by negligence (you can’t believe how many died just in the little pool of water under the supposedly clean dishes, but apparently the trace of smell attracted at least 3 dozens of ants and they have drown themselves to death for the food that does not even exist)

  • Rationalism may be needed here

    What if they carry malaria, rabbies and other diseases?