Does Poison Discriminate?

I continue to be fascinated by the arbitrary ways people make decisions. For example, people that would decry the use of traps a cruel and indiscriminate will never take two seconds to consider the effects of their use of toxicants. True, ignorance may play a part but not all instances of ignorance are morally innocent. Sometimes people are ignorant because they are willfully so.

Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up is a particularly high-handed form of morally culpable ignorance. Another is more passive as when a person never bothers to think about the implications of their decision. This is similar to the person who shoots a gun in the woods without bothering to check if there are houses or people nearby who might get hurt.
I have received inquiries from people who have complained of problems with wildlife which they attempted to stop by throwing poison outside. Many of the toxicants used to control mice and rats can also harm or kill other animals. It doesn’t matter that this use of the toxicant is clearly prohibited on the product label. (Note, in the U.S. it is a violation of federal law to use a toxicant in a manner not listed on the label). I suspect if a survey was taken of these people, everyone of them would consider themselves an environmentalist. I would also argue that they would oppose the use of traps because of their “concern” for the animals. Such is the power of humanities ability to exempt themselves from their moral rules.
The bottom line here is if you think that traps should be banned because you believe they are indiscriminate, are you working just as hard to ban poison?

Stephen M. Vantassel is a tutor of theology at King’s Evangelical Divinity School. He has a particular interest in environmental-theology and animal use. His latest book is entitled, Dominion over Wildlife? An Environmental-Theology of Human-Wildlife Relations (Wipf and Stock, 2009).

Copyright 2010 Stephen M. Vantassel

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