Friday, November 12, 2010

The Ethics of Killing Bugs

We've got a bit of a bug problem. They are all over the yard, all over the outside of the house, and now creeping into the house, where my baby lives. Most people don't even think twice about killing bugs. They are annoying, sometimes harmful, and usually gross. You spray your yard and house with lots of poisons to kill them and keep them away from you. But I was thinking today, as I delicately transferred yet another from the baby's room to the toilet (that's right Anderson, I killed a bug! All by myself!), that maybe it's mean. Cruel to kill them. They are, after all, living creatures that experience pain. I don't imagine that drowning is a pleasant way to go. Or poisoning. Crushing at least is merciful, but messy.

With these bugs in particular, since they are not harmful, I started to question why I find the need to kill them. Shouldn't I treat them just as I would any other living creature, with kindness and respect? I realized that to some degree it boils down to prejudice based on outward appearance. Would I kill a ladybug that found it's way into my house? Or would I pick it up and take it outside, because it's pretty? Shouldn't I treat all bugs as though they are ladybugs?

Of course, there is also their status as invaders that impacts me. I don't routinely attack human beings, but if one invaded my home, you can bet I would. And I would feel perfectly justified and ethical doing so. Can I apply that principle to the bugs? Or does the fact that they are not quite so sentient and not at all malicious mean that I should be more understanding?

Is it less evil if I kill them using environmentally friendly products, at least?

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