Despite me being a modern sort of a woman, in our house there is a pretty cliched division of labour. Mostly. The bloke generally cuts the firewood, looks after the garden, backs trailers, mows lawns and so on, and I try to keep things relatively clean and tidy inside, do the groceries, feed the chookies and administer the bills. However, there are some clear deviations from the traditional model. He, for example, is a far better cook and does much of the cooking (and I cannot seem to get my head around putting away clothes). Importantly, I am in charge of any rodent control. The bloke is not called the bloke for nothing; he drives a Hilux and taught me how to dive for paua. If a chook gets sick he is the one to deal with it. However, he draws the line at rodents, and after a decade in DOC and now Forest & Bird it comes a lot easier to me.
There was the time a rat created an underground superhighway below our chookhouse, leaving me to dispatch the perpetrator; this winter it's been mice. Nobody likes admitting they have rodents, but rats and mice have been commensalists with humans for a long time and will no doubt continue to be for some time yet. In winter, rodents head toward houses for extra warmth and shelter, and I recall various flats in my life where I went to sleep listening to the pitter patter of little feet in the walls and ceilings.
We have a laundry that at some stage has been added on to the outside of the house. You can shut a door and nothing that reaches the laundry could possibly go further, but still the little mice have discovered a hole near where a pipe comes out of the floor in a laundry cupboard. They can't actually go anywhere from there (if the cupboard door is closed), but they can hang out in the cupboard and that's plenty close enough, thank you. Hence the need for mouse control. Choosing not to have a cat, and with a dog that's even afraid of the chooks, our weapon of choice is the little grey plastic mousetraps you buy at the supermarket with a bit of peanut butter for bait. As soon as I started setting the traps I started catching mice. They suffocate almost straight away and I felt absolutely fine about emptying the traps.
I came home one day and opened the cupboard door to find that one of my traps had moved, and as I peered closer, was STILL moving, a tiny mouse wriggling as hard as it could to get the trap off. That mouse must have been a fast mover because instead of the trap snapping on his neck and therefore his windpipe, it had caught this mouse across the nose. I was horrified and immediately removed him from the trap. He sat calmly in my hand (probably out of sheer terror), and his wee face had been quite badly squished. I, the great white mouse-hunter, was appalled and quite upset.
House mouse - Nature's Pic Images
At this point in time, given that the mousetrap was intended to kill him anyway, many would have dispatched him. However, I thought since he had cheated death on the trap it seemed only fair to give him a second chance. I dug out a shoebox, tore up strips of newspaper, tried to get him to drink a few drops of water out of a beer bottle cap and placed some cheese and grain in the box. Every so often I went outside to check on him, until an hour or so later I found him dead, probably from the shock.
Some of my recent posts (notably The conversation about cats and Wildlife baddies: The hedgehog) have been about the need to kill introduced predators in order to protect our unique native wildlife. This is true. However, some of you have pointed out that simply because an animal is classified as a pest does not entitle us to torture, maim or kill it in a way that causes great suffering and pain. You are absolutely correct.
Contrary to what you might think based on my cat and hedgehog rants, I am no bloodthirsty pest-killing savage, hell-bent on seeking out and destroying these animals for some conservation-crazed mercy mission with no regard for their welfare. True, I do get involved in pest control, but I take no pleasure from killing animals (except for a grim satisfaction relating to the opportunity to give the native inhabitants a chance of survival that would be compromised by the pests).
So, by all means get stuck into pest control, but any pest controller should have regard to the target animal's welfare. In fact, the agencies and organisations involved in pest control must go through a rigorous independent process to ensure that their chosen method of control is one that causes the least amount of suffering.
In the "Land without teeth", much of conservation relates to the killing of small furry animals. This in itself may be a difficult approach, but given the neccesity, it behooves us all to ensure that their lives are ended swiftly and with some form of humane understanding for how they must be destroyed.
Personally, I think these days our modern lifestyle has divorced us from the realities of the lives and deaths of our fellow animals. How many of us can tuck into our bought-from-the-supermarket-on-a-plastic-tray meat without therefore having to be troubled by how the animal was slaughtered? Does this affect our expectations and ideas about the neccesities of pest control and how it should be done? How do you feel when you're dispatching of pest animals, be it fly, wasp or possum?
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