Born Free USA Blog
A recent article in the New York Times highlighted that many people suffer from “biobigorty,” described as “the persistent and often irrational desire to be surrounded only by those species of which one approves, and to exclude any animals, plants and other life forms that one finds offensive.”
I read this article with interest because around the office there is a bit of an ongoing joke that if it’s an unattractive and generally unpopular critter that needs defending, I’m the person who will champion its cause. This tendency is sometimes referred to as my “uncharismatic micro fauna campaign” — a play on the term used to describe animals that generally get the most public sympathy and support the “charismatic macro fauna” — you know, the big beautiful animals, tigers, bears, pandas, orcas, wolves, etc. I do my share of advocating on behalf of those animals as well, but I often find myself speaking up for the “other” animals, the underdogs of the animal kingdom: rats, fish, ground squirrels, non-native birds, and so on.
I do this for several reasons. First, I am opposed to cruelty to animals in all its forms — the suffering an animal endures does not change simply because it is unattractive, or because humans find its behavior or habits annoying.
Second, many of the acts of cruelty that we impose upon individual animals who fall into this “unpopular” category have ripple effects that harm the environment and the more popular animals including human beings.
Take for example the common practice of using poison to kill rats, mice, and ground squirrel and other wildlife unfortunate enough to be deemed “pests.”
Most rodent poisons act by interfering with Vitamin K-1 metabolism, leading to interruption of blood clotting and blood vessel repair. In other words, the blood vessels eventually explode, causing victims to bleed internally until they succumb to the painful effects of blood loss, followed by cardiac, respiratory, or kidney failure. Scientific studies show that rats and mice poisoned with such poisons typically take 4 to 8 days to die and that the animals remain conscious for the duration.
Such poisons are not only horrendously inhumane they are notoriously non-selective and have the potential to kill domestic dogs and cats, wildlife, children, and even grown adults. In fact, according to records kept by the American Association of Poison Control Centers, between 2001 and 2003 there were nearly 51,300 human rodenticide poisoning cases nationwide — more than for any other pesticide. At least 103 of those exposures resulted in serious outcomes, including death. Many of these incidents involved children.
In addition, hundreds of hawks, owls, and other birds of prey are killed each year from consuming poisoned rodents. A few years ago in Southern California, two mountain lions were killed as a result of anti-coagulant poisoning. The lions were likely poisoned as a result of eating coyotes who had consumed poisoned rats and mice. Local wildlife officials also noted that more than 75 percent of bobcats tested after death showed exposure to one or more of the four different anti-coagulant poisons.
When we use short-sighted methods to achieve cheap cruel and quick fixes to conflicts with others we not only end up literally poisoning ourselves, we poison human character.