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The Raccoon (Part 2 of 3)

Our goal regarding wild critters on the farm is coexistence. Wild critters have roles to play in the food chain, after all. Opossums eat ticks and carrion. Do you want to eat ticks and carrion? Coexistence, barring exceptions, is attainable, but humans have to take the lead and do the work.

For example, you need a dog and a dog like Marty as opposed to a Chihuahua. Everyone with four legs (and two wings) around here knows Marty is abroad. And Marty is abroad day and night, via his dog door. Wild critters keep their distance.

And you need to lock up your chickens. And I mean lock them up. Some chicken wire affair that you’ve gerryrigged does not constitute locking them up. Any wild critter worth his salt can rip through chicken wire. Nor does a chicken coop with holes. A weasel can fit through a hole the size of a nickel, so if there is a hole that size in your coop, they aren’t locked up. Why blame wild critters for your own misfeasance?

You need to remove all food sources, and secure your garbage. If you take these steps and others like them as they apply to your situation, and wild critters still threaten you, go ahead and shoot. I bet my eye teeth you’ll never have to.

At the end of the day, we can’t be sure what animals experience - what they know, what they feel, what they suffer. Anyone who has a dog can testify that they have rudimentary reason, morality, vocation, and language. Yes, language. They have language, but lacking vocal chords, they lack speech. Marty knows perhaps fifty words, and he’s no Einstein. If you haven’t read Koko’s Kitten, drop everything and do so. Koko was a gorilla. She knew over 2,000 words and was fluent in sign language. She could construct complex sentences and give expression to her ideas.

With all the “isms” in today’s lexicon, maybe it’s appropriate to elevate this one - Speciesism. Special privileging our species has given rise to treatment of animals that runs the gamut from indifference to cruelty.

Speciesism isn’t remotely biblical. Yes, the Bible (Genesis 1) declares that God is Creator and has granted us dominion over creation, but as His co-creators. More fully, the Bible declares that God is Creator and Redeemer of all He creates. Once again, “Creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. (Romans 8:19) You aren’t bound by the Bible? Given the fact that we can’t be sure what animals experience, shouldn’t you err on their side anyway?

Normally when I am confronted by conundrums, I turn to the great minds. They are of no definitive help here. They have formed no consensus on what animals experience. Descartes stated famously that animals are mere automata utterly devoid of any and all experience. Really, Descartes? This is why I’ve always despised the man. Mr. Cogito, Ergo Sum was not as smart as he thought he was.

Animals do have esteemed proponents among the great minds. Samuel Taylor Colleridge, in the culmination of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, wrote, “He prayeth best, who loveth best/All things both great and small/For the dear God who loveth us/He made and loveth all.”

Ah well, you may be thinking, why turn to philosophers and poets to decide the question? They are philosophers and poets, after all. Albert Schweitzer, a physician and a man of science, claimed that existence boiled down to what he called Reverence For Life. “To destroy, harm, or hinder life is evil,” he wrote. And don’t get me started on St. Francis of Assisi. Add to animal’s proponents scientists and saints. I guess it boils down to turning to the great minds you respect the most.

Another doctor comes closest in my mind to defining the difference between humans and animals. Carl Jung created a unique spectrum. At the one end of the spectrum was instinct. At the other end was consciousness. Humans belong towards the consciousness end of the spectrum, along with other sophisticated species like dolphins and whales. Pets and domestic animals may be more towards the middle. Animals like snakes are more toward the instinct end. So our consciousness is more developed. The question becomes: What rights does this endow us over animals? (To be continued.)

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