In the 1980s, Humane Society of the U.S. vice president Michael W. Fox wrote, “The life of an ant and the life of my child should be accorded equal respect.” For anybody who has gone on a picnic, that philosophy might seem as nutty as PETA president Ingrid Newkirk saying that “a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.” It sounds bizarre, but reducing humans to the same level as animals (including insects) is a philosophical pillar of the animal liberation movement.
These days, HSUS postures as a moderate group, but a recent article in HSUS’s magazine has us wondering if it really is all about saving the ants.
The article offers alternative methods of pest control—which it calls “integrated pest management”—as a way of controlling insects. The general idea seems to be to avoid killing them, whether cockroaches or ants or aphids. It has a few uncontroversial points, such as storing food properly as a preventive measure for ants storming your kitchen or making sure the exterior of your home is well caulked, both of which are as obvious as saying you should close your windows on a summer day when you have the A/C on.
But some of HSUS’s suggestions are just plain loopy:
When intervention is warranted, IPM strategies can be as simple as picking individual insects off foliage, relocating plants from places where they’re stressed (and therefore more vulnerable to pest attack), or applying nontoxic scent repellents. Some strategies require more work: caulking cracks and crevices in your house, placing protective barriers over vulnerable plants, or altering your landscape to attract your pest’s natural enemies.
Gee whiz, what a novel idea. Let’s pick off insects that are eating our tomato plants and simply move them somewhere else—as if they won’t return. Or are we supposed to check our garden every 30 minutes for pests? (And implementing landscape re-design instead of killing some bugs? Really?)
Is it now politically incorrect to kill insects? It seems so in the eyes of HSUS. But ants aren’t exactly an endangered species, and it’s not as if killing pests in a 40-foot square garden is going to alter an ecosystem. Talk about making a mountain out of an anthill. You have to wonder if people at HSUS break down in tears every time a bug splatters on their windshield.
Probably not, but that brings us to another question: How do the animal (and insect) liberationists at HSUS justify all of the insect massacres on vegetable farms? Whether conventional or organic, farmers use pesticides to stop critters from eating their crops. Will HSUS encourage farmers to hire special employees to pick off pests and move them somewhere else? That’s a great idea, if you feel like paying $20 for a bell pepper.
Once again, HSUS’s ideas are not realistic, and in this case would result in crop loss for the backyard gardener (or the professional farmer). Letting pests loose in gardens is like letting the inmates run the asylum. Or letting HSUS run a farm.