Classifying Cruelty

“One can measure the greatness and the moral progress of a nation by looking at how it treats its animals” ~ Mahatma Ghandi

CAUTION – potentially disturbing photo below.

Somehow human civilization has decided that there is a radical difference between domesticated and wild animals and, thus, our treatment of each group reflects this. Even within the domesticated group, we have sub-classifications with differing rules on treatment depending on whether the animal is considered a pet or a service species. There is no scientific basis for these differing treatment regimes, so this classification must be in place purely to pacify guilt.

Now, hunting and fishing as a means of sustenance is a long-accepted tradition and the human consumption of meat is normal in that we are an omnivorous species. It can be seriously argued, however, that American society eats far too much meat which can be supported by studying dentition (see “The Overly Carnivorous Human” for details).  A quick and humane kill is always possible by one who makes sure his/her skills are honed well. But trapping is another story altogether. There are few methods used that can achieve the same rapid dispatch of an animal as applied in hunting or fishing. Most methods are tantamount to cruelty and would be illegal if used on domesticated animals (although one could readily argue that what occurs on factory farms is certainly psychological torture and quite often physical torture). Even the lowly held mouse, an essential critter for a balanced ecosystem being a major food source for many up the food chain, is subject to trapping methodologies that are simply agony.  I speak of the cardboard boxes that bait and capture a mouse alive and keep it in place by an extremely sticky pad. I’ve tried to release mice from these “torture chambers” only to realize that its extremities would be pulled off in order to free the critter.

What we do to larger wild animals is even worse. There are traps that purposely drown Beaver, Muskrat and Otter (don’t want to damage that fur) and for land-based fur trapping, clubbing the animal to death is the choice of many. And while we’re on the subject of fur trapping, just clubbing a nearly immobile baby harp seal with a pointed instrument is the norm in Canada and held acceptable because it’s “tradition.”  Foothold traps create emotional anguish (wild animals have not evolved with the concept of being constrained), often cause injury, make the trapped animal an easy target for other predation, and readily trap, maim and kill non-targeted species, including many pets and humans. Checking on traps varies from state-to-state and has a wide variety of time frames from every 24 hours to up to every 2 weeks depending on the targeted animal  –  two weeks is a very long time to be stuck in a trap.

Coyote as bait

Coyote used as bait for the dogs of a Wildlife Services employee.

The insidious use of trapping is completely institutionalized. The Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services regularly uses traps to dispense of “nuisance” animals. However, this “service” has an atrocious record for capturing non-targeted individuals, including endangered and protected species (see the Sacramento Bee’s series of articles on Wildlife Services). Tens of thousands of non-targeted animals have died at the hands of the Federal Government. So intrenched in apathy toward animals is Wildlife Services that one of its own employees boasted of baiting his dogs with a trapped Coyote posting photos like the one here online.

There is no large scale market for trapping of any species in this country – it is not an economic lynch pin anywhere. But it is legal (See New York State’s trapping regulations – among the more stern in the nation yet still disturbing in nature). It is not only tolerated but encouraged by government agencies. Why? Because the agencies that regulate the practice also benefit from the fees imposed. Clearly any regulations will therefore benefit the trapper at the expense of the animal.

It has long been argued from the most pre-eminent of scientists that this practice does not fit with a civilized society. It would seem every species but one on this planet continues to evolve.

“It is scarcely to exaggerate the suffering thus endured from fear, from acute pain, maddened by thirst, and by vain attempts to escape. Bull baiting and cock fighting have rightly been put down by law….Some who reflect upon this subject for the first time will wonder how such cruelty can be permitted to continue in these days of civilization; and no doubt have been permitted to continue in these days of civilization; and no doubt if men of education saw with their own eyes what takes place under their sanction, the system would have been put to an end long ago. We shall be told that setting steel traps is the only way to preserve game, but we cannot believe that Englishmen when their attention is once drawn to the case, will let even this motive weigh against so fearful an amount of cruelty.”

Charles Darwin. 1863 Essay “Trapping Agony.”

3 thoughts on “Classifying Cruelty

  1. As a wildlife rehabilitator I have seen the cruelty of leg traps many times. In the past 5 years I have had 2 red tailed hawks caught in leg traps. One was found 20 miles from where the trap was set as indicated by the markings on the trap. The trap was still on the leg which was held together by one tendon, had to be amputated and the bird placed in an educational setting. The RTH had to be humanely euthenized after a year due to cronic bumble-foot due to too much weight on one leg.

  2. I totally agree that all types of “trapping” and “traps” (excluding live traps used to relocate wildlife) are cruel for the reasons stated. I am also concerned about those unintended animals, including peoples pets, getting caught in traps. I do agree that if animals are required as a means of food, this should be done in a humane manor. I disagree with hunting in general as a sport. Peoples’ lust for killing anything and everything is going way beyond normal in my opinion.

  3. This is an excellent article, and I have nothing to disagree with in it for it speaks many truths. I’m also against trophy hunting. I believe if you shoot it, you eat it. People do OVER EAT RED MEAT, and have a great lack of exercise in their life, but I do believe we need it in our diet. I do eat red meat, but not much of it. Most times I don’t even include it in my supper. I’m not good at COOKING AT ALL, and veggiterran cooking and balancing very confusing to me. I would die if I were one. I LOVE WOLVES AND HORSES AND THE SLAUGTHERING HAS TO STOP. There is plenty in the stores, and there is so much surplus of food, but the government won’t release it.

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