(Host) Recent events concerning bears, and the arrival of deer season remind commentator David Moats that the relationship between animals and people is complicated.
(Moats) People love animals. People kill animals. Even people who love animals kill animals. This is the paradox of mankind’s place in the natural world.
There have been a number of incidents in recent months to test our collective conscience about the proper treatment of animals. On Halloween a bear came into Rutland looking for food. It was a real bear, not a trick-or-treater.
City officials figured it wasn’t a great idea for a bear to be roaming the city along with platoons of little kids, and they decided they needed to shoot it. And that’s what they did.
In another neighborhood, cats were being eaten by fishers, which are a beast like a weasel. Pet owners demanded that something be done, and eventually some fishers were trapped.
In East Montpelier a bear was killed after he kept showing up at someone’s bird feeder. There were children in the neighborhood.
As deer season gets under way, we’re reminded of how important it is to treat with respect the animals that cross our path, even the ones we end up killing in order to feed ourselves. I am not a hunter, but I understand that most dedicated hunters develop an abiding respect for their prey.
I grew up in a family of fishermen. In Idaho my grandfather was a legendary slayer of trout.
He passed on to us a respect for the ways of the trout, and any time I had to kill the fish I caught, I felt the sadness that attends the close connection between life and death.
Sometimes you end up killing things you’d rather not have to kill. Mice have a way of finding my silverware drawer. Sorry, but it can’t happen.
More than a few woodchucks have met an untimely fate looking for a second helping in the garden. It’s a dangerous world.
Any time I put my cat outside, I figured she would have to deal with whatever she found. Sometimes she came back a little worse for wear. And she might have done some damage of her own. I remember when she had a rabbit by the neck. That wasn’t pretty, and I scared her off before she did too much damage.
In all of this a little humility is important.
An attitude that assumes a place of dominance, or callously assumes a need to be rid of any nuisance, that demands submission of the animal world, is harmful to us as well as to the animals.
I have to confess that I’m not much of an animal guy. The dogs and cats I’ve had over the years – we got along OK, but I know there are lots of people who like animals more than I do.
Still, in Vermont it’s nice to know there is a whole world of animals living their lives independent of us out there just beyond the clearings we’ve carved in the woods.
One time I came across a beaver scampering up a street in Middlebury. He seemed pitifully lost, and I hoped he’d be able to find his way back to the river.
But most of all I was glad that he was there, so close by, one of our important neighbors.
This is David Moats from Middlebury.
(Host) David Moats in the editorial page editor for the Rutland Herald and winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.