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Useful And Fantastic: Waste No Animals

Val Yule says that we humans waste animals. In this regard we are different to all other animals.

We waste them by driving them into extinction. Thousands of species are disappearing or gone. We waste them by not making the most of them in our own interests. We waste them by making their lives miserable.

No need for any of this.

We can make a good case that extinguishing some species would be of great benefit to us and to many other species, tsetse flies and malaria parasites for example. as long as we are careful to make sure that the creatures do not actually fill some needful ecological role.

For example, when the Chinese tried to get rid of sparrows that ate the grain, they were devastated to find out that the sparrows ate even more the insect pests, which now flourished without sparrows to eat them. Some sorts of snakes eat things we would prefer them to eat, such as rats, even if they bite humans too. Without the snakes in their ecological niche, the vermin multiply.

Animals become extinct when we kill them off, like the passenger pigeons that used to be so numerous in America that they darkened the sky as they flew, and the jungle animals being killed off by hungry Africans for bush meat. Or we wreck their habitat so they have nowhere to live, or have no chance of moving around to avoid inbreeding. Or we introduce other predators as bad as ourselves, like cane-toads to kill off Australian goannas and frogs. Or we boost climate change in order to continue to drive cars, and creatures cannot survive the changed conditions. The main reason for humans extinguishing other animals is because humans are multiplying too greatly to leave enough room for other animals to continue living, even the ones we do not eat.

Not making enough use of animals to serve our own interests. Humans use animals for food, clothing, and other animal products. But the greatest use we have from animals is enjoyment. It is natural for humans to be fascinated by the world of animal life, its variety and wonder. You can see how children are fascinated. We love having animals for pets, watching discovery channels on TV, and snorkelling around coral reefs, and bird watching and watching whales.

How dreadful if just as David Attenborough concludes his panorama of animals in the world, there are no longer in real life the animals he recorded. And all we can do is watch the TV and the pictures in the books and the stuffed animals in museums. And they are all as fascinating but as unreachable as dinosaurs. And there are no birds singing at the dawn.

We could be enjoying real live animals so much more.

Wasting animals by making their lives miserable. The RSPCA still has a full-time job, what with overburdened donkeys in other countries and neglected sheep and horses and badly-treated pets in our own country.

Kind people like us still eat battery eggs and factory-farmed chicken and pork and even veal. Kind people like us benefit from animal research that has only in recent years had standards of decency applied to it.

Kind people like us will even leave a dog alone in a house all day while we are at work, and all it can do is bark. Or one bird in a cage for years and years. Why not two dogs, or two birds? Why big dogs in small yards without exercise? A cat is another matter, with its own resources, whatever they are. But there must still be ambivalence about the sources of their pet food, and the birds they stalk.

It is a fact of Nature that lions cannot lie down with lambs without being hungry. But if there were fewer of us, perhaps we could live more easily without wasting so many animals. Eating them out of house and home so to speak.

Valerie Yule

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