This I Believe

H. Kristl - Oxford, Mississippi
Entered on July 2, 2007

I believe in the preciousness of life of wild creatures.

When I was a child, my mother would stop the car so I could move a turtle across the road, even a snapping turtle. We didn’t kill snakes in the yard or spiders in the house unless they were poisonous. Admittedly, cockroaches and mosquitoes were fair game, but essentially, my family lived by the rule that if it isn’t a threat, leave it alone.

I knew that I had found the man I would marry when I heard that as a child, he shepherded a line of ants across the road. Of course, his older and “wiser” brother stomped on the ants to teach him a lesson about the arbitrariness of life. But even ants have a right to live, and I cannot understand the need to be cruel to a creature that isn’t doing anything other than living its life.

In our home today, we have set up “toad ladders” on the sides of the swimming pool. These are little wire mesh contraptions for toads, spiders, and other creatures to use to climb out of the pool. Before we got these ladders, we checked our pool morning and night to rescue the creatures that fell in. Why? I can offer the selfish reason that toads and frogs serve a purpose by eating pesky bugs, but it is more than that. Why should I enjoy a recreational item that kills creatures who are simply living their lives? If I were to knowingly allow these creatures to drown it would be like killing them for sport.

I don’t hunt or fish. I once went deep-sea fishing, and when I saw the fish we caught on the deck struggling for breath and fighting for life, I knew I would never fish again. I understand that some people enjoy the challenge of fishing and hunting, and some aren’t just doing it for sport but for food. But in these days of Wal-Mart and Nintendo, hunting for food and sport seems unnecessary.

I have to admit I still eat meat, though over time I have changed my eating habits. I have almost given up seafood, as the idea of eating a creature that swam free in the sea, until I wanted a fancy dinner, is abhorrent. I still eat beef, pork, and poultry, but these are not wild creatures; they were raised for consumption and would not have been born but for the efforts of farmers. I realize I am treading a thin line of hypocrisy here, and perhaps I am just trying to justify that I like a good steak now and then. But I am trying, choosing to eat more organic, free-range meats, and who knows, perhaps one day I’ll go vegetarian.

In the meantime, I’m trying to do what’s right. I think that all any of us can do is try to be better stewards of the creatures in our world.

I can’t save every toad, but I can try.