Conflicting ethics


I have always had a soft spot for animals in distress. My mother could never convince me that the little bird I picked up could simply not be saved. Even in adulthood, I still pick up birds with broken legs and wings (along with a myriad of other critters) and try to save them. It is just not in me to leave an injured and defenseless creature to fend for itself.

Today, after riding, I take my horse back to her paddock and spot something moving in the sand. Upon closer inspection, it turns out to be a Cape Thick-knee (Burhinus capensis) with what seems to be a broken leg. As I attempt to catch it, I silently pray that it will fly away, because then it would not become my responsibility. But alas, no. The poor thing is exhausted and soon stops trying to flee and attempts to hide instead. I pick it up and go to find a towel in which to wrap it.

Now what? I’m not even entirely sure what these birds prefer to eat. Take it to the vet, I suppose? The prognosis is not brilliant. They can amputate the broken leg and see if the bird will manage. But is it worth it? These birds scuttle along the ground and the break is very high up. We decide that the best thing to do would be to send it to heaven…

Now I feel guilty. The poor creature has just spent the last hour of its life wrapped in a towel in the most traumatising of circumstances, only to be killed at the end of it all! Did I really do this bird any favours? I could have just left it on the farm. More than likely to be eaten by a dog or starve to death, which would have been much more natural. But would it have been humane?

We once visited a national game reserve where we spotted a hungry lion (albeit a rather daft lion) that had attempted to eat a porcupine. His face looked like a pin cushion and he was in obvious pain. When we told the wardens, it was plain that they had no intention of doing anything about it and simply told us that that was part of nature and they could not interfere. I’m sure they could have, had they really wanted to…

At the same time, I hardly ever pick up stray dogs. Off course I pick up dogs that obviously belong to someone, and have just got lost, or if they are injured or afraid. It’s an entirely different situation if they are vagrant drifters who are evidently content with their lives. Not because I don’t care, but because I’m not sure it is the best thing. Dogs are natural scavengers and they really do manage to survive on their own.Who am I to take away their freedom? This is really not because I don’t believe that every dog deserves a loving home, its just that if I can’t give it a home, where is it going to end up?

I know that one should. You should pick them up and take them to a shelter to be spayed/neutered, deflea-ed and fed. And then what? They will be clean and fed and locked up for probably the rest of their lives, or be humanely euthanised. We all know how overcrowded our shelters are…

So what is the humane thing to do? What is the ethical thing to do? What is the right thing to do?

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2 Responses to Conflicting ethics

  1. Pingback: The intruder in my garden | Me, my life and I

  2. Pingback: Ethics and morals | Me, my life and I

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