Sinners and exterminators

I have this fantasy about the afterlife in which God asks me to edit the Bible.

After demurring modestly for an appropriate amount of time — oh, no, I couldn’t — I will push St. Peter out of the way and take up the heavenly red pen with relish. And the first thing I will do is cross out every reference to “tax collectors” and replace them with “exterminators.”

For example, in the second chapter of Mark:

Later, He was having dinner at Levi’s house. Many tax collectors exterminators and sinners were also eating with Jesus and his disciples, because there were many who were following Him. When the scribes and Pharisees saw him eating with sinners and tax collectors exterminators, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat and drink with tax collectors exterminators and sinners?” When Jesus heard that, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a physician but sick ones do.”

There, I will say, handing God back the pen. Fixed it for You.

I am back on my anti-exterminator soapbox because on Saturday, I came across a bird that had been caught in a rodent trap. It was flopping around in the front yard of a nearby house, and at first, I thought the bird was wrestling with a worm, but the motion was so odd that I decided to get a closer look.

This is what I found:

The bird’s beak was caught in a snap trap, and it was desperately trying to shake it off. Other birds were nearby, making distressed sounds. Animal empathy is real.

I had gloves in the car and because the bird was weighted down by the trap, it couldn’t fly off, but flapped its wings pitifully try to get away from me. Thankfully, I was able to snap open the trap without taking off any of my fingers. The bird hobbled off into some shrubbery and I think/hope/pray it will be all right. I spoke with the homeowner who said the trap was one of several put down by her exterminator to rid her yard of moles and voles. She was horrified and said she would pick up the others. I didn’t ask why it was okay to murder moles and not birds.

I myself have great affection for moles, having rescued a large one out of the middle of a road last year. I wrote a little essay about the experience entitled “I saved a mole and I liked it” but I didn’t post it because I thought you guys would think I had lost it. I have lost it now and no longer care.

I am so done with exterminators and people who move into the woods and then think it’s their prerogative to murder woodland creatures. And don’t get me started on the glue traps. If ever I am arrested, it will be because I have snapped and run screaming through the Lowe’s, overturning all the shelves that contain glue traps and fly strips and other grisly means of “pest” control. In comparison, Jesus in the temple will seem mild.

Fact: You cannot kill “pests” selectively. Suffering runs downstream.

Fact: Moles and voles dig holes, as do chipmunks. They are small mammals that experience pleasure and suffering (the animal-rights philosopher Peter Singer’s bar for erring on the side of compassion). Voles are not a mortal threat to your family or your home. Your house will not fall into a chipmunk hole. No matter what the exterminator tells you, our species can survive moles. The Humane Society says there are no documented cases of chipmunk burrowing causing structural damage to a house.

Fact: Pest extermination is driven mostly by pest exterminating companies’ need to make money, not by actual need. Do you really need an exterminator to come to your house four times a year? Unless the termites and carpenter ants are marching through your house in a conga line and there are snakes in your toilet, probably not. They’re mostly killing spiders. Get rid of spiders, you have more things to exterminate.

Fact: There are humane methods of discouraging and removing small mammals that you don’t like. Google the Tin Cat. Plant marigolds, which are beautiful and also said to discourage deer and rabbits from eating your plants. There are devices that emit high-pitched sounds that are said to drive these animals away. But you can also just decide to share your property with the animals that you are trying to displace. Moles mostly eat insects. Get rid of moles, you have more things to exterminate.

Fact: When the aliens come, the new and expanded definition of “pests” is going to greatly disturb us.

Meanwhile, in my great rage, I have done something I’ve never done before: Left a negative review on Amazon for a product I didn’t buy: The Trapper Mini-Rex. Use at your own risk, and at the risk of the birds fluttering about your yard.

7 thoughts on “Sinners and exterminators

  1. Thank you for this. I loathe the fearful/aggressive attack our culture launches on animals, insects, plants, birds…as you say, it’s all connected and our web is in helpless tatters already.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you mentioned birds, KItty, because I’m not sure that people realize many types of birds are considered pests, too, even as we feed and house the “prettier” ones. This Massachusetts website lists various “pests” that the state can help us deal with: to include pigeons and house sparrows. We have to eradicate SPARROWS now? Well, that will keep God busy. Matthew 10:29 for those who don’t know the reference.


  2. You are your Mother’s daughter. And I too have learned from her…I have been known to escort a variety of insects out of my house and leave small spiders to handle the fruit flies. (please don’t tell my sons!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a hot take. Prepare for blowback. By the way, exactly four hours after I posted this, I got a text that said “This is Bob from Terminex letting you know that I will be there tomorrow for my quarterly visit.” Open a window, and you could have heard me shrieking. (I am a lowly renter, so this is not my call, and I cannot refuse without suddenly being homeless.) But God has a wicked sense of humor, eh?


  3. Thank you for sharing this post! You have me reconsidering how I deal with the little critters that live among us.


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