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.