I’m a murderer. I killed dozens of our pet stick insects yesterday with my bare hands, squishing them into green slime. I felt pretty awful about this and had nightmares last night about mistreating pets. I realise this self-imposed guilt is irrational because I frequently squish insects in my greenhouse. Why do I feel guilty about the stick insects and not aphids?
You might be asking how a vegan can kill insects but I’m not a Jain Buddhist. I simply reject speciesism; it’s wrong to apply the principle of equality to members of our species only. The principle of equality says we do not give preference to others based on characteristics such as sex or race and for the same reasons, species. However that doesn’t mean I don’t draw the line somewhere; after all, there are parasites that infect the human eye and I have very little sympathy for them. But difficulty knowing where to draw the line is not an excuse to avoid trying to do so. Species membership is not morally relevant. What is morally relevant are things like the capacity for pain and suffering, self-consciousness, self-awareness, and the ability to see oneself as having a past and future. Insects are a long way down on this spectrum.
So why do I feel bad? Because they were our pets. It was my duty to take care of them and I have betrayed them. Is this how meat-eaters justify petting their dog while sticking a fork into a pig? A dog is in their care whereas the pig is not. Emotionally it makes sense but it’s still irrational.
My plan for the stick insects from now on is to try to find the eggs before they hatch and squash them. Think of it as stick insect abortion.