DEAR DR. FOX: After reading your article about people who kill animals for pleasure, it brought back memories of my first BB gun. I shot a sparrow, and when I picked up the bird and held it in my hand, I had a sickening feeling in my heart.
I never shot a living thing again. I am 90 years old and this has stuck with me to this day. -- M.M., Collinsville, Oklahoma
DEAR M.M.: I appreciate your sharing this story. The killing of all kinds of animals, especially those regarded as pests, is still a culturally accepted norm. Our own endemic racism almost pales before such unquestioned speciesism and all this shooting, trapping, snaring, spearing and poisoning. Much of this is said to be done "for good reason," and many condone the wanton killing in the name of "protecting" crops or livestock. But in reality, killing -- be it of a cockroach or coyote, sparrow or snake -- is killing. It must always be questioned, and humane alternatives and prevention sought.
In all good conscience as planetary stewards, we are morally bound to use humane and ideally nonlethal methods of pest and predator control. All our food crops could be produced without the use of cancer-causing insecticides. Guard dogs can be used to ward off livestock predators. Neutering and vaccinating stray dogs in poor communities around the world is a humane alternative to rounding them up and killing them to control their numbers and reduce the incidence of rabies.
Our rationalized inhumanity, biocide and ecocide must cease -- for Earth's sake, as well as for our own humanity and the rights and well-being of all creatures, great and small.
DEAR DR. FOX: Thanks for your article about the risks of plastics. Also, thanks for alerting us to rosemary as a possible cause of seizures in pets. I found it listed as an ingredient in the cat kibble I was feeding my 15-year-old cat, who had had neurological problems in the past.
She is less jerky and acts less nervous now that I feed her cat food without this ingredient. -- M.K., Naples, Florida
DEAR M.K.: I am sure that many of the chemicals in plastics, some of which leach into foods and bottled water, are the tip of the toxic iceberg thanks to the "Age of Chemistry." As newscaster Walter Cronkite once confided at a conference I attended years ago, "Our brains are probably so deranged by chemical pollutants that we will never be capable of solving the global environmental problems we have created."
I wonder to what degree such brain-deranging, endocrine- and immune-system-disrupting chemicals, along with electropollution, contribute to the epidemic of violence in the U.S. and abroad.
I appreciate you sharing the evident benefits to your cat of no longer consuming rosemary, which is often added to pet foods as an antioxidant preservative. Many cats diagnosed with "feline neurologic syndrome/hyperesthesia" may well recover, like yours did, when rosemary is eliminated from their diets.
OUR MENTAL HEALTH MAY HAVE AFFECTED PETS DURING SHUTDOWNS
Cats whose humans have been home more than usual during the COVID-19 pandemic may have become more affectionate, while some dogs may be more prone to separation anxiety, according to a study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Pet owners were also asked about their own mental health, and those who indicated declines during shutdowns were the most likely to report changes in their pets' behavior. This suggests "mental health status has a clear effect on companion animal welfare and behavior," said co-author Daniel Mills, a clinical animal behaviorist. (Full story: ScienceAlert Australia, 7/1)
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