Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Prey for me

The weekend Times led with the awful story of the kidnapping of Jaycee Lee Dugard. She was abducted, imprisoned and raped.

In the same issue Simon Barnes was extolling the the ugliness, cruelty and the beauty of nature. Let us celebrate cruelty, he writes, as we do ugliness, with a full heart.

I am not inclined to intervene to protect garden birds from predatory sparrowhawks, though one creature being destroyed and consumed by another in full view is a harrowing sight. For myself I choose to lead as un-predatory a life as possible. I disapprove of slaughterhouses and eschew their produce. I am happiest following the vegan way but I sometimes lapse into a woolly, even fishy, vegetarianism. A rational basis for my position I find in Peter Singer's 'Animal Liberation'.

My problem is with the use of the word 'cruelty' to describe both what was done to Jaycee and what sparrowhawks do in the wild to their prey. Surely sparrowhawks are neither cruel nor kind. These are human attributes. Nature may indeed be red in tooth and claw, but sparrowhawks, being predators, are just - predatory.

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