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by Mountaineerbr

#13 - Saving Bugs and Other Animals

I took the car and headed to university yesterday, about a 40-minute ride. Walking about, I found a little centipede about 6 centimetres long squashed down by half onto one paved walkway. It was moving its little antenna quickly. Desperately, I reckoned.

Someone had walked and stepped on the posterior half of the little creature body. What to do? Seeing that little thing hapless mounts to much more suffering in my head than it probably should. I have been more sensitive to animal pain as of late because one of my friends was having a troubling time thinking about animal suffering, specially cattle suffering, and also my father touched on this meaty subject this year (or last year?), so we have been thinking about that a little more over the course of the last months..

Should I put an end to the little creature suffering? I have done such deeming merciful acts in the past when I was a kid or teen, and they never felt right..

For some years, I had Aikido classes with the Buddhist monk at the temple in little town we lived back then. He mentioned many frogs would appear after a rainy day. I asked him if I could have some for generic experimentation. I actually had already prepared somewhat and had asked my dentist for some vials of injecting anaesthetics, of which he gave me about 20 (incredibly!), so I was up to no good..

Sensei (the monk) thought it over for a while and decided to dissuade me from this idea of experimenting with living animals (vivisection). He said something that has clung to me ever since, he said any animal would prefer to live a little longer in any case.

I was never a killer of animals. I had a friend who was kind of bad with animals, he and another one who lived in at the same street would shoot down dove birds with slingshots in front of me and I always found that cruel.. They would eat some of the hunt and I heard more than once from different people these doves are yummy.. Sometimes they would kill only to practice their slingshot skills.

If I have to, I will smack cockroaches and mosquitoes, specially if these creatures annoy me.

During master course, I run many rounds of experiments at the biochemistry lab and consumed 80+ rats, total. That is interesting my co-workers seemed always willing to kill rats under my project, so I would always let them do it for me. One of my co-workers under the PhD programme who was a religious fellow dealt with a lot of personal trouble about sacrificing rats for experimentation at the lab. At the same time he was always willing to sacrifice rats under my name.

At the period of time, as I lived in the neighbourhood of the university, I would go treat my rats during experimentation periods everyday by morning. When there was no experiment, I would usually go to the lab to prepare something, clean up or use the internet even during weekends, bank holidays, Christmas, New Year and in the last year the Carnaval. I would always check the animal room and fill up the water bottles of whoever rat was there. I got to know the people form the Central Animal Facility of the university who apparently liked my dealing with rats and so I could have extra rats if I needed them (sometimes some co-workers would need extra rats and would take mine). I also changed a very bright light to a very dim light at the lab animal room (bioterium) after detecting a possible lack of animal well-being of the rats immediately below this very bright incandescent light bulb..

rat being injected
Fig 1. Cartoon of laboratory rats running an experiment..

I much prefer to be the rescuer outside research. I did many glorious rescues of bugs that were drowning in bad waters and I could help them over the years (including some cute bugs from the privy). I cannot save all bugs from drowning and it certainly does not make a difference for the species as an entity, I definitely got stung more than once trying to save bees at the pool, but I changed the future of those bugs I saved, right?!

Life seems to be very common, not rare, not special and trivial when we look at that from zoomed out perspectives. However, life becomes incredible the more we zoom in. What I mean is, certain things have no meaning, purpose or benefit for the grand scheme of things but they make more sense in smaller scales (when we get closer to the subject matter).

So I decided to remove the little half-crushed centipede to the grass. I reckon that he would prefer to spend his time over the soil instead of the pavement. It also makes more sense that he is in contact with more natural structures.

That was more sad than needed be. I myself crushed many ants on those same paved walkways nights before.

Later that day , I was crossing a road on the opposite side of the university and found a beautiful centipede also crossing the road. I thought better to save it from cars so I hunkered down and tried to grab it delicately when a car came headed for us. I would not have more than a few seconds and the damn animal was avoiding my fingers, so I grabbed it against its will, got out of the road and placed it on the grass nearby (no stinging!).

That really reminded me of a reasonably funny episode of a series named 1000 Dumb Ways to Die, in which a vegan or hipster girl was driving along when she found a dead animal on the road and stopped to try and help it. She started crying when she saw the animal was dead, she was desperate by its side when another can came and killed her, too. That is like Darwin Awards. LOL

Anyway, a little more seriously, I have got some tips for when you see an animal crossing the road ahead:

Limit driving speed
It makes sense to driving slower when passing in an area one knows has got frequent animal crossings. I like to drive at below 80km/h on the highway. Not everyone is patient at the wheel and I know that is not possible to drive at such intermediary speeds at all times, but it has become clear to me animals tend to have a clean escape when the car speed is at about 60km/h (~38miles/h) at the highway. If the car is too much faster, the driver cannot slow down adequately or on time. Animals are not used to super high speed in nature, so they don't realise the car is approaching much faster than normal speeds, nor can they run away at enough speed to get out of they road.
Slow down or stop the damn car!
This is extremely risky for the driver. However, usually the driver has got some moments to make a decision and looking at the rear mirror is, hopefully, a habit. In case there is sufficient long space until the car at the rear, the driver may choose to slow down to give the animal a chance to run away or finish crossing the highway. In the city, usually the driver is at slower speeds and it may be safe to stop the car if needed. I have seen many people that simply don't stop the car for animals!! That is very sad, sometimes just braking a little would save cats and dogs..
Use headlight signalling and Horn
Some animals don't care about the horn blow but will unfreeze and respond if one toggles high/low headlights.

When I see any animal on the road, ideally I do many things at once (which became more natural over practice) : I check the rear mirror, pull the brakes a little, blow the horn and toggle headlights. If that is completely safe and necessary, I may stop the car, too.

PS: There is a video somewhere of Sergei, a Brazillian Rock Star and former boyfriend of Janis Joplin, in which he plucks a flower from a bush in his house lawn and enjoys it for a while.

When he decides to throw away the flower, he acts carefully to throw it onto the lawn instead of simply dropping the flower on the pavement he was standing..

Sergei picture
Fig. 2 Sergei posing for a picture in a couch at his home, the The Temple of Rock.