Saturday 29 May 2010

Really Wild Show

Whilst we're on the subject (see my blog...okay, rant...below about natural things) let's talk about wildlife. Ah, wildlife. What to do. How can I best express my feelings about wildlife work?

Best place to start is read my previous blog post, the one about natural oil. Yes, yes, I go on about that tea tree oil a lot, don't I? Sheesh, what's my problem with it? Never mind that. Keep reading. Get to the bit about pain and suffering. What do you mean you didn't get that far? Well go back and read it again! I haven't got all day.

All done? Okay. So now you know what I feel it's like to be in 'the wild'. It's bloody horrible. When I get creatures brought in from outside, you know what I think of them? They're not fluffy, cute animals. They're wounded soldiers. They're on the front line. It's war out there for them - literally, a life and death struggle every single day of their lives.

I once heard a story from an acquaintance of mine who just found out that I was a vet. She had found a wounded sparrow in the garden, attacked by a cat. It was very small, and weak. My friend and her daughter decided to take the sparrow in, and put it in the sink of their bathroom. They gave it a little water, tried to help it recover. It was too ill to drink. It was too ill to do anything. The sparrow died after a day or so.

So I asked why my friend had not taken the sparrow to the local vets, who were literally just up the road, and she said 'I was worried that they would put it to sleep.'

Stop and consider that for the moment. Stop and think about what that sparrow experienced from the moment it was injured, until the moment it died. Put yourself in that sparrow's position.

I'm spelling this out because, if I had been the vet on duty in that practice, then my friend's worst fears would have been confirmed. I would, absolutely, have put the sparrow to sleep. And you know what? I'd also do it for about 90% of the wildlife you would ever bring me. And if you can explain to me why doing that is worse than what that poor sparrow went through in my friend's sink, you have a different view of morals and ethics than I do.

So there, I've said it. All that preamble, so that I can reveal to you that I will, with a clear conscience, kill nine out of ten wildlife casualties that are brought in to me. As for the lucky 1 in 10, well, there's usually nothing wrong with them, and I'll tell you to take them back where you found them.

The animals that are brought to me are not pets. They don't behave like pets. They are scared of humans. They are scared of confinement. They are scared of just about everything in the world, because just about everything in the world is trying to kill them, directly or indirectly. If I see, for instance, a blackbird that has been attacked by a cat, I have a few choices. One is to say 'Let's just see how it goes overnight', give it a few jabs, and not worry about it until the morning. The other is to put it to sleep straight away. One of these choices is immediately very tempting for me, because (despite what you might believe after reading the above few paragraphs) I don't actually enjoying killing things. In fact, it would be fair to say that I bloody hate doing it.

But that won't stop me making choice number two. The overnight option is much easier, nicer for all concerned, and when I come in the next morning to find the blackbird has died overnight, then myself and my nurse can say 'Ah, well, we tried.'

Except that I can't do that. What I'm thinking about is that blackbird, alone in a cage. Terrified and dying. What kind of a night do you think it had? Any better than the sparrow in the sink?

What about the ones that wouldn't have died overnight? Well, firstly, it's less than you probably think. I didn't always adopt this attitude, you see. I've had my fair share of nocturnal deaths. It's not a good feeling. Secondly, remember what I said earlier - these are soldiers. I'm patching them up the get back in the fight. If I can't guarantee that this bird, or mouse, or whatever, won't be at the absolute top of it's game when I release it, then I am condemning that animal to die, either at the hands of a predator, or from starvation.

A lucky few of these wounded soldiers will be adopted by people, and become their pets. Well, that's fine. If they're never going back to war again, then I'll do all I can to help them. Some species also seem to cope better with captivity than others - hedgehogs, for instance, often cope a little better than some others once you've got them through the first few days (they bloody hurt to examine, though!) But that isn't the way for most of them.

And so I kill, or to use the polite term, euthanase, most of them. And I feel sorry about that, because I don't like doing it, and I don't like death, but I don't feel ashamed about it, because it's the right thing to do.

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