Friday, June 3, 2011

Man v. Raccoon: Which Side Are You On?

No one’s condoning animal cruelty here, but it seems plenty of people sympathize with Toronto homeowner-cum-alleged-raccoon-attacker Nguyen Dong. As The Globe and Mail’s Tu Thanh Ha reported, Mr. Dong was charged with cruelty to animals and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose after a neighbour called the authorities to report a man attacking raccoons in his backyard with a shovel-like tool. Mr. Dong’s wife, Thuy, told The Globe her husband was merely trying to scare the animals away with a broom.

Judging from reader comments, many have taken the side of Man against Critter. “Raccoons are pests and need to be removed,” one commenter wrote under the name Laser Envy. “…The only reason why this man is being vilified is because raccoons are pudgy and cute.” “What is next: Torontonians can be charged for killing mosquitoes, flies and rats?” wrote Carlos M, another commenter.

Mr. Dong’s case has clearly hit a nerve, as it raises both ethical and practical questions about our attitudes toward our fellow creatures. Does the cuteness factor really determine how we feel about ridding them? Or does it depend on the extent to which they cramp our lifestyle or threaten our health and safety? Just when animals do become pests?

Consider the case of a pet-eating wolf-dog that was killed last week off the coast of West Vancouver. Authorities there hired a trapper to go after the animal after attempts to capture it humanely failed. While the killing of the predator might have brought relief to residents, some Globe readers lamented the tactics used.