gardening ethics? (was: Domestication of Poison Ivy)

Charles Delwiche delwiche at
Sat Nov 14 21:57:26 EST 1992

In article <9211142244.AA21595 at> MEK104 at PSUVM.PSU.EDU writes:

>To put other forms of life on an equal plane with people is bordering on the
>absurd.  That's not to say, however, that as stewards of the planet (no
>other organism is) we don't have to act responsibly.  But, clearly, our
>first responsibility is to human kind and if a choice has to be made to kill
>certain pests to insure that people are fed, for example, then we have to
>kill the pests.  As far as cruelty to animals versus cruelty to plants ...
>is it possible to be cruel to a plant?  The plant sure doesn't know.
>Mark Kubiske                < MEK104 at PSUVM.PSU.EDU >
>School of Forest Resources
>Penn State University

I think I'm a little closer to being a "plant's rights" activist than
you, but I have no major disagreement.  I have often wondered about
driving the entire order Diptera extinct, although I suppose the
ecological repercussions would be vast.

There was an interesting event a few years ago in Madison, Wisconsin,
where I lived at the time.  The U.W. arboretum sits in the center of
Madison, several hundred acres of woods surrounded by the city.
Absolutely free of predators, the deer herd grows with abandon, and
the arboretum staff had been accustomed to thinning the herd each
autumn.  Without thinning the herd the arboretum would fairly quickly
be stripped of all undergrowth, and a deer famine would ensue.  Being
in the middle of the city it is not safe to allow normal deer hunting,
so the arboretum staff had set up a blind and salt lick to attract the
deer to a clearing where they would thin the herd.

This had been going on for years, but one year the staff made the
mistake of announcing to the public when the deer thinning was
scheduled.  There was an animal rights outcry, and some time later a
number of the trees in the arboretum's horticultural collection were
cut down in the middle of the night, including one tree valued at ten
thousand dollars.  A note was found pinned to one of the stumps with
words to the effect of "if you kill any more of our deer we'll kill
more of your plants".  The whole incident replayed itself a couple of
years later too.

Now, I can't even begin to express how silly I think this is.  It is
hard for me to even comprehend this sort of thought.  It brings to
mind images of a sort of a holy war between herbivores and the herbs.
You can't go set up birth control clinics for deer, and there are a
LOT of deer, so the cost of managing the herds is a significant
concern.  I can't get away from the thought that it is hard to make a
go of it in this world if you don't have big brown eyes.

Charles F. Delwiche			(812) 855-2549
Dept. of Biology, Indiana University
Bloomington, IN 47405

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