And nature is full of death & dying; when is it wise and when is it unwise to (try to) stop it?
Granted, this is a big topic. But I think it's "wise ...to (try to) stop
it" when the suffering or death serves no purpose.
As an example of a simple rule of thumb I follow :
When an insect has fallen into a river or lake, I don't rescue it. The
fish (and water striders) depend on this food.
When an insect has fallen into bucket filled with water, I do rescue it.
Since humans are responsible for the bucket, but not the lake, it is
appropriate that humans intervene in the case of the bucket, if not the
This is a very broad generalization, but in wildlife rehab
studies of the origins of animals brought it, it has been demonstrated that
usually in excess of 90 percent were placed at risk by human-caused
situations (a statistic that also reflects, of course, the bias that it is
such animals that are more likely to be found. Animals die from natural
causes far more often, obviously, but those ones are much less likely to be
The second consideration I would have is with regard the
"relative" value, of the animal's life overall.
I have rescued, for
example, waterfowl frozen into a wetland, even though it is a natural thing
In rescuing a duck trapped in ice I am violating your
principle, but I do it anyway, because on a very subjective and personal
level I feel that it is better for me, for no objective reason, to remove
the bird from kind of lingering death that being trapped in ice leads to,
notwithstanding that it is a death that will benefit other animals.
There is, however, within the broad principle of "correcting" the
impositions we create for animals, a rationale even in this situation in
that so many humans will kill other ducks for "sport" or for other reasons,
I am, in affect, balancing things out by allowing one to live longer than he
would were I not to intervene.
In the case of the insect in the lake,
were it an endangered species (highly improbable, this is very hypothetical)
I would rescue it, and were it not an endangered species, but a large,
attractive one, even though I agree with Dietrich's overall evaluation, I'd
probably scoop it out anyway, while realizing I have no consistent reason to
There is a spider web across the upper part of my back door.
Each night when I turn the back light on, I see the spider, even though it
is very cool, in the middle of her web, awaiting prey. Last night I saw a
drama briefly unfold when a moth hit the web. The speed with which the
spider rushed to the large moth to immobilize it, surprised me even though
I've seen it countless times before. But the moth broke loose at the
spider's first touch. I had mixed emotions...yay for the moth, but the
spider failed in her attempt not only to attain a meal, but possibly a
source of nutriment for her young. Mind you, I didn't have the same depth of
emotion had it been a mouse escaping an owl's attack, or a deer breaking
loose from a puma and getting away.
Were the web lower I would remove
it rather than give up use of the door, but since it does not interfere with
me, I don't interfere with it (although she re-spins each night and once it
was lower than usual and I had to ask a guest to duck to avoid it.)
Barry (Who should have some rigid guidelines to determine his
thoughts and actions, but, alas, is hopelessly relativistic).