Sacrificial millipedes and a gecko’s tail.

This statement sounds cruel. Some animals die for the Early years learning cause. When I see a group of 4-year-olds playing with a millipede, I know it will end bad for the millipede. Think bugs bunny, and Steinbeck’s “Of mice and men” (I will pat him and stroke him and pat him and stroke him). One kid pulled a millipede in half and noticed both halves were still alive (for now). Another found earwigs were full of juice, and another pulled shells off snails. Kids learn about death, like they learn about everything. In tiny steps built on previous experiences. Technically most 4-year-olds can’t even understand the concept of permanent. “He’s dead…why has he stopped moving?”

I struggle with this quandary.  I’ve been a vegetarian for over 30 years. However, I swat flies, and mozzies, and feed snails and earwigs to my poultry. I have sort of accepted that millipedes, snails, and earwigs are fair game when it comes to learning. My personal line is drawn at spiders, beneficial garden insects, reptiles, and amphibians (in fact all animals that aren’t Millipedes earwigs and snails). Hopefully by the time they get to Guinea pigs, puppies, and monkeys they will have constructed behaviours that are courteous and respectful towards life (with our support).

The other day a group of kids found a gecko. They were very careful. They seemed to know how to handle it and were showing great respect. At one stage it jumped off a kid’s hands and another kid who had never met a gecko before picked it up. By the tail. She learnt something that day that the other kids already knew. They drop their tails. She screamed in horror. The others explained that, that is what they do. They explained it was a defence mechanism. They explained how a predator would grab the tail and run off with its prize while the gecko snuck away. She told her grandmother about the ordeal, and the grandmother fondly recounted the first time she discovered that fact first-hand.  

I don’t endorse wanton cruelty. However, I have accepted that some animals must die, and some lizards must lose their tails. If I were a lizard, I would rather lose my tail to a human puppy, who will grow up to be a protector of the environment, than a hungry spoggie looking for a quick snack.

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