- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 21, 2001

A study in England shows that slugs, snails and cockroaches feel pain. This plays right into the hands of the animal rights people, who can now form a group for the ethical treatment of bugs. Speaking of bugs, Dr. Stephen Wickens of an English animal welfare group said, "Perhaps we should think twice before reaching for the fly spray." Just what we need, a group of loonies defending the rights of disease-carrying flies. I would certainly like to know more about how they determined these bugs feel pain.
There are also lobby groups that argue animals have emotions. Another study at Cambridge University tells us cows can react emotionally. Perhaps thats why they always look so sad. If they truly do have emotions, you would think that every once in a while you would see a happy-go-lucky cow prancing through the meadow emanating a lyrical moo. I suppose being milked every day is enough to cause any cow to fall into depression. A little Valium in the hay could be the answer.
Back to bug pain. The fact that a cockroach screams when he gets locked up inside one of those roach hotel/motel traps causes me no concern whatsoever. If these bug lovers want to live with roaches, more power to them. They must have a high threshold of pain, because they outnumber us by about a million to one, even though we have been trying to eradicate them since the beginning of time. Instead of worrying about how much pain they feel, we should try to discover the secret of roach survival.
Another professor at an English university said insects react the same as cats and dogs in their aversion to electric shocks. The professor had better have a good explanation as to why he is administering shocks to dogs (cats deserve a shock) and insects, or he may find the PETA people on his doorstep. I suppose this could be the end of that bug zapper so popular on patios during the summer months. On the other hand, if we can zap a convicted murderer, we shouldnt worry too much about doing the same thing to a mosquito.
Another study at Cambridge, where they obviously have money to waste, tells us sheep can distinguish one person from another. The first thing that comes into my mind after hearing this revelation is, who cares? We knew that when the little lamb followed Mary wherever she went. I cant imagine who finances these studies, and now that we know a sheep can tell the difference between people, will the quality of life on Earth or in the barnyard be any better?
Finally, if slugs and snails feel pain, why not the common earthworm? Will we have picketers standing on the dock chastising us for sticking a worm on a fishhook? Is there a humane way for me to rid my lawn of slugs who are devouring my grass? Should the French feel guilty about boiling a snail in garlic butter? Will there be a war between the animal rights people and the bug rights people? How will they address the problem of a bird eating a bug while it is still alive?


Dick Boland is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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