A spider built a beautiful web on my front porch three days ago and took up residency at the center. As far as I can tell, she hasn’t snared any prey, and in fact the web already is in disrepair and seems to be about a third its original size.
Still she sits at the center, awaiting a reprieve from what I imagine to be her increasing hunger and concern.
Another spider did the same thing in my garage over the summer, apparently dying of hunger before successfully catching a meal.
Surely this happens all the time all over the world to predators – carnivores and omnivores alike.
We animal advocates tend to sympathize with the prey. I think that’s because so many of us reject the idea that might makes right, or at least we reject the way humans have perverted this axiom by taking it to its extreme. So we end up wanting to warn the rabbit about the hawk overhead.
But the hawk must eat, as must the spider, as must we all.
People say nature is cruel, but killing and eating is an act of survival, not cruelty.
Sadly, the human approach to eating animals is fraught with cruelty, both directly – as is the case with intensive confinement operations – and indirectly – in the devastating effects of intensive animal agriculture on wildlife habitat and the climate, and indeed on our fellow humans, an obscene number of whom go to bed hungry every night even in the United States because of the inequity and iniquity of our food systems. Might makes wrong here, no two ways about it.
It’s the animal advocate’s job to accept that nature involves killing. Becoming comfortable with natural animal behaviors allows us to more clearly identify (and thus eliminate) the aberrant behaviors of our fellow humans, to save our energy for effective and meaningful advocacy and, quite frankly, to stay sane.
If you must choose to pity the rabbit who dies in the hawk’s talons, pity too the spider who sits waiting in her tattered web for a meal that will never come.
But I recommend against expending your pity on either. Pity instead the victims of human callousness and disregard. But don’t swim in it, you know? We are surrounded by pain and suffering that can easily overwhelm us. Be mindful with your emotions. We have to take care of ourselves.
My good friend Dyne told me years ago, “Dave, you can’t take on all the world’s suffering and pain.” Those words possibly saved my life, and they certainly enabled me to remain effective in my advocacy.