Every diet has a body-count: in the garden with the vegetarian killing snails.
When the demand of my job and my family life allow, I try to take advantage of the fact that I live in California by maintaining a vegetable garden. One of the less pleasant aspects of vegetable gardening is that, every winter and spring, it requires me to embark on a program of snail and slug eradication — which is to say, I hunt for snails and slugs in my garden and I kill them.
As it happens, I’m a vegetarian and an ethicist. I’m not sure I’d describe myself as an “ethical vegetarian” — that suggests that one’s primary reason for eating a vegetarian diet is a concern with animal suffering, and while I do care about animal suffering, my diet has as much to do with broader environmental concerns (and not wanting to use more resources than needed to be fed, especially when others are going hungry) and aesthetics (I never liked the taste of meat). Still, given my diet and my profession, one might well ask, how ethical is it for me to be killing the slugs and snails in my garden?
Killing the snails is not something I relish, and not just because of what a slimy job it is. It used to be more slimy, when I was dropping them into a bucket of salt and sucking all the water out of them. Lately, I dispatch them is a solution of cold water and Ivory dish soap (the “Soapy Bucket of Merciful Deliverance”), which seems to drown them, after which I can pour their corpses onto the compost pile. Read ArticleBy Janet D. Stemwede