As a vegan encountering the culturally labeled 'pest' can be problematic. It raises questions I don't always know how to answer, but forces me to deal with them anyways. Usually I can prefer to ignore other animals in my home, and if they simply can't stay because we can't safely cohabit the same space I politely locate them to a safe new space. Things did not go by so simply when I recently acquired some new aphid friends.
I bought some organic herbs for my rabbit housemates the other day, only to find a few aphids on them when I came home. It's winter, and while I know aphids can survive the cold (take your fridge for example) it seemed ridiculously cruel to dump them outside in the snow. At first I would pick off the leaves and carefully move them to another plant in the house, away from my herbs. No harm, no one needed the ivy and its flowering friend whose name I've long forgotten. It could be the aphids' plant.
I did this with the first six aphids, they appeared one at a time at first. Then suddenly my aphid colony became more obvious. I counted to fifteen before I gave up, and three had wings! It suddenly seemed impractical to keep moving them. How many eggs had they laid? Would they lay more before I noticed the new hatchlings?
The non-vegan response I received was to kill them. They're a pest, they're a nuisance, they'll eat your plants. When I politely said no, it's alive and I won't cause it suffering, it was suggested I buy lady bugs. As if inviting more nature into my house will solve this, not to mention why would hiring someone else to kill the 'pests' make me feel any better about them being dead? Oh wait, because it would be 'natural' and I wouldn't be 'responsible' for it. Sounds like a very non-vegan response doesn't it?
I thought some more. If my aphids were the size of a cat would I keep moving them from plant to plant, or just plop them outside? No. So was I suddenly sizeist? Maybe, but I didn't want to be. They weren't even my plants after all – they were my rabbits'. Then I started to worry, what if the aphids reach the carrying capacity of the oregano before Spring when I plan to move them outside?
I've decided they can stay, and if I need to I'll start buying herbs for aphids. I don't think there is one right answer, any perfect or easy way to deal with society's 'pests'.
I understand the frustration that builds up in humans, the helplessness that might lead one to kill. I can see its origins, but I choose not to indulge in suffering. It was their plant first after all, and to me experiences like these are what makes me a vegan. A life is a life no matter who owns it and no matter how small.