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February 15, 2013: The roach incident (Growing our compassion for animals we normally don't care about)

Originally posted on this blog.

I was in my friendís bathroom the other day, and I saw a roach. It was a fairly big roach, one that most people would find fairly disgusting. I grew up in an old house in Los Angeles, one with an unfinished basement, so we always had problems with roaches, no matter how hard my parents tried to get rid of them. This is why I still get bothered by the sight of them, and even though my compassion for other animals is very strong, roaches are something I have very little compassion for. To be fair, I usually donít kill roaches, or mosquitoes, but try to find a way to get them outside instead.

Anyway, this roach noticed me and, like most animals who perceive a threat, started to run away. He tried to hide under the door. I couldnít see where he went, but I closed the door to prevent him from going into the living room, not really caring if I squished him or not. Once I opened the door again, I noticed that I had, indeed, partially squished him. He was staggering, badly injured, with a liquid dripping from the part of his body that was caught between the door and the wall. This made me feel horrible. For the first time in my life, I felt true compassion and sadness for the suffering of a roach. I ended up putting him out of his misery.

The whole experience left a strong impression on me. It reminded me of a very important Effaist belief, that itís important to grow our compassion to include as many animals as possible. It is important to try to widen the range of animals for whom we feel empathy. It is easy to feel compassion for our loved ones, and, for many of us, for our pets as well. The true test of our compassion, is in expanding it to include other possibly less obvious animals. This particular incident served as a reminder for me that even an animal that is generally considered to be a pest, and is often exterminated, is a living being that suffers. This is not to say that no pests should ever be killed. Parasites, and other such creatures that feed and destroy our homes, should indeed be stopped in order to prevent disease and destruction. Most people, however, misinterpret the term ďpestĒ, and include way too many animals in this category. Even when weíre dealing with harmful pests, we should always think about the most humane way possible to get rid of them. My whole experience with the roach was negative, but it lead to a positive realization which will hopefully prevent more such negativity in the future.

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