The rights of an ant

Raju Z Moray

I SAW a little red ant crawling up my sleeve. Without batting an eyelid I slapped it out of existence. Nothing unusual? Right! You would have done the same thing yourself? Absolutely! Now just wait a minute. Think of it this way. I just sentenced a living creature to death. It had done me no harm. It was probably just lost and trying to find its way home. To its loved ones, waiting. But I had a fear. Fear that it may bite me. So it was my problem. My psychological problem. And I killed another living creature because of it.

Now let me assume it had bitten me. So I was attacked. I was pricked and had a right to defend myself. Maybe even to retaliate. After all, I’m a macho man. How dare that little creature crawl all over me and sting me? But hold it. Do I kill everyone who stings me? Can I kill every living creature that hurts me? Even if I consider myself superior? Just because I think that I am superior, am I superior? Can I condemn another creature without giving it a hearing? Do other living creatures have no right even to be heard in a matter which can end in the deprivation of their right to life? Would I have killed my child if it bit me violently? Would I have killed my pet dog?
Hey, what’s that? Another red ant crawling up my sleeve. Probably the wife of the deceased! Or maybe the husband. Or is it a child? Anyway, after all this soul searching, I think I’ll just blow it away. Phoo! There! It has landed safely on the floor and is crawling away. Just imagine! for an ant to fall from my sleeve onto the floor is like my falling from the 100th floor of some skyscraper. Would I have been able to walk away after such a fall? Or even to crawl away? Is it not a miracle of sorts? Maybe it does have a right to live its own life in its own way….
Why do we batter a crocodile when we find it in our gutter? Or stone a leopard cub if it strays into our compound? You’ll say they are invading our territory. Are they? A logical, scientific person like you will love logic and statistics. So answer these. Whose population has gone up? Ours or theirs? Whose area of residence has increased? Ours or theirs? Who are the encroaches upon the others’ territories? Us or them? We, who won’t part with a square foot without extracting its market value from the purchaser, didn’t pay a dime to the original inhabitants of the forests whose square miles we have despoiled. But since we write the textbooks, they have become the “predators”. Since we want to feast, they become our fodder.
Since we have so much faith in established “facts” and “statistics” we should also consider what the Americans whom we love to “ape” have now discovered. That there is nutritional inefficiency inherent in using animals for food. Ninety percent of the protein content of grain is lost when fed to livestock; ninety-six percent of its calories and all of its fibre and carbohydrates vanish out of the tail ends of cows, hogs and sheep. Americans have discovered that if they reduced their beef consumption by only ten percent, the leftover grain would feed all of the sixty million people who starve to death throughout the world each year. Want to hear more? To produce a day’s food for one meat-eater it takes over 4,000 gallons of water, for a lacto-ovo vegetarian only 1,200 gallons and for a pure vegetarian, only 300 gallons. What does all this mean? It means this: It takes less water to produce a year’s food for a pure vegetarian than to produce a month’s food for a meat eater!
What has all this environment and animal friendly talk got to do with me, you may ask. I am an Indian Citizen. I have my fundamental rights! Yes Ma’am. But what about your fundamental duties? Do you know them? Well, you are supposed to.  The Indian Constitution has an entire chapter (Part IV-A) devoted to them. Look them up if you like. It is your fundamental duty, among things, to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife, to have compassion for living creature, to abjure violence and also to develop scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform. Surprised? You did not know this did you? Well, I wouldn’t have told you either — if it hadn’t been for that little red ant crawling up my sleeve.