Animal Ethics

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Here’s another true story that illustrates the complexities of animal ethics:

IMG_0660Last year the Helping Hands kids and I took a field trip to Waynesboro to visit the Wildlife Center of Virginia. This wildlife hospital provides “health care, often on an emergency basis, to native wildlife.” The good veterinarians and staff of the Wildlife Center treat any animal that’s brought to the center. You can take a tour of the facilities and see all sort of wild animals from opossums to bears in all different stages of recovery.

About two dozen permanent animal residents have been identified as “Education Animals.” Ironically, these are the animals that have flunked their survival test, otherwise known as “live prey training,” or more simply as: “Mouse School.” One of the wildlife educators explained it this way…Let’s say an owl is treated for a broken wing. Once it recovers from its injury, it is placed in an enclosure for a couple days with a live mouse. In the morning, if the mouse has been eaten, the owl is deemed ready for release back into the wild.

Clearly, I’m a perverse person, because I just had to ask, “But don’t you sometimes treat mice that are brought to the center?”

The educator acknowledged that mice were indeed sometimes treated as patients. He assured us though, that no rehabilitated mice would ever be used as bait in “Mouse School.” These mice are bought from a company that breeds mice specifically for research and food. He acknowledged that the vets and staff of the Wildlife Center do wrestle with the ethics of this.

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