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Pacifism for Animals

Seeking refuge from the cruelties of the world, I turned to my most recent copy of the Swarthmore College Bulletin [July 2008] only to read about the decision to kill the Crum deer using sharpshooters and then salve the College’s collective Quaker conscience by giving the meat to the poor, adding exposure to wasting disease to their other troubles. How NRA.

As long as Professor [José-Luis] Machado’s class is worried about the impact of the deer upon their outdoor use of the Crum, he and others might consider the impact upon conscience, and the worthy challenge of coexistence, instead of taking the easy way out. There are nonlethal means—sterilization and relocation are only two of many that were rejected (without explanation in the article) in favor of killing. Sterilization and relocation are only two such means. Population control by killing is revolting and contrary to all that we stand for as a people.

Killing is always unconscionable when humane options exist; rationalization of the same is even worse. It is also completely incompatible with Quaker values. Does not the pacifist approach extend to animals at Swarthmore? Is convenience the current excuse for rejection of these values? How can solving this problem humanely be too great an intellectual challenge for Swarthmore? Do we circle back to arrogance—as a species, just toss a hand grenade into the values of compassion and coexistence?

In Professor Machado’s self-serving characterization of campus reaction as “99 percent positive and supportive of the initiative because of the recognition of its potential impact in regenerating the woods,” minority views and consensus are simply dismissed—trumped by the alleged majority, the survival of the biggest guns. No further discussion needed. How many times in history has the minority view been vindicated?

The superior approach—one compatible with Quaker values—is: Never, never be afraid to do what is right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.

As a lifelong advocate for animal and human rights, I surely won’t be reading the Swarthmore College Bulletin for moral or intellectual guidance and thought anymore—ever—if the College carries through with this action.

Gail O’Connell-Babcock ’65
Sherwood , Ore.

Editor’s Note: Readers may refer to the Crum Woods Stewardship Committee’s Web site for complete reports on the state of the woods and an enumeration of the options considered for remediation:

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