Where is the line where life no longer deserves respect?

For some people, it’s hermit crabs.

Earlier this week some members of CSJ stumbled upon a blog where a mother was very casual and even making jokes about her 3 y/o accidentally killing their 2 pet hermit crabs with sun tan lotion and how they (mother and her kids) subsequently flung the dead hermit over their back fence into a canal, as if they were trash.

Needless to say the hermit crab lovers who read this were beside themselves and several of them commented on the blog. I read the comments and the rebuttal from the blog owner and thought about replying myself in an effort to explain why these people were pissed. I decided to write about it here instead because I don’t see her being too open to my point of view. Plus I don’t want to add fuel to what could become a big fire.

It’s not so much that her 3 y/o soaked the hermit crabs and their tank with sunscreen, we know kids are able to wreak all sorts of havoc. But leaving the 3 y/o unattended with the hermit crabs could be an issue. Failure to make any effort to clean off the hermit crabs after being told that they were sprayed with sunscreen could be an issue. Deciding, with your kids, to fling their lifeless bodies over your back fence like garbage and then sounding almost gleeful in your recounting of the ‘event’ on your blog could be an issue. Planning to replace the hermit crabs as if it were no big deal to kill two innocent hermit crabs could be an issue.

Now obviously we don’t know this woman. But I’m willing to go out on a limb here and say I’m sure she didn’t discuss with her kids the importance of respecting life. Instead, she demonstrated to her kids that it’s okay to fling a lifeless body over a fence like trash. Kids learn by example so what lesson did her kids learn during this hermit crab experience? What message is being sent that those hermit crabs can quite easily be replaced without stopping to process what took place or even giving the kids time to comprehend what it means to kill something? Why run out and buy more? There seems to be no consideration being made to determine that hermit crabs are the right pet for this family.

I’m wondering if the toddler fed sun tan lotion to a puppy and killed it, would the mother gather her eager children to her sides as they once again had a body flinging event in the back yard? I doubt it. But why does a puppy’s life matter more than a hermit crab’s? Why do some people keep spiders as pets and the rest of us kill them? It’s definitely a gray area and it has given me cause to stop and think about how we determine the value of a living thing. If I find an ant in my house, I kill it. I don’t like doing it, I don’t brag about doing it but I’m not about to have ants in my food. Nor did I go out and buy those ants to keep as pets, though some do keep ant farms. What they find a fascinating pet, I find a nuisance in my home. (I do try to use natural repellents and barriers to keep them from coming in to begin with but those are not 100% effective.) What is the determining factor? Where is the line?

I don’t really have an answer or a solution to present here, just hoping that maybe someone else out there finds themselves pondering the value of life as I am today.