Sunday, November 4, 2012

Trimming The Garden, Killing Racoons

A few months ago I saw a notice of Zen center calling for volunteers to come in on Saturday to remove weeds from the lawn. I had trouble with the apparent picking and choosing in that, and asked the author if he also saw trouble in his invitation.

I received the response that he was celebrating the life that the weather has brought us, and he was looking for help to extinguish some forms of the life he was celebrating. He explained he was holding two opposing views at the same time, and that's OK. Also, he did not consider the plants that are in certain places to be "bad" plants, nor did he consider certain types of plants "bad" plants. He just had a preference for both the location and types of plants in the landscape, and so he was planning to take out some plants to enjoy others. He felt preferences are not bad per se. It's his relationship to his preferences that can cause suffering, not the preferences themselves.

I felt a bit like he was not seriously addressing the question of whether this weeding was really right action. But I also thought I was possibly being a bit immature in my concepts of picking and choosing and the related Buddhist sin.

Time passes and I am watching a PBS documentary called "Raccoon Nation". I learn that in Japan, an anime inspired the import of thousands of baby Raccoons, that, once, grown, fell from favor with their owners who released them in the woods to fend for themselves. Having no natural predators in Japan, their range and numbers have increased to large populations in and around very old Buddhist temples. They climb and scrape and ravage the temple wood looking for shelter and food and just being raccoony.

Then the really disturbing factoid came. Temples have adopted a "zero tolerance" for raccoons. They are trapped and killed at a rate of about 10,000 each year. I think this is behavior contrary to right action. How can a temple even call itself Buddhist if it has a policy to actively destroy such a higher, or any, life form.

I'm all for relative judgement, and I understand that precepts are guidelines and not rules, but still. Where is the graceful acceptance that temples are aggregates that will break down and fall away? Where is the graceful acceptance of the life of the raccoons. I'd wager there is a greater irony occurring, in that the Monks will not even eat the meat of the raccoons they have killed because of their, now hypocritical, stance on vegetarian meals.

Removing weeds because they are inconvenient, justified away with some Buddhist babble. Removing raccoons because they are inconvenient, and no doubt this is justified away with more Buddhist babble. There are times when even people have been removed by Buddhists because they are inconvenient, and this is, no doubt, justified away with even more Buddhist babble.

The point of this rant is that I need to constantly allow myself to wrestle with the precepts and watch out for the sins I may commit and strive to justify with Buddhist babble.


Susan F. said...

I saw this show last night on NATURE. I was APPALLED at the mass roundup and murder of tens of thousands of raccoons -- especially by Buddhist monks who I thought were opposed to all sorts of violence (I once heard that they even would not plant anything because they might inadvertently kill worms while digging). People have tried this approach with controlling the stray cat population in cities -- and it just DOESN'T work! By killing groups of raccoons, you are just creating a "vacuum" in which new raccoons will move to fill the void. The Trap-Neuter-Release program is much more effective, not to mention HUMANE. Plus, there are ways to leave sterilization medications in food that the racoons can ingest. This has been done in places with rampant deer populations. I was sick to my stomach after hearing about the primitive, and ironically ineffective, ways that so-called scientists are trying to tackle this problem.

Ilene said...


Anonymous said...

A few weeks ago a raccoon started pooping around the yard and in the shed. I mostly ignored this and was a bit put off that "he" (a bad assumption) was marking his territory in what was clearly my territory. He peed on my work coveralls (which I used once) and then I thought to myself, on. Ammonia soaked tennis balls were placed in "his" spots. I treed him, and delighted in throwing rocks and then had fun keeping "him" up in the tree with the garden hose for 2 hours. Later I saw him in a maple 20 feet up, snoozing. I called a friend to get a 22, I was ready to kill him. My consciousness about my ill-will and harmful action was drowned out by my sense of territorial entitlement.
This evening as the red sun went down I saw my raccoon in an elm silhouetted along with 4 kits. He was a she, teaching her kits to climb. They were beautiful, wrestling and generally having a blast. If I was a gun owner their mother might have died.
A precept is a precept is a precept. My babble "this precept does not apply to me in this situation...almost left 4 kits without a mother.

V Kandinski said...

For about a month now a coon peeing and pooping all my on my overalls! (which I think I wore once). GAME ON invader! Treed him. Tried to pelt with rocks, harassed him with garden hose for an hour while my objecting thoughts of 'no harm' and 'this is what the perps at Abu Ghraib must have felt' were easily pushed aside by my territorial prerogative. Yesterday I saw him sleeping in a nearby tree. I called a friend who has a '22 rifle. He wasn't around. Good thing that.
This evening I saw him silhouetted against the red evening sky...then 4 little silhouettes in tow...learning to climb, playing. Him was a her.
A precept is a precept. My babble
almost left 4 kits motherless.

Lauren said...

V, thanks for the story. Somethings wrong with my email notification settings and I did not notice your comment awaiting moderation till now. Sorry you had to repost a bunch.

Lauren said...

Well, truth be told, there was nothing wrong with my settings, I just did not look at emails last Wednesday.