Both Simon and I have been vegetarians for long stints in our lives. We both chose to do so because we didn't want to cause pain and suffering to other creatures when it wasn't necessary - a vegetarian diet suited us fine and we felt healthy and strong without meat.
Wait, don't worry, I am not going to start telling you that we are now eating gophers. There have been many a joke about this, but no, we are not eating gophers, I can assure you.
I bring up the vegetarian aspect because now we are killing animals on a pretty regular basis, like several times a day. Not just with traps, but with knives, or whatever is at hand when we find a rodent in a trap and still alive. Simon was an animal activist and a vegan, and now he is wielding a pocket knife and slicing the throats of innocent, and actually pretty cute little furry rodents. How can this be?
It's called farming. We joke about what we would do if we were still vegans and had this issue of voles and gophers eating our crops. Would we do live-catch traps and keep them all as pets or spend hours driving them miles away and releasing them into the wild? Perhaps a road-side attraction habi-trial like structure could be built and the dozens of rodents we catch could be kept there in happiness for passersbys to see.
Instead, once trapped and killed, we either toss them into the wild for scavengers to find, or we give them to Ruby the dog, who then eats them in their entirety. Of late, I have been leaving them on the tops of fence posts for birds to scoop up (I like to go check the next day to see if my gift has been received).
So how do we reconcile our passive past with our brutal now? It's somehow really easy. We see our plants as our babies, and when they are being completely destroyed by a "pest," the pest must go.
This last winter, I watched my first ever animal being killed - a gopher - and since then, have seen it a few times. I registered no emotion - I was just witnessing what needed to happen at the time. In that moment of watching Simon dispatch the little thing with his knife, I felt like a farmer - not a wanna-be-city-slicker with romantic aspirations, but just a get-er-done farmer. Death is part of the life of a farmer, and the matter of factness of it makes it comfortable enough to live with.
Simon always is very aware of the animals pain and getting the job done as quickly as possible so as not to prolong their suffering, but they do suffer, and we cause it. We are putting our needs and goals ahead of those of the gophers, voles and mice that wish to live fattily on our fields. At the moment, it feels ok, I don't feel bad or guilty, it just feels necessary.