By Sarah Leitner
For a rather long time I’ve wanted to stop eating meat.
My boyfriend, Thorsten, and I just returned from a week of vacation at Lago Maggiore at the border of Italy/Switzerland. His parents own a small house some 100 meters above the lake and we stay there about two times a year. When we arrived on Saturday evening, Thorstens mom had left some flowers and a note wishing us a good time on the table. How nice of her! She and her husband had been there a few days before. Next to it were two little chocolate cakes, each packed in foil.
His mom wasnt the only one who thought that this was a sweet idea, though. On the table, next to the cakes, some ants were looking for food. Usually theres nothing eatable lying around anywhere; however, now and then there was an ant problem in the kitchen. So it happened, we shared our holidays with sometimes more, sometimes less ants. We took good care not to leave any crumbs on the table, but they even tried to get into the fridge.
My boyfriend and I love every animal and insect (OK, we arent keen on spiders). The ants soon were all called “Ferdy.” Ferdy is the name of a cartoon ant from childhood days. Thats just how we do it—almost every animal we meet gets a name. The little baby bird on the balcony, the moth Thorsten had rescued from drowning in the pool and yes, even spiders get names.
Every vacation we go on has its own theme song. The theme song of that cartoon show became the theme song of our vacation: Yes this is Ferdy, yes our Ferdy ! We sang it a lot until it started to annoy us too much, and sometimes even after that.
Now and then we even talked to the ants. Naaaah, Ferdy, seriously? What are you doing in the bathroom? There’s nothing to eat in here, nothing at all! That strawberry soap is not food, so get out! After a while I started to like this particular little ant. It enjoyed chilling in front of the mirror or grooming itself. I liked to think of this one as a free spirit, who didnt want to be just another brick in the wall. Yaaah… that might not be true, but I prefer to keep this picture; its a nice one.
There was some ant bait that we planned to use, until I read what it said on the backside. The recipe of this ant bait contains highly effective attractants. The ants absorb those active components and carry them to their nest to feed the queen and its spawn. After a short time, the spawn gets killed in the nest.” I turned to my boyfriend, “NOOOOO! Baby, we cannot use this! Look what it says, thats so brutal!” He took a look, was shocked as well and immediately agreed not to use it (oh, how I love him!).
We had to get rid of them only by being extremely consequent to not leave any food around. Over the time it seemed to work and there were less ants. Whenever we were in the kitchen, we took care not to step on or drown one in the sink. Dont get me wrong, I dont have a sleepless night over an accidentally killed ant, which happened once. I do feel sorry, but then life goes on.
Still, we can at least do our best not to harm another living being.
On the day of departure, I thought of all the tasks that had to be done in the house before leaving. Vacuum cleaning. OH! VACUUM CLEANING! Oh no. Almost all ants were gone, but what if there was one left somewhere on the ground? I had this picture on my mind of a giant vacuum cleaner above my head before crushing me. Awful. I couldnt do it. I would ask Thorsten to take this part. But wait… I couldnt let him do the dirty work. That wouldnt make it any better for the ants.
So, all we could do while cleaning the house was to be extremely careful not to hurt one of those small creatures. In the end no one got harmed, the house was tidy, pretty much ant-free and we were ready to leave. Not without saying goodbye to the Ferdies outside, of course.
I loved watching those ants. Seeing with how much dedication they do what they do makes me wonder about the way they and other tiny living beings experience their world. Certainly we don’t have the right to kill one just because we feel annoyed by them. They have every right to be alive, too.
When I wrote this story recently, I was still eating meat and could clearly see the double standard of caring for every tiny creature, while eating bigger ones at the same time. I felt bad about it. Those experiences with the ants and writing this piece really got me into thinking once more:
I can’t go on eating any more animals.
Dedicated to C. Siani
Sarah Leitner loves spending time in nature, especially in Sweden and Norway. She’d always loved writing and after years of ‘forgetting’ about it, her creative side shows up again now.’
Editor: Alicia Wozniak