The First Precept counsels that one should abstain from taking life. There are any number of invasive species around the world, and one method for eradicating them could include killing them. Optimally there would be other options. In some areas fishers, chefs, and home cooks have been encouraged to make food out of invasive fish (which by necessity includes killing them, but does provide nourishment). Wildlife managers have also devised methods for sterilizing invasive species. However, in many other instances options such as relocating invasive species or inhibiting their reproduction are limited. This evening I was watching a program on the cane toad problem in Australia. From what I understand, the geographic spread of cane toads has made it extremely difficult to contain them. Perhaps this forum’s practitioners of the Dhamma in Australia have some thoughts on this matter.
Which begs the question, “Which is the most invasive species on the planet?”
Is it wrong speech to think/say “if it must be done, leave it to the non-Buddhists”?
Also note This thread on handling pests may be of help.
I live in Australia. I have reflected on this point for a while. I start from the firm faith point that what Lord Buddha taught is perfect and “admirable in the beginning, admirable in the middle, admirable in the end”. The only killing the Teacher allows is anger and the other kleshas Nothing else can be killed. In all Pali cannon, killing has severe consequences for whom, not only decide to do so but even entertain such thought. There is no ethical killing, other than by an innocent accident.
The first step is to understand that “invasive species” as concept is a fabrication of the mind. There are no ontological “invasive species” but just sentient living beings. The other important point is: to correct a mistake in the past (introducing the invasive species in the wrong environment) with an wrong action in the present can only create bad kamma in the future.
The final point is: the idea of conservation is, as many other concepts rooted in ignorance and delusion. Albeit we should now do all our best to respect nature and to keep our planet healthy, we cannot “conserve” anything because everything is impermanent, continually changing, therefore uncertain.
It means that even the attempted to remove the “invasive” species by a violent act may have uncertain and unpredictable consequences in the future.
The ignorance behind the practice of “eradicating invasive species” is rooted in human conceit, the actual same one that in history of humanity brought some group of people to see as “invasive species” to be eradicated other humans, as indeed had happened with the Holocaust and other more recent genocides.
In my opinion, for those “invasive” creatures solutions have to to be found within the practice of the brahma viharas and the acceptance that we humans cannot control even the hairs of our heads, and therefore we ought to stop playing god with nature.
This topic has been in my thoughts a lot lately. Seemingly simple issues that involve the first precept move me into ethical rabbit holes. Particularly when taking the first step of defining the first precept itself. Is it to not willfully:
Kill living creatures
Kill sentient beings
Harm living creatures
Harm sentient beings
Which is the best way to regard the first precept? Obviously to me, intention and having no ill will are major factors, but action is part and parcel.
If I have rats in my attic and I trap them in a humane trap and relocate them, will they die because they are away from their established territory and nest? Are there babies in the nest who will die because the food provider is gone? If I do nothing and they chew the insulation off and an electrical fire ensues, many beings will die from the fire and rebuilding of the house.
I could kill them by setting a trap or get an agent to do the killing for me, be it a pest control company or a cat.
Are invasive species merely following their nature to survive, much like a lion kills prey for food? Are they stuck in the animal realm from continuously making bad kamma?
If an animal is killing a humans by just living their nature, who should die?
If an animal is trying to kill a human, who should die?
If a mother protects her child from a dog attack by killing the dog, what is the kamma?
These are tough ethical issues to face when following the precept. I apologize if I went off course at all from the OP.
It’s also important to note that intention is really most crucial. If you drive a vehicle you frequently participate in an insect massacre…are you going to not drive? You could live on the strictest vegan diet and still when your vegetables are harvested, living things die. These questions are exactly what somebody else said “a rabbit hole.”
I once had bees occupying a block in the foundation of my house. They were getting into my house through the other side of the block that happened to have a small gap in the mortar. So I plugged up the hole. I didn’t think too much about it.
PS forgot to add…they are training rules they are not commandments. I think the Western romantic notions and bias to think of other religious or philosophical systems through the lens of Christianity brings up these question too frequently. We do the best we can, and if we mess up, we try to do better, that is all.