Field Note: "In Defense of Little Foxes"
Published: January 26, 2024
By Mark Seth Lender
RedFox perches on Mark Seth Lender’s garden wall. (Photo: © Mark Seth Lender)
Living on Earth Explorer-in-Residence Mark Seth Lender reflects on how experience and anthropocentrism color our perceptions of other species and how much we care about their well-being.
There is an underlying notion in Western thought that animals are sophisticated machines incapable of feeling or emotion. Its specific origin lies with Descartes who said that animals have neither speech nor reason (in an overtly anthropomorphic sense) and are therefore soulless automatons. And we could (and to this day can) do with them what we will. Welcome to vivisection and factory farming. Balanced against the countless videos on YouTube that show animals in acts of reason, communication, compassion and restraint – all the things we sequester to ourselves despite the observed contrarian facts. So yes, compassion (ours) should rightly extend to all living things in the vast cohort of Life with a Face, including our fellow human beings.
On the 19th of February, 2023, which was a few days after this story was written, I found the fox dead on the side of road less than a mile from my home. She had been hit with enormous force by a vehicle traveling at least 65 in a 40 zone. Perhaps, faster than that. The point of impact was clearly visible on the road, meaning the person who killed her may have crossed into the oncoming lane to hit her. There were no skid marks.
And now, since you knew this particular fox you are like me faced with the fundamental dilemma this story presents, the One versus All; the life I know versus the stranger. And the moral struggle entailed. This with the added caution of what it means to be Humane and whether or not we can commit acts as to render ourselves outside of all Humanity.
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