Ethical Pest Control
Is Pest Control Ethical?
Ethical pest control balances the need to control pests with the needs of the wider ecosystem.
Over many millennia, humans controlled the pests in properties, landscapes and gardens with natural products and techniques.
In today’s world, pest control practices have become very different, with a reliance on pesticides. This convenience over consequence makes today’s animal and plant pest control more insensitive to the environment than ever before.
So in an age of convenience, how do we control pests and protect the environment? The answer to this question revolves around two widely used words in the English language, organic and ethical.
Ethical Pest Control Vs IPM
In philosophy, the term Ethical differentiates between what is right and wrong. The word organic expresses the quality of being free of artificial or chemical adulteration. Techniques aligned with environmental protection must sit at the heart of all pest control activities.
The concept of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) or Green Pest Control (GPC) practices look to address this issue. Still, they are often vague and indistinct in their appreciation of cost over benefit. In the same way, a farmer protecting his crops focuses on yield, a homeowner focuses on value, convenience and speed.
What both these scenarios might fail to address is why pests will be present in the first place. Asking a better question will get you to a better answer, but the off the shelf remedy, well branded and marketed, will be hard to ignore when convenience or profit are among your motivations.
Ethical Pest Control Questions
Without digging too deep into this topic, the questions on the lips of anyone wanting the smallest negative impact on the environment should include:
- What condition have we created that is conducive to pests?
- How can we change the conditions so pests cannot thrive or survive?
- How can we prevent the issue from recurring in the future?
- Could we control the pest ethically and organically?
- Could we minimise pesticide application?
- How do we mitigate any undesired chemical effects?
- Will a professional pest controller be able to offer alternatives that we have not yet considered?
In answering these questions and many more like them, it is essential to ask what control methods might be available. Here are the options.
- Chemical Control
- Biological Control
- Physical Control or Exclusion
Chemical control is the worlds most lucrative method of controlling pests at scale. It’s fast, effective and offers big profits and significant savings in terms of time and cost. Pesticides are not always negative, they have their place in the bigger picture, but we must always consider alternatives first.
Biological control uses nature to tackle pest issues by employing natural, audio synthetic or genetically manipulated control methods. These are not always seen as ethical either!
Physical control or exclusion is the most ethical or organic because it should negate the need for chemicals or work in harmony with natural rhythms or biological control. However, this also includes traps and glue boards which may be indiscriminate and cruel.
We could go into the whole argument for and against genetic or synthetic manipulation of the ecosystem. Still, we need to stay focused on the root issue of what is ethical, organic or best for the environment. Clearly, whatever pest control methods are employed to eradicate pests, at some point in the process, something will perish, and there arises another question – “what is a humane death”. Looking deeper, we could also ask another question – “what animals or plants rely on the targeted species and could they die as a result?” The web of life is uniquely complex.
Ethical Pest Control & Invasive Species
In 2019, a UK Government invasive species report stated that “Around 40 invasive species such are expected to become established in the next 20 years in Great Britain”. Broadening the conversation on “what is ethical?” starts to become murkier when we include invasive species or mention biosecurity. The European Commission also has a list of these plants and animals.
The clash between what is natural and right becomes increasingly unpalatable for anyone hoping for pesticide-free solutions at a time when budgets are running on empty.
If we want to offer ethical pest control and support our environment, we must begin with a “first do no harm” and follow a “next, do the least harm” methodology. We must weigh up what we stand to lose over what we stand to gain. We must consider what it will cost now as well as many years in the future.
Nature conservation often looks at this with greater clarity because invasive species have caused extinctions of native species, especially on islands where the biological balance is often precarious.
Barriers To Ethical Pest Control
A person with an anaphylactic susceptibility to honey bee stings will consider a swarm of bees differently to a beekeeper. A chef in a rat in their kitchen will feel differently about rat control than someone who keeps them as pets. The diversity of human motivations behind controlling what is deemed a pest muddies the waters of ethics still further.
Education in pest control needs to become better formulated and accessible to the general public. Perhaps regulation should clearly define the line between what a professional and amateur pesticide user is allowed to do and not just buy.
The UK pest control industry still has no overall robust licensing or accreditation requirements in the law. This means the barriers to entry and access to pesticides is set far too low.
Professionals are rightly held to a higher standard while amateurs have free rein to almost do as they like. Surely, this has to change?
Pest control techniques and options need to be published at the government level. Unbiased advice ensures impartiality in the quality and integrity of the advice offered. Could this be the biggest missed opportunity in pest control today? What difference would a project addressing this issue make to the environment?
The internet is awash with conflicting advice on pest control that makes chemical control all the more attractive in the heat of the moment. A better-informed public will surely reduce pesticide use and help protect the environment.
In conclusion, the concepts of ethical and organic pest control will remain in the purchaser’s hands. Decide what you want to achieve and discuss with a pest professional what your options are, and don’t be afraid to ask searching questions.
Even if we discover that the solution is less ethical or organic than we hoped, the mere fact that we asked and searched for a better alternative sets a very positive precedent for others to follow.