The Corner

Hero Who Killed Giant Spider Targeted, Threatened by Crazed Arachnophiles

As if it weren’t horrible enough to learn that there is a spider the size of a puppy, we have now reached the point in the movie where a villain with a posh British accent declares, “I’ve always believed that man is the most dangerous of all the beasts.”

You may be aware that entomologist Piotr Naskrecki recently made the world a more stressful place by revealing that he’d discovered an eight-legger in Guyana more than 30 centimeters across. Now Naskrecki is being targeted by angry protesters — not because he has condemned us to live the rest of our lives with the knowledge that a spider the size of a puppy exists on the planet from which we can’t escape, but because they think it was unfair to spiderkind that Naskrecki killed the spider for research purposes. Bloomberg Businessweek reports on the highjinx of pro-spider maniacs:

“You had to MURDER the poor thing so YOU could benefit? Pathetic.” said Lizbeth Hull on Naskrecki’s Facebook page.

“Did you kill this amazing animal because you have to own it?” asked Ian Freedman.

One person sent an e-mail saying that a member of Naskrecki’s family should be killed for what he did.

There’s a pretty good argument to be made for treating the lower animals with general compassion — on a scale that slides downward from the primates and takes into account similarities to humans, intelligence levels, capacity for pain, common affinity between humans and the other species, and so on. Even conceding that some regrettable things might have to be done for research purposes, decent people recoil at the idea of harming monkeys and apes unnecessarily. Nearly everybody likes dogs or cats, and some people even like both.

But when did we start holding out the same courtesy to things with more than four legs? Even people at the outer boundaries of veganism, who won’t eat fish or fowl, usually draw the line at “anything with a face” — and only by the most charitable definition can a spider be said to have a face.

A case can certainly be made for spiders. Anybody who has ever taken the time to check out a well-spun web can conceive that there is some kind of instinctual or non-reasoning intelligence at work — maybe of the sort that allows the octopus to escape from a jar in this creepy video — and it deserves some respect. Unless requested to do something about the problem, I generally leave household spiders in peace, on the principle that they are our allies against insects.

But who are we kidding? This thing is a gigantic killer spider.

And who will speak up for the endangered humans? At some level, the encounter between humans and non-humans comes down to a question of us or them. Whose side are these people on?

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