Our Hen House: Trash Animals signals a shift in mainstream culture
On my college campus, squirrels serve as the butt of a running joke, thanks to the bushy-tailed critters’ habit of scrounging for food in open-topped outdoor trash cans. Instagram photos abound of squirrels popping out of garbage receptacles carrying half-eaten slices of pizza in their mouths, eliciting responses of mocking hilarity toward these furry fellow inhabitants of our campus. The college administration, however, has reacted more antagonistically, placing slanted covers over the trash cans to prevent squirrels from entering (or leaving) the bins. This action poses problematic implications for the squirrels who, now accustomed to sustaining themselves in part on our refuse, may find it difficult to re-acclimate to more labor-intensive means of food procurement.
I, as co-president of my campus animal rights group, hesitated to approach the administration regarding this approach to squirrel management, due to my lack of knowledge as to what sort of solution would most benefit both the campus’ squirrels and its humans. Little did I know that a book would soon fall into my life, not necessarily suggesting a solution to the squirrel-trash can problem, but offering an enlightening framework through which to understand it.