Sadface and the other piglets were living in a semi-bucolic world. To one side, where they mostly stayed, was an orchard behind a wire fence with a hole large enough for all the piglets to scramble through. There was the road, of course, and its human-created dangers in the form of fast moving machines and careless drivers. But the road also brought friendly humans who would give the cats leftover food. It was a seemingly tranquil demi-paradise in spring summer and autumn which, on much closer inspection, revealed the natural world can be a horrific place.
One day on one of my cat feeding forays I noticed some large ants and some smaller ants near where the cats were playing. I sat down and watched. All the ants were foraging for food so I gave them some cat nibbles. Some of the larger ants dragged the granules of cat food across the road, down the side of a deep gutter, up the other side, onto a mound, and then into a hole which was busy with the coming and going of ants. I enjoyed watching the ants toil.
Back on this side of the road a large ant walked into the area of the smaller ants. Immediately one of the small ants grabbed a leg and a struggle ensued. This brought more small ants to the fight and they all grabbed a leg and held the large ant down. At this point the fate of the large ant was sealed. Over a period of about 10 minutes the little ants chopped her up and carried away the pieces to their nest.
Can one or should one feel some sympathy for an ant? I think the answer is yes. Because while watching this struggle the suffering of this wretched ant was conspicuous.
Some limited research reveals that insects do not feel pain and that they do feel pain. So there is no simple answer.
But I am now squarely on the ‘they do feel pain’ argument. Watching this ant writhe when her neck was in the pincers suggests not just alarm but pain.
Should I have intervened and squashed the little ants? I don’t think so, because the ants were only doing what ants do. No doubt the large ants grab smaller ants from time to time and do the same to them. The horror of it going on about our feet, and us oblivious.
See the horror for yourself: Death of an ant on YouTube.