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Psychopaths versus turtles

One day last week, while we were making pottery, Chandler mentioned the turtles. Apparently they have turtles in Blakeney, Ontario, and a lot of them get killed crossing the road. So Chandler and her husband make a point of helping turtles across the road whenever they see them inching along.

Then she told us about the other kind of people – the ones who deliberately hit the turtles with their trucks and cars. She’s seen people swerving to hit the turtles. She’s seen crushed turtles on the shoulder of the road. It’s apparently a sport of sorts among a certain element of the area’s youth.

Why would anyone DO that? Why would anyone enjoy killing other creatures, especially something so benign as a turtle? I’m a pretty understanding person, but I don’t have even the slightest glimmer of understanding of that behaviour or the motivation behind it.

Coincidentally, GC and I were poking around on our computers that very evening, and GC said “Did you see David Reevely’s blog post today?”

I hadn’t. It was called Who swerves to run over an animal? It contained a link to a video created by Mark Rober, whose day job is actually spaceship engineer for NASA.  He conducted an experiment in which he put a fake turtle (and, alternatively, a snake, a tarantula and a leaf) on the side of the road and then hid and documented what happened with the next 1,000 cars.

You should watch the video because it’s interesting and – surprisingly – funny. Basically 94% of the drivers ignored the animal, while an appalling 6% deliberately hit it. (It bears repeating that these animals were placed on the shoulder of the road, so the drivers had to go out of their way to hit them.) Occasionally some kind soul stopped to help the animals to safety, but he doesn’t say how many.

Of the 6% who killed the animals, 89% of them drove pickup trucks or SUVs, which probably doesn’t surprise anybody.

Incidentally, I’m not sure where the video was made, and this is no doubt a critical piece of information. But Rober repeated the experiment on a road leading to a gun club near his house, and almost double the number of drivers deliberately hit the animals.




8 comments to Psychopaths versus turtles

  • Julia

    I don’t even understand how people can litter, so I am completely bewildered about killing animals for fun. While I will kill a mosquito if it is biting me, I still don’t enjoy it. Maybe it is a primitive brain thing?

    • I know, it just seems so bizarre! I know I tend to go overboard at the other end of the spectrum, taking bugs outside if I don’t want them in the house, and moving snails and worms (and recently a snake) off the bike path. I can just barely understand people not going out of their way to help an animal, but I am absolutely mystified by those who go out of their way to hurt one.

  • Bizarre we were discussing this just last night! We stop and rescue turtles on the road, Sam was bemoaning the fact we’ve never found a snapping turtle on the road. Then I got to thinking about what mental illness would account for people who try and hit the poor things.

  • This post makes me feel like crying. I’m with you – the very idea that people would deliberately try to kill an animal like this, purely for the sport of it, is horrifying and incomprehensible.

    Am going to hide under a blanket on my couch for the rest of the day, GAH.

    • Aww, I’m sorry Lynn. I take comfort from the fact that at least 94% of us DON’T hit animals on purpose. It would be so much worse if we were in the minority.

  • Sheila

    One time, many years ago, a young male coworker interrupted a conversation we were having about our pets to tell us, quite proudly, that he tries to hit cats and he would even go into someone’s driveway to run over a cat. I always saw him as a sociopath after that and avoided him. And that statement has stayed with me since then.

  • May

    My friend had a lovely big cat who would wait for her at the corner. One day as she was walking home she watched as a pick-up truck (young male driver) drove up onto the sidewalk after her cat. Luckily, the cat made it to the other side of the fence. This incident happened many years ago on the West Coast. Sadly, it seems that pick-up trucks and SUVs continue to attract pea-brained nits.