On ducks and death and the continuation of life

The most difficult moment of the last few days was an evening when a sitting duck appeared in the beam of my car's headlights.

It was late, I was heading home from a night out with the girlies. It must've been 85 km/h, maybe 90 km/h that I was coming 'round that (slight) bend with and almost as soon as I saw it, I knew it was a sitting female duck on the road there, right in the middle of my lane.

My first - and what I believe to be my correct - reaction was to hold my speed, hold my direction and wait for the duck to move away (as they usually do), except... it didn't. It just kept on sitting there. By the time I realised it was going to keep on sitting there my front wheels were 30, maybe 40 metres away from it, and at 90 km/h it makes for only a little over one second to cover that distance.

I lifted my foot off the accelerator, righted the wheels to let it slip right between the tyres and... held my breath. The duck disappeared under the bonnet, tyres passing on either side of it, and for another few seconds I contemplated on whether to keep on driving and hope for the best - hope that it hadn't been injured and had maybe flown away after I had passed.

But I couldn't drive on - I didn't want to.

On that dark, rural road I stopped where there was a wide, grassy shoulder, made a U-turn and headed back to where the duck had been.

For the first few moments I thought I had maybe really been spared - there wasn't a duck sitting where it had been and I swallowed loudly. I think I maybe even had enough time to breathe out.

And then I saw it.

My eyes still well up writing this, but that brown female duck was writhing on the roadside, attempting to get up but falling on its side grotesquely each time it attempted it. I looked around for any passing traffic, crossed the road and stepped closer. As I did that, I saw another, already dead male duck splattered on the road surface.

And then it hit me, why that female duck hadn't taken flight when my car approached - it had been sitting next to its recently killed mate.

And as that realisation dawned on me, the duck kept on writhing on the roadside.

Now, I am not averse to killing - I do eat meat and understand the origin of that red substance that tastes wonderfully when it's helped by a generous helping of tomato paste and a little bit of mint. However! I do not wish purposeless pain on any living creature, let it be someone's pet dog, a human in last stages of terminal illness or... a duck on the road.

I do not know whether it had been injured prior to me passing - maybe someone else had hit it already - but I doubt it. The most likely scenario is that its head got hit by the underneath of my Legacy as I had sped over.

And the unfortunate result of that was that this poor duck was flailing on the roadside.

I stood there, watching it, and wailed. Properly, loudly - wailed. "I'm sorry... I'm so, so sorry." I kept looking around to look for a solution, but the simple truth is that I didn't have one. If I'd had an axe in my car I would've got that axe, chopped off its head and put the poor creature out of its misery. If I hadn't been pregnant I would've wrapped it in newspaper, placed it in my car and taken it with me to kill it at home where the axe is - but being pregnant, I did not need to touch it. I do not know what sort of bugs this duck can carry.

And so I kept standing there, wailing, and telling it I am sorry and I wish I knew how to help.


I know it's a long leap from a duck to a human, but it's the same idea on why I support the availability of euthanasia - to humans.

When my dog gets old enough that it cannot get up from the floor any more - like my Saint Bernard couldn't when she got old - I will take her to a vet, kiss her warmly on her head and ask the veterinarian to push the syringe. I do remember the sadness and sudden silence that followed my Saint Bernard's passing, with tears welling in my eyes, but I have never doubted that what my family did for that dog was a final act of kindness, offered after many long years of companionship I still cherish.

And to me, it's a no-brainer.

I believe/understand that certain types of animals have evolved in a way that their diets are (partially) made up of other animals' flesh and so killing, as ugly as it is, is a circle of life where a life of one being becomes a life of another one's being. I agree to killing, even... "consume" it as part of my food also comes from other creatures' deaths, but what I do not agree with is putting anyone through more pain that is necessary or worth it.

I think that cockerels that roam the hillside here and greet us daily with their loud, "Cockadoodledoo!", find their quick, dignified deaths under an axe-head after having lived plentiful, contented lives. Their bodies travel onto oven dishes and get served out alongside roasted potatoes, and the life cycle continues.

And as unrespectful as someone may find it, the idea behind euthanasia - to me - is the same as letting loved pets go with less anguish than they would otherwise, and making sure that loud cockerels go quickly, with as little pain as reasonably possible.

And because of that, that duck on the roadside made for some long, hard tears and many offers of an apology. I couldn't think of a way to help it go quickly and so eventually I simply sat back in my car and drove away, in my padded comfort of humanity, where I could then snuggle up to my husband and tell him of what had happened, cry a little more and fall asleep.

And in the morning, I stopped by that roadside and offered one last "I'm sorry" to a duck that was now, quietly, dead.


  1. Kurb lugu. Kahju, et nii läks.
    Kuid väga hästi kirja pandud, läks hinge.

    1. läks, jah, hinge... siiamaani tuleb klomp kurku, kui meelde tuleb.

      abikaasale ütlesin, "i'm a wuss. a softie," kui pärast koju tulin ja nutsin. abikaasa ütles vastu, "me, too."