Well, here’s a problem that had us scratching our heads.
An Australian mum has shared an awkward ethical dilemma this week — and as far as dilemmas go, it’s a rather, erm, hairy one. (Sorry, but the pun was there for the taking.)
The unnamed mother wrote to advice column Ninemsn Coach describing how her next-door neighbour’s child was suffering a serious head lice problem — which the child’s parents refused to treat, thereby putting the other neighbourhood kids at risk.
“My seven-year-old daughter is best friends with the girl next door, whose family are vegan,” the troubled reader began.
“My problem is that recently this otherwise delightful child was at our house and scratching furiously… and I discovered she was crawling with head lice.”
The reader said she mentioned the lice to her neighbour, assuming she’d treat her child immediately.
But the response was, well, not exactly what she expected.
“To my surprise, this woman said that not only did she know about her daughter’s condition but refused to do anything about it. Vegans don’t kill any living things, is the reason,” the reader recalled.
“My neighbour told me she was in the practice of combing the lice and nits into the garden where they had a chance of survival.”
It’s a difficult dilemma. Obviously, vegans are entitled to their own beliefs, which preclude the killing of animals.
On the other hand, lice are notoriously contagious. So contagious, in fact, that as any parent who’s had a kid in kindergarten or primary school will tell you, a lice-plagued playmate is a surefire recipe for nit epidemic among nearby kids.
And herein lies the dilemma.
“What do I do now?” the worried mother asks Ninemsn advice columnist Alex Carlton.
“I don’t want to separate the kids but there’s no way ‘combing them into the garden’ is going to work (industrial-grade pesticide barely works) and I don’t want my daughter covered in vermin.”
So is a vegan allowed — or even obligated — to break the “no-kill” rule when infectious, parasitic bugs are involved?
A multitude of internet forums are dedicated to that question, because there’s no hard-and-fast vegan rule on whether the “no killing” guideline extends to parasitic creatures.
On one popular online forum, one vegan argues that she’d kill lice and other parasites as they’re ‘detrimental to your health’:
Nits and fleas etc, are parasites and are detrimental to you and your companion animal’s health, I would kill them.
Another pointed out that killing lice and nits was a case of ‘self-defence’:
Your skin, your internals and your clothes are heaving with life! A simple shower kills bacteria in their millions.
Thing with lice, mosquitoes and others is like said before, self-defence. Death is unavoidable in any life, and more integrated and more natural our surroundings are, more of it one has to witness.
Others, however, adopted the same “save the parasites” approach taken by the neighbour in question.
One commenter on an online forum said he preferred to pick lice off and “flick them away”:
I don’t have a dog but when I had a cat he had fleas and I just picked them off and flicked them away. Same with headlice.
Another vegan argued the “no kill” rule extended to cat fleas:
I have a cat and I have a vegan flea shampoo that after my cat has been washed I can comb out all the fleas (assuming that he has any); put them in a bucket and then put them outside without having to kill them.
We don’t have an answer to this one. But we can say: Our heads are itchy at the very thought of this dilemma.
And while we’re on the topic: Here’s a video of a disturbingly serious lice problem. While the man in the below video remains unidentified, the founder of London-based ‘Hairforce’ Dee Wright told MailOnline: “That person’s scalp will be raw in places and infected. That will be running his system down like crazy.”