Justified Cruelty

In September I went to Yinchuan, capital of Ningxia. During that time, my host took me on a few trips, and I hung out with these two kids a bit. These two pictures were taken near the Western Xia Tombs (Î÷ÏÄÁê), which are basically out in the middle of nowhere.

I found it cute how the kids were so into catching the grasshoppers. Presumably they, like many Chinese children, don’t get many chances to play outside in a natural environment. And by “natural,” I don’t mean some dinky park in the middle of the city where you’re not allowed on the grass.

What wasn’t so cute, though, was when I found the boy pulling off the wings of the grasshoppers so they couldn’t fly away.

I told him not to do that, that it was cruel — how would he like it if a big bug pulled off his legs so he couldn’t run away? He responded that it didn’t matter because a grasshopper is a º¦³æ — a pest. I pointed out that in the middle of nowhere a grasshopper couldn’t be much of a pest, could it? Then he ran off with the grasshopper and drowned it in a puddle.

I didn’t have a rebuttal for that.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. Da Xiangchang Says: November 4, 2004 at 1:28 am

    People who are sadistically cruel to animals (including insects) should be stripped and seriously flogged. Now, I don’t mind if “pests” are wiped out quickly, like spraying Raid on ants or something. But the deliberate torture of animals is something that needs to be condemned, and the perpetrators themselves tortured. In fact, the intellectual arguments for vegetarianism are airtight. There’s no justification for killing animals for food. Unfortunately, in this world, it’s damn hard, if not impossible, to be a vegetarian once you grew up as a meateater. Whatever the case, all countries should ban hunting, and enact animal-protection laws.

  2. hans grobowski Says: November 4, 2004 at 1:32 am

    Ha, kids are cruel. Supposedly it helps them think about life & death, plus, well, insects are just toys you can do only a few things with.

  3. Oh, give them a break. They are just being kids. They don’t know what is “cruel” and what is not. When they grow up, they’ll know.
    I was like that when I was a kid.
    BTW, I liked playing with grasshopper a lot and I grew up in a rural area. So maybe it doesn’t have much to do with where you grow up. Maybe it is a genetics thing.

  4. “and the perpetrators themselves tortured.” Justified torture because the kids are pests?

    I would say, boys are boys. And some girls are boys, too.

  5. Errr… as a Chinese growing up in Hong Kong, I don’t remember I have ever been told that a pest is a pet. I do remember that it was very popular among the kids to “play” with a pest. Now, I think the Chinese culture has never consider insects have feelings.

  6. You should be glad that he did not report you to the local authority as a “counter revolutionary dog”.

    Just kidding, John.

    When I was in elementary school, one of our “exercise” was to pull grass that are considered to be weeds off the ground. It was a such moronic task, because without the grass, the whole playground turns into a mud pit when it rains.

  7. Anonymous Says: November 4, 2004 at 7:15 am

    When I was a little boy, I did my share of insect torture. I pulled the legs off of daddy long legs spiders. I burned many ants to a crisp with a magnifier glass under the sun.

    I’m sure I was just acting out pent up anger and aggression. I certainly don’t condone the behavior, but I understand because I did it too.

  8. I recall when I was young I shot a humming bird with a bb gun. Not a bad shot, but I felt so bad, that my younger brother and I retrieved the seriously hurt bird, put him on a table, got a sharp pen knife, and operated on him. We successfully removed the pellet, but unfortunately the bird died on the operating table. So much for youth.

  9. Aww that’s so cute. Well I just randomly ran into this site. very interesting site from an interesting person. John, you’re hot and sophisticated, keep with with the learning!

  10. the path is clear, you should have pulled of his legs and repeatedly taunt him with “zenmeyang?! zenmeyang?!”

  11. I don’t like grasshoppers but i can’t help feeling sorry for them after reading this entry.. Kids are kids. They won’t understand that it’s cruel to do that.

  12. i’m sorry for all those times i stepped on ants, now.

  13. Being a vegetarian is actually not very hard (especially not in China – what are you talking about? China has the most amazing vegetarian fare ever!)

    now Siberia however…

    (vegan for four years)

  14. Aww c’mon, pulling the wings and legs off of grasshoppers and other assorted bugs are just plain fun.

    John, I’m a new reader of you blog, currently in Hangzhou. Keep up the great work!

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