Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Vanquishing Evil

This summer, during fieldwork at Alexandra Fjord on Ellesmere Island, I made a disturbing discovery. I found a collection of old leg-hold traps in the toolshed while searching for some other thing. This discovery of hateful, cruel, stupid objects weighed on my mind for several weeks until I was able to deal with it, through the careful application of violence.

Destroying a bit of evil 1
Destroying a bit of evil 4
Seven leg-hold traps, of the approximate size to capture Arctic Foxes, Arctic Hares, and similar-sized animals.

I hate the idea of some person eventually re-using these awful objects for their original foul purpose, and images of desperately trapped foxes, hares, falcons, and other animals haunted my mind. I puzzled over the best way to ensure their complete destruction; they are constructed in a simple and robust fashion, without any obvious weak points that might be susceptible to say, a bit of work with a hacksaw.

Destroying a bit of evil 3
Destroying a bit of evil 5
The spring mechanism is based around a curved piece of steel held in tension by a plate/latch. No part is obviously fragile enough to be easily broken by simple techniques.

Destroying a bit of evil 6
I determined these traps were still functional - for their cruel function - by carefully setting one and releasing it with a broom-handle I found.

Fortunately, brute force was quite up to the task of annihilating these traps. I found a large pick-axe in the same toolshed where the traps had been hanging, and when placed upon the soft gravel of the ground outside that toolshed, the traps were easily broken apart with a few swings. I don't think I broke any individual parts, but I did separate each piece from nearly every other piece.

Destroying a bit of evil 7
Destroying a bit of evil 8
The end result: 7 ruined traps.

When I told my companions of what I had found and what I planned to do, there was some discussion of the ethics of the situation. For example, somebody suggested these traps would be best left alone as representative of the history of the Arctic and of Alexandra Fjord. While there is merit in this argument, and in the related argument that they should be turned over to a museum, I felt the risk of their eventual re-use by some person at some point in the future (things decay slowly in the High Arctic) was too high, and I couldn't rely on a complete cultural change preventing any future return to the stupid cruelty and idiot economics that drove (and still drives, to some extent) the fur trade.

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