Slowly millimetering itself along the walkway to my apartment is the everyday garden snail. The snail is not an attractive creature. It does have an interesting shell, but its earth-toned body is slimy and not particularly endearing, and yet, I have such empathy for the snail. Perhaps my empathy stems from its very slowness. That must be it.
One day, my sons and I made a quick trip to the local grocery store. Since it is close by my apartment, we walked. On the way down the walkway, we saw a snail had just started to cross the walkway. I advised my sons not to squish the creature, though they didn’t know why. My general answer is that it is a living thing and deserves to live and die naturally. When we returned about 40 minutes later, the snail had gone ¾ of the way across the walkway. My sons were shocked! It had taken the snail so very long to cross and it still had a ways to go.
I used the opportunity to convince my boys they shouldn’t kill the snails we see. After all, they had such hard lives. They are now completely convinced that snails should be protected.
I can hear you gardeners out there with your snail-killing solutions grumbling and feeling defensive over your snailicide (made that up). This particular comment is from an article on methods to kill snails:
“I was reading your article about controlling/killing slugs and snails in the garden. The article was very informative and I thank you for providing this information and this wonderful gardening site for our use. One method of slug/snail control that I did not see mentioned but have found very useful is 1 part ammonia to 4 parts water in a spray bottle. I found this information in several different garden forums I belong to. I have read that the ammonia is not harmful to the plants and have found no ill effect in using it on plants. It literally dissolves the slug or snail when sprayed on the critter. There is some satisfaction in this method when you discover a precious plant chewed to pieces and the culprit is dissolving before your eyes. It is very easy to carry a spray bottle with the rest of your garden supplies and I have found it to be effective. Last year I was quite diligent in using this method and this year despite the incredibly damp spring we have had here in Eastern Maine, my snail/slug population seems to be diminished.”
The author of the article takes pleasure in killing the poor snail. Am I a strange one for thinking it wrong to kill a living creature because they happened to eat part of a plant? I suppose gardeners want their gardens to be perfect. They could not deal with a spot or two where a hungry snail had a little bite. So they kill the snails and toss them away like garbage. It's perverse how many cruel and painful ways they have to kill snails and slugs.
The only snailicide I condone is that for you strange people who actually like to eat snails. I find it bizarre and stomach churning, but if the death serves such a purpose, I will accept it.
The slithering snail shall always have an ally in me.