12 JANUARY 1940, Page 22

A Fine Distinction A recent cross-questioning of a conscientious objector

may throw some light on the practical difficulties of humanitarian- ism. The man in question said that he objected to the taking of life in any form, and the following dialogue ensued : " Do you object to killing gnats? " "No." " Rats? " " No." " Mice? " " No." " Rabbits? " " No." " Hares? " " Yes." The line was drawn between those very similar mammals, classed closely together in legislating, hares and rabbits. A great scholar of my acquaintance who devoted a good part of his life to the forwarding of his creed, was both a scrupulous vegetarian and humanitarian, but partook of milk and its products. He said to me once, with the humorous honesty which marked his intelligence, that his logic could not get over the bull calf ! We do not, of course, live in a world where pure logic applies. On the one hand, to kill as little as possible is as reasonable a creed as one can expect ; and, on the other, the truth of the Tennysonian description of " Nature red in tooth and claw " must be faced. Nevertheless, to draw the line between hares and rabbits is asking a good deal of the naturalist or of the logician!