I own a set of black plastic boxes that were sold to me, grandly, as a 'worm farm'. Coming from a long line of agricultural folk, the idea of getting back to my ancestral calling appealed to me and for a while I was running 10,000 (approx - it was easy to muster them, but very hard to make a precise count) head of stock, all thriving and breeding, creating a bond - at least in my mind - with my splendid pastoral past.
Sadly, the people who rented our house during our four-year absence seem to have regarded themselves purely as tenants and not as tenant farmers as well. As a result, when we got back, I found my worm farm empty, my herd either departed or dead. After the inevitable period of mourning, I decided the only thing to do was get on with it and re-establish my agrarian credentials by buying a new supply of worms. What I didn't realise was that this was easier said than done - in the time since I last looked for worms, they had disappeared from the market. All the outlets that stocked them when I went away have now removed all trace of the creatures from their shelves. Despite the greening of Australia, in the nation's capital worms have become extremely hard to find.
But, being a 21st century kind of person, I knew what to do. I turned to the internet for information. 'Where can I buy worms in the ACT?' I asked Mr Google and eventually he gave me the answer I needed. First though, I had to plough through several forums where heated worm arguments are still raging among vegans. The following excerpt is just a small glimpse of the crazed rubbish I had to read:
"I have a problem with this. I also have a problem with the fact that the worms are being taken from somewhere and, even though they may be doing their regular wormy thing they're still doing it in a place that you've put them for your benefit. ie. you're using them for your own gain. When chickens are producing eggs for human consumption they're being used - it doesn't matter if they are truly free range (as in allowed to be chickens and produce eggs at a normal and appropriate rate) their life is still about producing eggs for human consumption and not about being a chicken. Similarly, I think if these worms are being brought in to chomp up your compost then their lives are not about being worms.
As for the companion animal argument: I don't expect my cats do anything that I get gain from. They're there to be cats, and I do what I can to protect them and nourish them but they aren't there for an intrinsic reason.
Sorry. I think worms for this reason = unvegan"
I did eventually find what I wanted but not before inexplicably landing on a site called Dogging Etiquette (how? why? I don't know - I think it followed on from a discussion about whether worms could eat pet droppings)."Be polite and courteous" it advises, "Make sure you're clean and neatly dressed." "Clear up litter and take home any empty wrappers."
It is cheering to learn that, despite reports to the contrary, manners - at least in some circles - are not yet completely dead.