Back when I lived in Oklahoma, I had a Hitchcockian problem with hundreds of pigeons living under the eaves of my house.
They were filthy, they left guano all over the place, and their incessant cooing drove me crazy day and night.
Desperate for relief, I approached a neighbor for advice. “You got several alternatives,” he said. “You can get yourself one of them fake owls to scare ‘em off, but they wise up after a while and ignore it. You can use a pellet gun on 'em, but you might bust a window if you miss.
"You can spread poisoned feed, but then you’ll have to clean up all the dead bodies. And finally,”⎯here, he grinned diabolically⎯“you can nail some shiny metal shingles to your roof. They go nuts peckin’ at the reflection, and they peck themselves to death.”
There was an almost biblical appeal to the last option, in which the pigeons actively participated in their own demise. Besides, it removed me ethically from direct responsibility for the birds’ deaths, because there was an element of free will involved on their part.
Maybe this is how people who make money by selling products that shorten people’s lives rationalize their livelihoods.
They produce legal products, after all. If people can’t control their urges around them and end up hurting and killing themselves and others, then they’re the victims of their own weakness. So be it. The providers can join Pontius Pilate in the clean hands club.
By the way, before I could figure out what to do about the pigeons, they flew off en masse one day of their own volition. I was left with a clear conscience and a fascia full of guano.