Chuck Klosterman is The Ethicist for the NYT. I am the Monday Morning Ethicist.
Our daughter and her husband own their home, and on their property, they keep a beehive as a hobby. A family of four just moved in next door (a father, mother and two small children). The father told our daughter that three members of the family are allergic to bee stings. He is concerned about the beehive. Assuming that keeping bees on your property is legal, what should prevail here — the law or ethics? NAME WITHHELD
Chuck said: In so many words, your daughter’s adult neighbor’s pre-emptive passive-aggressive whining to her child should prevail and your daughter and her husband should move the hive somewhere so these new neighbors are spared the remotest chance of getting stung, because God forbid they should live in a world with any risk whatsoever.
I say: I recommend your daughter and son-in-law take a three part approach:
First, tell the bees that any one of them who stings a neighbor is on his own, liability-wise. And no royal jelly before bedtime! Better yet, get them to acknowledge this in writing.
Second, allergic to bee stings? Like, how allergic? Like, they don’t like them? Because I really don’t like stubbing my toe on my way to the bathroom in the middle of the night, but I know I’ll do it at least twice a year for the rest of my goddamned life and I’ll be damned if I’ve figured out a way to blame that allergy on my neighbors.
Or allergic like they stop breathing and swell up as if they’re wearing those inflatable sumo suits? In any event, I’d give it a few stings, at least, to gauge the reaction before I’d go rocking the bees world over it.
Third, wait, didn’t your daughter and her family “just remember” that they’re allergic to a bunch of stuff, too? Like the stress of suddenly having new neighbors? Like dust motes from moving boxes? I’d be over there with my finger in dad’s chest putting him on notice that my family has a shit-ton of allergies to all of his family’s bullshit and they’d better watch it. Get ‘em scared and keep ‘em back on their heels. They moved once, they can move again.
Hope this helps.