Thursday, 10 October 2013

The controversy of pets

In my last post I talked about the abolitionist animal rights approach. This is a follow up from the post to address a few comments I've been getting about one thing in particular I mentioned. I mentioned that being an abolitionist means opposing all forms of animal use and exploitation including pet ownership. I got a fair few comments from people either disagreeing with that view point, or not understanding what is wrong with owning pets. I find this issue is possibly the most controversial animal rights topic, or perhaps second to animal testing for medical purposes. This is the animal rights issue I came to terms with last myself. I turned vegan because I was opposed to how we get our food and clothes. It took me a couple of years to understand why I should oppose animals in the entertainment industry when I saw people protesting against horse racing. Id' probably been vegan for around 4 years when someone told me I can't be an animal rights activist if I believe in pets, which made me think. I thought about it a lot and did some research and came to the conclusion I hold today. I would say that owning a pet is towards the least cruel and least exploitative form of animal use, and nowhere near as bad as the food and clothes industries. First thing to be said is that a better term to use is 'companion animals' as that's what they are.

I would say that most abolitionists have a short term and a long term strategy separate to each other when it comes to companion animals. In the short to medium term it can be morally acceptable to an abolitionist to have a dog, cat, rabbit, guinea pig, hamster, whatever animal in your home under three basic conditions. Firstly, that you are re-homing an animal. So that basically means an animal which it's previous "owner" has abandoned. This will include all animals in animal shelters, etc. Do not buy from a breeder as this keeps up the 'pet trade', and someone is still profiting from exploiting animals. Secondly, everything you do with the companion animal must be to benefit the animal. Basically, look after it well and give it a good standard of living. Lastly, spay or neuter the animal if it hasn't already been done so it doesn't breed. Under these three conditions all you are doing is giving an abandoned animal a better quality of life than the animal would be getting in an animal sanctuary. Plus, you are helping out animal sanctuaries by ensuring there is one less animal they have to put resources into looking after. It costs a lot of money and volunteer house to run an animal sanctuary and most of the independent animal sanctuaries could use extra financial support (until capitalism is overthrown of course). If you go to one of these animal sanctuaries that re-home their animal and you are given a choice of what animal you would like to take home, it's always better to choose an older animal. The reason for this is that young puppies and kittens are more popular and a lot more likely to be chosen by a family than an elderly animal. An elderly dog or cat could spend years of it's life in an animal sanctuary before it ever gets re-homed, if it ever does. Plus, that will mean less of a commitment from you as the animal will have less years to live. This short term strategy will just help out animals now who might otherwise be suffering. For every dog in someone's house, there's likely to be another 4 in sanctuaries.

The longer term strategy (which the short term strategy will help achieve) involves no-one ever breeding animals, no-one "owning" any companion animal, or looking after one. No domesticated animals existing what so ever. Feral animals might still exist however, but they live entirely wild lives and it should be kept that way. The problem has been domesticating the animals in the first place, and then centuries of breeding and cross-breeding the animals and promoting our right to owning a companion animal. The vast majority of these breeds have been created by humans by cross-breeding other breeds. They are not wild or natural breeds at all. Plus nearly all companion animals are fed food produced by humans, and quite often that will include meat products. We are producing a lot of meat products for cats and dogs. As well as not supporting breeders, we need to educate the masses so they understand why we shouldn't be breeding and artificially keeping these animals alive. Once we stop breeding them then there will be no need for animal sanctuaries or groups like the PDSA. There will be no more abused companion animals. No more unwanted abandoned animals. No more animals that depend on us to keep them alive.

Companion animals have something important in connection with all other domesticated animals. Domesticating animals has always been for human benefit and never been for the animals benefit. Forcing an animal to breed (which is pretty much always rape) and then keeping them under our control for our benefit and forcing them to rely on us for their entire life. Pretty much every part of their lives is controlled by us, especially when you look at animals other than cats. Cats could possibly be an exception as they are let out of the house freely often, but all other companion animals are totally and utterly controlled by us throughout their entire lives. Whenever you look a rabbit in a rabbit hutch, keep a hamster or guinea pig or rat or other rodent in a cage, etc you are controlling their lives. When it eats, what it eats, where it lives, where is does it's business, whether it gets to mate, if it lives with any other animals of it's own species, if it lives with any other animal of another species full stop. It's always going to be this way if we treat animals as property, and that's what pets are, property.

In conclusion: don't buy, adopt!

1 comment:

  1. Agree with everything you say, Jake, but I'd like to add that there's a strong case for not letting cats out and providing them with an interesting indoor environment instead (with climbers, lots of cat toys etc.).
    Cats kill a huge amount of wildlife, most of which they don't actually eat because they are fed at home.
    Also, the outside world is full of dangers for them (such as a huge increase in poisoning, being killed or injured by cars etc.) and is not a natural environment for animals which originated in the arid lands of the near east.
    Because we have domesticated cats, I believe that gives us a duty to protect them from harm and to protect other animals from harm by them, and keeping them indoors is part of this.