Discover more from Culturcidal by John Hawkins
Is This Liberal Right That It’s Wrong to Own Pets?
The standard authoritarian liberal approach.
Long ago, I was interviewing a couple of animal rights activists for a free publication I was writing for at the time in Charlotte. Admittedly, I had suggested the idea because one of the women was really hot and I was trying to get laid. That may seem like an obviously bad idea, but back then, I was too young to understand how crazy hardcore animal rights activists tend to be – and they were hardcore. Like, putting glue in the locks of restaurants and chaining themselves to stores for wearing fur-level loonies.
So, the non-hot animal rights wacko has me show up at her house to talk to the two of them about animal rights. To her credit, she made me some pasta with a meat substitute in it that was surprisingly good. I mean, I never searched it out or ate it again, but it was admittedly tasty. Afterward, they gave me their whole spiel, which included the idea that using leather or having pets was wrong. This puzzled me a bit because we were sitting in a room with a big, leather couch and there were pet dogs roaming around the house.
To my credit, I did ask her about it and she basically said something akin to, “I got the couch and the pets before I got into animal rights and… uh, look over there! Also, please don’t mention this in the article!”
To my discredit, I suppose, I did not mention it in the article, not that I think they would have run it if I had. Today, you’d run the whole thing on YouTube, with a shocked-looking face and call it, “The Hypocritical Animal Rights Wackos are LYING TO YOU” and try to gin up those outrage clicks, but that just wasn’t done back then and besides, I was still trying in vain to sweet-talk the pretty animal rights wacko.
I was reminded of that story by a column in the Guardian called, “Want to truly have empathy for animals? Stop owning pets.” The argument in the column is long, but I will try to do it justice with an excerpt:
Pet ownership is bad for pets. The animals are harmed from the outset, regardless of whether they are sourced from puppy mills, the wild, or artisanal inbreeders. Often African grey parrots and other “exotics” are captured from their habitats, and many die en route to the market. Puppy mills are plagued by high mortality rates for the young, while mothers are kept perpetually pregnant until they are discarded. Pedigreed animals, whose genetics are equivalent to the offspring of siblings, are often plagued by health problems during their truncated lives.
Other harms may similarly cut a pet’s life short. Dogs are often hit by vehicles, fall out of them, or bake in them. The equivalent to 6% of the American cat and dog population (8 million animals) are abandoned at shelters every year – half of whom are then killed. In some cities, the number of new shelter animals has soared as people give up their “pandemic pets.”
Many animals survive this war of attrition, but lead lives of loneliness.
...Pets suffer under the yoke of our affection, and they in turn harm wild and farmed animals. If US pets were a country, they would rank fifth globally in terms of meat consumption – greater than Germany. Carnage at this scale is unnecessary because dogs can be vegan, yet only 1.6% are.
...People crave the unconditional love pets offer, but such supplication requires mastery at the level of individual animals broken by “training,” control of a species’ genetic inheritance through inbreeding and the dominance of whole ecosystems to feed hundreds of millions of animals.
...To create a world without pets, we must collectively decide to shut down puppy mills, to spay and neuter pets and to support conservation programs that humanely capture feral animals.
In a post-pets era, we could still enjoy the company and beauty of animals, but from afar as naturalists in a wilder world. We can only speculate what this new era might look like, but its realization begins once we accept that true happiness cannot be predicated on the suffering of others.
The piece is obviously building up to what I like to think of as a “standard authoritarian liberal approach” to the whole issue that you see over and over again. It’s an approach that goes something like this, “I am a good and compassionate person and to prove that, I am proclaiming that I have no interest in owning or using (fill in the blank here with cars/SUVS/Bitcoin/gas stoves/pets/meat/the police/cross country airplane flights/oil, natural gas and coal/incandescent light bulbs/etc., etc.), so, therefore, it’s bad for society and should be banned because it takes up unnecessary resources, which therefore means it’s bad for the environment.
Simplified, it looks something like this. “We don’t need this” (which, by the way, often turns out to be pure hypocrisy) becomes “No good people need this,” which eventually turns into, “We need the government to make this illegal.”
Of course, this is a dumb argument, not just because of the hypocrisy that’s often involved, but because people “waste” their resources on all sorts of things. Just because I don’t wear Birkenstocks or drink Starbucks and have never visited Massachusetts doesn’t mean they’re all useless wastes of resources that we need the government to ban to save the environment.
Getting beyond that, I would certainly not deny that there can be some sad aspects to the lives of pets. My last two dogs have been rescues and I’m going to tell you, it can be a little depressing searching through those shelters looking for a dog. There are lots of pit bulls, chihuahuas, big dogs, old dogs, and dogs with behavioral issues. A lot of them are realistically never getting out of the shelters. There are animals that are poorly trained, that get mistreated, that get hit by cars, or lead lonely lives. All those things are real.
Here’s what else is real though… animals make people’s lives better. That’s why there are estimates that humans started domesticating dogs 30,000 years ago, cats 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, and horses 6,000 years ago. Of course, there are service aspects to what animals can do for us. We can ride horses. Dogs sniff out bombs, help police and guide the blind among other tasks.
However, the most valuable thing animals really do for us is act as companions. Contrary to the false impression the author tries to give, no, most animals are not living sad, lonely, desperate lives. Let’s in particular talk about the most popular pets, cats and dogs. These animals are typically bonded with a person that they care about and that cares about them. This is my current dog, Boudica. Does she look miserable and lonely? Like she’s wishing she’d rather be covered in ticks, eating bugs in some Louisiana swamp instead of what she’s doing today?
She looks pretty happy, right? Well, she’s not some outlier who happens to be in the 1% of happy dogs while the rest of them are sulking around wishing for death. If you think a pet would be miserable living with you, then don’t get a pet. But, then again, if you think most pets are really miserable, well, maybe you’re just miserable and you’re taking how you feel about life and projecting those feelings onto pets. Nobody HAS TO own a pet, but there’s nothing morally wrong with it. In fact, in most cases, it’s good for you AND the pet.