The topic of veganism, animal advocacy/rights and pets is a very tricky one at best, and one that it would seem a majority of people do not want to think about let alone discuss.
Regardless of what people will tell you, we view our pets differently to the way that we view those animals used for food, clothing, entertainment or research.
Whilst we have all seen the posters asking “Why love one, and eat the other?” that is usually accompanied by an image of two separate species of animals, usually a cat/dog and a pig/cow. Though why choose two different species that society has already formed a view on, why not a Bumblebee Platys/Red Tiger Oscar (pet fish) and a Deep Sea Dory/Barramundi (consumed fish)?
Despite both fishes being from the same species, a comparison photo of them wouldn’t elicit as much of an emotional response as it does when using a cat or dog.
This is even more interesting when you consider the findings of a recent Australian Pet Ownership Survey by the Animal Health Alliance that reports that there are over 10 Million fish being kept as pets in this country. Compared to a national population of 23 Million people keeping 4.2 and 3.3 Million dogs and cats respectively as pets.
We as humans disguise what we do, and how these animals are treated by using words that make us feel better about ourselves. For example, we call our pet cat or dog our companion animal, instantly elevating them to a position of superiority over that of say a pet pig/rabbit/ferret.
Then there is the way in which the ownership of this animal was transferred to us. Those who purchase their cat or dog from a pound/shelter will tell you that they have rescued that animal, yet denigrate others by saying that you can’t buy ANY animal from a pet store/breeder.
In both cases, a financial transaction took place to transfer the ownership of that animal from the pound/shelter/pet shop to the individual.
These new owners will quickly tell you that they rescued this animal from certain death at the pound/shelter, thereby giving them some sort of virtual domestic sainthood. Though it does make you wonder what they think happens to those animals that are not sold by pet shops or breeders.
People like Gary Francione will be quick to tell you that we have a moral obligation to rescue those animals that are alive through no fault of their own. This is in contradiction to his campaign and stated position of not having other animals regarded as property.
As advocates for other animals, we need to acknowledge that we use these animals to satisfy a particular need that is within us. That need could be anything from making us feel good about ourselves through to improving our standing amongst those who also care about other animals.
Mainstream organisations do exactly that, just take a look at the promo photos of those on the board of the RSPCA for example. Most of the photos used have a picture of the individual with an animal as if to convey to the viewer that they care so much more about the animals. Gary Francione himself did the exact same thing when he appeared via Skype at the International Animal Rights Conference in Luxembourg this year. At the beginning of his discussion/presentation, he used one of his pets, playing with them in such a way so as to form some sort of sympathetic bond with those viewing, and leading them to believe that he was a ‘real’ ‘animal person’.
Going back to the rescue of the cat/dog from the pound/shelter, the owners will have you believe that this rescue was done in the best interests of the animal. Whilst I am not denying that every sentient being has a desire to live and to stay alive, is this rescue really in the best interests of the animal, or just our own?
Yes, these animals have been rescued from certain death in a few days or weeks time, though what about where they now find themselves? And is it really in the best interests of this animal to be confined for the rest of their natural life under some sort of house arrest?
Whilst under house arrest, these animals will be fed by their captors when THEY decide it is time to eat; exercised when their captors DECIDE it is time to exercise, and at a location that THEY choose; allowed social interaction with other animals when their captors decide it is time to socialise, if at all; and forced to possibly co-habitate with another animal that they may not actually be friends with.
[GARD]Equally as important as the issue of ‘rescuing’ animals in general is what happens to cats once they have been ‘rescued’. Should the cat be kept inside 24/7? Whilst doing this protects other animals that are in the area from being preyed upon by the cat, it does mean that that cats are more under the control of their human captors than a dog or fish may be. Then there is the issue of what to feed the cat. Do you feed them a plant based diet, or if they are an older cat keep them on their diet of animals? If they are fed animals, what makes the life of the cat more important or meaningful than the lives of those animals that will be consumed?
It also needs to be acknowledged that people will only keep a pet whilst it is convenient for them. As soon as it because inconvenient the animal is shipped off somewhere else or sent back to the pound/shelter to be rescued by the next person that wants to purchase that animal to feel good about themselves.
This isn’t taking into consideration that the new prison for the animal may not be suitable for them, and they may escape all the time thereby running the risk of being hit by a vehicle or stolen.
Isn’t it time we honestly took into consideration what will be in the best interests of these animals, death in X days/weeks – then no more suffering or uncertainty, or a lifetime of incarceration with an uncertain future?