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Is owning pets morally acceptable?

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Is owning pets morally acceptable?

Post by Ivan on Thu Aug 10, 2017 11:57 pm

"When we talk about animal rights, we are talking primarily about one right: the right not to be property. The reason for this is that if animals matter morally – if animals are not just things – they cannot be property. If they are property, they can only be things. Think about this matter in the human context. We are all generally agreed that all humans, irrespective of their particular characteristics, have the fundamental, pre-legal right not to be treated as chattel property. We all reject human chattel slavery. That is not to say that it doesn’t still exist. It does. But no one defends it.

Domesticated animals are completely dependent on humans, who control every aspect of their lives. Unlike human children, who will one day become autonomous, non-humans never will. That is the entire point of domestication – we want domesticated animals to depend on us. They remain perpetually in a netherworld of vulnerability, dependent on us for everything that is of relevance to them. We have bred them to be compliant and servile, and to have characteristics that are pleasing to us, even though many of those characteristics are harmful to the animals involved. We might make them happy in one sense, but the relationship can never be ‘natural’ or ‘normal’. They do not belong in our world, irrespective of how well we treat them. This is more or less true of all domesticated non-humans. They are perpetually dependent on us. We control their lives forever. They truly are ‘animal slaves’. Some of us might be benevolent masters, but we really can’t be anything more than that.
"

https://aeon.co/essays/why-keeping-a-pet-is-fundamentally-unethical

When I read the above extract from an essay, I assumed that it had either been written by a crank or someone who was just trying to be controversial. Then ‘The Guardian’ published this article on 1 August this year:-

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/aug/01/should-we-stop-keeping-pets-why-more-and-more-ethicists-say-yes

From that we learn that Dr Jessica Pierce thinks “pet ownership is problematic because it denies animals the right of self-determination. Ultimately, we bring them into our lives because we want them, then we dictate what they eat, where they live, how they behave, how they look, even whether they get to keep their sex organs.

Then last week I completed a YouGov survey and the title of this thread was one of the questions! I know August is known in journalistic circles as “the silly season”, but aren’t there bigger issues to concern ourselves over, such as two psychopaths looking as if they might start a nuclear war?

This isn’t about animal welfare. It’s not about battery hens, humane slaughter or cruelty to animals. It isn’t about whether you think it’s morally acceptable to rear and eat animals, especially when the land required for grazing could usually produce more food if used for growing crops. It’s about the concept of treating pets as our property, and making them totally dependent on us, being morally unacceptable. So what do we think of this suggestion?

My first thought is – does anyone seriously think that they own a cat? As a child, I remember my parents having a cat which decided to live with some other people in the next street. No matter how many times the cat was returned to its supposed ‘owners’ (my parents), it went back to its preferred dwelling, and in the end the cat got its own way. My experience is just the opposite. In the last twenty years, three cats have moved in with me, each sitting outside my house until I adopted it. I still have one of them – she’ll be 18 in September. (I know that because a local vet had a record of her; her previous ‘owners’ had moved away and just left her behind.) I also have a dog who needed a home when she was a year old because her ‘owners’ were moving to Australia. She’ll be 13 later this month.

It’s probable that wolves (the ancestors of all dogs) befriended early man while they were scavenging around garbage dumps on the edge of human settlements. Man and dog then often hunted together. This again suggests that certain animals are happy to be ‘owned’ by humans, and dogs in particular tend to show immense loyalty.

Is owning pets morally acceptable? Personally, I don’t see any problem as long as they are treated well and we remember they are animals and don’t expect them to behave like humans.
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Re: Is owning pets morally acceptable?

Post by oftenwrong on Fri Aug 11, 2017 7:41 pm

Ivan wrote:"When we talk about animal rights, we are talking primarily about one right: the right not to be property".....

.... Is owning pets morally acceptable? Personally, I don’t see any problem as long as they are treated well and we remember they are animals and don’t expect them to behave like humans.

In the news also is a case of Human slavery which puts a slant on the above discussion:-  
http://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/uknews/family-convicted-of-keeping-at-least-18-victims-as-slaves-for-up-to-26-years/ar-AApSR3S?li=BBoPWjQ&ocid=iehp

Keeping a dog, cat or hamster for a pet is rarely seen in the same light, but why is it not?  

On a similar principle I am opposed to Circuses, Zoos, Bull-fighting, Cockfighting, Riding to hounds, Dressage, Puissance (Imagine the reverse of THAT - people being trained to do tricks by a horse!) and National Hunt racing.

The paradox lies in meat-eating.  No doubt other readers will have a contribution to make on that or other aspects of the matter.
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Re: Is owning pets morally acceptable?

Post by Ivan on Sun Aug 13, 2017 12:59 pm

often wrong wrote:I am opposed to Circuses, Zoos, Bull-fighting, Cockfighting, Riding to hounds, Dressage, Puissance (Imagine the reverse of THAT - people being trained to do tricks by a horse!) and National Hunt racing.
So am I, and I would add breeding pedigree dogs and cats to that list. To me it’s morally unacceptable to make money out of creating more animals when so many are in rescue centres or end up being euthanised.

I wouldn’t want to ‘own’ a hamster or a guinea pig which is kept in a cage, but I suppose some would argue that my house is just a large cage for the dog. My cat has the freedom to come and go as she pleases, and when she was younger she would sometimes stay out of the house for several weeks at a time in the summer, insisting on eating her meals al fresco (there is a cat-flap into my shed and that contains a cat bed). I don’t believe that either animal would choose not to live with me, but maybe animals develop a form of Stockholm syndrome?

Meat-eating is a separate issue, but there is certainly an argument about food. Is it morally acceptable to use the world’s resources to feed pets (big business as you can see in any supermarket), when people are starving to death in Africa?

We live in an imperfect world. If we accept that having pets is morally wrong, what are we supposed to do with all the existing ones? Turn them loose? Have them all put down? If we do need to change our culture away from owning pets, then the place to start is to end the breeding of them. But too many people make money out of doing so for that to be easily achievable.
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Re: Is owning pets morally acceptable?

Post by boatlady on Sun Aug 13, 2017 5:59 pm

Really struggling with this issue - I would be very lost without my animal companions, and I do feel they have a very happy life with me - but I did prevent each and every one of them from reproducing and I do insist that they go out only with an escort (used to let the cats out alone, but I only have dogs now)

For most of my adult life, I lived alone and was in a job where making friends locally was not always appropriate so the animals were a godsend - I understand they eat food that could potentially be feeding a starving population and their very existence supports an industry that to some extent subverts ethical farming - but I look to history and I see that as long as we have had any form of settled life as a species we have shared our lives with companion animals (usually dogs and cats but also birds and horses) - it is a form of slavery I guess but maybe the alternative for these species would perhaps be worse - I think of my Jennie for example, set 'free' to make her way in modern society - I think she'd very soon return home or find another family where she could be a little queen. She tells me what she wants and I take great pleasure in interpreting her wants and needs. Sometimes I think the 'slavery' goes both ways. I remember a lovely little Yorkshire terrier who became 'free' due to some idiot tradesman leaving the gate open - she is buried in the garden having fallen foul of traffic on the nearby road.

I have strong reservations about selective breeding and would be very unlikely to buy a 'pedigree' animal - but both my current dogs were purchased as pups from amateur 'breeders' - lovely healthy little dogs who seem happy to share my life and each others'.

I think maybe the argument about companion animals has become conflated with the much more solid arguments about farming animals for meat. I've tried to talk myself into veganism but failed - as a compromise, I buy little meat and what I buy comes from farmers' markets, where I can interview the producer in depth about the conditions the animals are kept in. I try to buy meat from older animals (hogget rather than lamb) and I buy a lot of offal and cheaper cuts that can be cooked slowly with lots of vegetables. In a perfect world, milk, eggs, meat and fish would no longer be part of any civilised person's diet - but I guess if we get there, some bright soul will discover that plants have a form of sapience - and then we'd all starve
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Re: Is owning pets morally acceptable?

Post by oftenwrong on Tue Aug 15, 2017 12:40 pm

I didn't expect to be confronted with a moral dilemma quite so soon after posting to this thread, but today I passed on the road a VERY home-made Romany-style caravan just about as far away as you can get from Cameron's £30,000 re-creation. A bearded young man was leading the horse while his dog sat like a Roaming Emperor in the "driving seat".
Upon retracing my route, I saw that they had parked-up on a roadside bit of grass, with the tethered horse by then wearing a very smart canvas jacket. The very stuff of romantic poets and painters through history.

But someone is sure to complain.
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