An Abolitionist View of Pets
By guest blogger Chris Kelly
For decades we’ve heard slogans such as “Animals are not ours to use…” We hear proclamations of anti-fur, labs, meat, zoos, etc. We rarely hear those individuals and advocacy groups proclaim opposition to pets…
Not just to puppy mills and abuse, but to the Frankensteinish manipulation of animals for the most frivolous of human-benefit reasons. I believe the large AR organizations have very specific reasons for avoiding this subject, and it has to do with donations – pet ownership is the “third rail” when it comes to fundraising. Forget animal humane-use/husbandry organizations (operating under the general term of welfare), as they are deeply entrenched in the pet status quo, some large ones even connected with breed activities.
People spend an incalculable amount of time and money fostering and rescuing pets in an attempt to alleviate suffering. Celebrities spend lifetimes begging people to neuter pets, we build bigger shelters, and we throw money at the horrors created by the pet mentality.
It’s easy to understand why many of us have large nonhuman animal families in our homes – we need to do something, if only by opening our arms and homes.
I think the vegan community needs to shine a light on the basic wrongness of the pet mentality. We need to acknowledge human responsibility to care for the animals we made dependent, while providing a path for phasing out pets. Webster defines respect (noun) as follows: “a feeling or understanding that someone or something is important, serious, etc., and should be treated in an appropriate way.” Pet keeping means total control over other beings, from conception to death – no room for respect there.
And, users are very adept at justifying their own practices citing regulations governing other users (example: Church of Lukumi Babalu v. City of Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520 (1993), allowing religious animal sacrifice after comparing it with allowed slaughter practices, pest control, and pound deaths). I doubt we will ever see any changes in line with abolitionist principles in labs, meat, and other user areas until pet fanciers realize their own complicity in the suffering which is domestication, starting in their own back yards. Perhaps we need to start a nonprofit focused on changing “animal lovers” into animal respecters.
Chris Kelly has worked with numerous shelters and sanctuaries, including in the processes of writing by-laws and hiring, and as a media spokesperson. Chris has served on animal-rights discussion panels and managed online discussion groups, and organized protests. Vegan for 31 years, Chris self-identifies as an abolitionist.