Basic Respect

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.


ChrisChris 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. 


9 thoughts on “Basic Respect

  1. We see this type of compartmentalized mentality all around us. It’s disheartening. An organization that rescues rabbits hosts a meat-centered fundraising event. Confronted with the irrationality behind this behavior, their response is that the “food” was donated. I wonder if they would have served rabbit stew if that were donated as well. And a local animal shelter hosts fundraisers where flesh and other animal tissues are served. This shelter describes itself as a “life-saving organization.” Which animals are saved is a matter of individual concern. The sad reality is that in the majority of animal welfare organizations, money is where the heart is. “We can’t upset our donors. Our volunteers aren’t vegetarian, and we need them.” Consumers of animals themselves, they allow money, and even personal convenience, to corrupt what might otherwise be good intentions.

    • “Compartmentalized mentality” indeed, Maryanne. It’s deeply rooted in human history, isn’t it. We ostracize and even kill those who look or act outside our comfort zone. We train our military in the “us v. them” mentality. It shouldn’t surprise us that people regularly categorize animal use –some we eat or kill for sport, and others we cuddle, rescue, and pity. I’m always interested in how AR/welfare people answer the following: When it comes to real change, which has the most meaningful impact, compassion or respect?

  2. Chris, thank you so much. You write: Perhaps we need to start a nonprofit focused on changing “animal lovers” into animal respecters. That’s been hanging in the air around me today, and I’m thinking as well: We have seen the advent of a no-kill movement. What about a no-breed movement?

    • A no-breed movement would be the logical way to start. Confronting breeds (pets, guard and service animals for example) could start a discussion challenging domestication on a broad scale.

      • Yes. I think breed-specific legislation can, if killing is ruled out, be a valid way to cut breeders off, beginning with some who often have the most disturbing uses in mind for the puppies they produce. I have offended several of my closest companions in the AR movement due to this opinion, which I have laid out in careful detail with a great deal of thought. Some tell me I am prejudiced. They say I should want all breeds to be stopped, if any. Therefore they must think that the stopping of breeding is a benefit. And yet they believe I shouldn’t agitate for it on behalf of the dogs whose producers society has the ripest willingness to disallow.

        How bizarre it seems to me that the word “discrimination” is invoked to mean we mustn’t carve out a (beneficial) exception for one kind of dog until it’s for all (which the people disagreeing with me usually call impossible). Excuse me, my friends. But I’m going to insist that we tell it like it is: in the specific case, and across the board.

  3. Lee wrote:

    Yes, we heard similar objections regarding personhood for nonhuman great apes. From a legal and practical point of view, breed-specific phasing out may be more achievable (pitbulls would probably garner more support than poodles). I believe we must consult with our legal minds so that our ultimate goal is always clear while following a more doable abolitionist path. I just wish more people would reject the entitlement thinking which allows enslavement of others…

    And, by the way, anyone who would call you prejudiced either doesn’t know you or has a severe comprehension problem.

  4. Lee wrote (above): “And yet they believe I shouldn’t agitate for it on behalf of the dogs whose producers society has the ripest willingness to disallow.”
    (cut/paste error..sorry)

  5. Pingback: An Abolitionist View of Pets – vegan anarchist primitivist

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