Essay:Why Pet Ownership Should Be Abolished

From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Essay.svg This essay is an original work by RockyRob97.
It does not necessarily reflect the views expressed in RationalWiki's Mission Statement, but we welcome discussion of a broad range of ideas.
Unless otherwise stated, this is original content, released under CC-BY-SA 3.0 or any later version. See RationalWiki:Copyrights.
Feel free to make comments on the talk page, which will probably be far more interesting, and might reflect a broader range of RationalWiki editors' thoughts.

Yes, I *am* indeed a supporter of animal rights, which yes PETA is too, and thus am opposed to animals being the property of humans. So by extension I am against the pet industry. The point of this essay is for me to make this argument and clear up the "animal rights and pet ownership" issue.

So since you are against animals as property, does that mean you are against keeping pets?[edit]

Yes, technically, but it’s a vast oversimplification.

All things considered, the institution of pet ownership has caused a LOT more animals to suffer immensely than it has provided good lives for others. PETA sums this up on their website: “For every lucky dog or cat who has a comfortable home, nutritious food, and loving guardians, countless other dogs and cats are suffering at the hands of incompetent or abusive people, are struggling to survive on the streets, or are waiting in animal shelters for a good home", and they're right.

Supporters of animal rights very much love the animal companions who share our homes, but we do believe that it would have been in the animals’ best interests if the institution of pet keeping never existed. The international pastime of domesticating animals has created an overpopulation crisis; as a result, millions of unwanted animals are destroyed every year as “surplus.”

This selfish desire to possess animals and receive love from them causes immeasurable suffering, which results from manipulating their breeding, selling or giving them away casually, and depriving them of the opportunity to engage in their natural behavior. They are restricted to human homes, where they must obey commands and can only eat, drink, and even urinate when humans allow them to.

Because domesticated animals retain many of their basic instincts and drives but are not able to survive on their own in the wild, dogs, cats, or birds, whose strongest desire is to be free, must be confined to houses, yards, or cages for their own safety.

This is a best-case scenario. Millions of dogs spend their lives outdoors on heavy chains in all weather extremes or are kept locked up in tiny chain-link pens from which they can only watch the world go by. Millions more are confined to filthy wire cages in puppy mills, forced to churn out litter after litter until they wear out, at which time they are killed or dumped at the local animal shelter. Even in “good” homes, cats must relieve themselves in dirty litterboxes and often have the tips of their toes amputated through declawing. Dogs often have to drink water that has been sitting around for days, are hurried along on their walks, if they even get walked, and are yelled at to get off the furniture or be quiet.

Most compassionate people never imagine that anyone could throw a litter of kittens out the window of a moving car, and they would certainly be shocked by groups like PETA’s inches-thick files on cases of dogs and cats who have been shot with arrows, blown up with firecrackers, doused in gasoline and set on fire, cooked in microwave ovens, used as bait in dogfights, tortured in satanic rituals, beaten with baseball bats by bored kids, dragged behind cars to “teach them a lesson” for running away, or bound in duct tape to silence their barking. Abuses such as these occur every day.

In a perfect world, all of our efforts would go toward protecting the habitats of other species on the planet and we would be able to maintain a "hands off" approach in which we did not take other species into our family units, but allowed them to develop on their own in the wild. However, we are far from such a Utopia and as responsible humans must deal with the results of the domestication of animals. Since many animals domesticated to be pets have been bred but have no homes, most AR supporters see nothing wrong with having them as companion animals. As a matter of fact, the AR supporter may well provide homes for more unwanted companion animals than does the average person! Similarly, animals domesticated for agricultural purposes should be cared for.

Pets are ultimately our property. Dogs, cats, hamsters, rabbits, and other animals are mass produced like bolts in a factory or, in the case of birds and exotic animals, are captured in the wild and transported long distances, during which journey many of them die. Pets are marketed in exactly the same way as other commodities. Although some of us may treat our companion animals well, more of us treat them poorly. In America, most dogs spend less than two years in a home before they are dumped at a pound or otherwise transferred to a new owner; more than 70 percent of people who adopt animals give them away, take them to shelters, or abandon them. We are all aware of horror stories about neighborhood dogs on short chains who spend most of their lives alone. Our cities are full of stray cats and dogs who live miserable lives and starve or freeze, succumb to disease, or are tormented by humans. Some people who claim to love their companion animals mutilate them senselessly by having their ears cropped, their tails docked, or their claws ripped out so that they will not scratch the furniture.

You may treat your animal companion as a member of your family and effectively accord her or him inherent value or the basic right not to be treated as your resource. But your treatment of your animal really means that you regard your animal property as having higher than market value; should you change your mind and administer daily and severe beatings to your dog for disciplinary purposes, or not feed your cat so that she will be more motivated to catch the mice in the basement of your store, or kill your animal because you no longer want the financial expense, your decision will be protected by the law. You are free to value your property as you see fit. You may decide to polish your car often or you may let the finish erode. The choice is yours. As long as you provide the minimal maintenance for your car so that it can pass inspection, any other decision you make with respect to the vehicle, including your decision to give it to a scrap dealer, is your business. As long as you provide minimal food, water, and shelter to your pet, any other decision you make, apart from torturing the animal for no purpose whatsoever, is your business, including your decision to dump your pet at the local shelter (where many animals are either killed or sold into research, or have your pet killed by a willing veterinarian.

As someone who has a dog whom I love dearly, I do not treat this matter lightly. Although I regard him as a family member, he is still my property and I could decide tomorrow to have him killed. As much as I enjoy living with dogs, were there only two dogs remaining in the world, I would not be in favour of breeding them so that we could have more “pets” and thus perpetuate their property status. Indeed, anyone who truly cares about dogs should visit a “puppy mill”–a place where dogs are bred in the hundreds or thousands and are treated as nothing more than commodities. Female dogs are bred repeatedly until they are “spent” and are either killed or sold into research.

Breeders, pet shops, and puppy mills fuel the companion animal overpopulation crisis by bringing more animals into a world that is already bursting at the seams with unwanted ones. Every newborn puppy or kitten means that there is one home fewer for a dog or cat awaiting adoption in an animal shelter or roaming the streets.

The pet trade treats animals as mere moneymaking commodities to mass produce and peddle for profit. Animals are routinely denied socialization, exercise, and even basic veterinary care in this cruel, money-hungry industry. Worst of all, the pet trade encourages the public to view animals as impulse purchases no different from fashion accessories that are acquired on a whim and discarded when the novelty wears off—rather than thinking, feeling beings who deserve love and respect.

Do you want to steal my pets off me!?[edit]

No. This is a fear mongering idea spewed by the right-wing to scare people away from animal activists or make them seem mentally deranged. Not a single animal rights group wants that – I challenge you to find one. (Including the prevailing myth that “PETA supporters think pets are slaves”) Taking pets off their owners would not be feasible or humane. Many would then die on the streets, or probably would just cry to get back to their owners.

So what do we want? We want all pets that are currently owned to be spayed and neutered. We want an end to breeding new pets into the world thus slowly phasing out the institution of pet ownership. (NOTE: Even if you do disagree with this end goal, it still is good to spay/neuter your pets to help reduce the pet overpopulation crisis which leads to millions of animals every year being euthanised in shelters or dying on the streets due to the lack of good homes available for them)

But spaying and neutering violates an animal’s rights, doesn’t it?[edit]

Absolutely. But consider the alternative: Unrelentless breeding of companion animals leads to millions being killed in shelters every year because nobody wants them. And that’s the lucky ones – many other animals are left to fend for themselves on the streets.

Granted, one could try get around this by arguing that you could just make sure your companion doesn’t breed, but this is A) unreliable and B) will just lead to millions to sexually frustrated cats and dogs around the world. Sterilized animals live longer, happier lives. Spaying eliminates the stress and discomfort that females endure during heat periods, eliminates the risk of uterine cancer, and greatly reduces the risk of mammary cancer. Neutering makes males far less likely to roam or fight, prevents testicular cancer, and reduces the risk of prostate cancer. Altered animals are less likely to contract deadly, contagious diseases, such as feline AIDS and feline leukemia, that are spread through bodily fluids.

Yes, spaying and neutering companion animals does violate their rights, but the individual impact on the animal desexed is virtually nothing (and can even be great for their health), and prevents a dramatic amount of misery and suffering. The net harm is minimised.

The Animal Rights and Pet Food Conundrum[edit]

It’s a catch 22 isn’t it? Feeding pets meat makes vegans hypocrites, but feeding them vegan diets makes them idiots.

Firstly, both sides of this argument are stupid. Pets like cats and dogs do not need meat to survive, they need the nutrients present in meat to survive. Commercial vegan cat and dog food has all the nutrients they need included in them (including taurine for cats - which is already synthetically added to meat-based cat food[1]). So feeding them this food will help them thrive, how could it not?

Yes, feeding a cat or dog a vegan diet consisting of solely vegetables is stupid and will eventually kill them, but if one feeds them commercial vegan food which is made with everything they need, then they will be fine.

A Note on “Kill” vs. “No-Kill” Shelters[edit]

"Groups Like PETA are hypocrites, they kill animals in their shelters!!!"

Not all animal shelters are the same. Fortunate homeless and unwanted animals end up in the hundreds of open-admission animal shelters that are staffed by professional, caring people.

At these facilities, frightened animals are reassured, sick and injured animals receive treatment or a peaceful end to their suffering, and the animals’ living quarters are kept clean and dry. Workers at these facilities never turn away needy animals and give careful consideration to each animal’s special emotional and physical needs.

To be able to offer refuge to every animal in need, open-admission shelters must euthanize unadopted and unadoptable animals. The alternative—turning them away—is cruel and leaves the animals in grave danger.

Trying to build enough animal shelters to keep up with the endless stream of homeless animals is like putting a bandage on a gunshot wound. Turning unwanted animals loose to roam the streets is not a humane option, either. If they don’t starve, freeze, get hit by a car, or die of disease, they may be tormented and possibly killed by cruel juveniles or picked up by dealers who sell animals to laboratories.

Many less fortunate lost or abandoned animals end up in pitiful shelters that are nothing more than shacks without walls or other protection from the elements, where animals are often left to die from exposure, disease, or fights with other animals.

So-called “no-kill” or “turn-away” shelters, which are supported by supposed animal rights activist Nathan Winograd, have the luxury of not euthanizing animals because they turn away needy ones whom they deem unadoptable. Many keep waiting lists, which compromise animals’ safety by leaving them in situations in which they are clearly unwanted. Where do these unwanted animals go? The lucky ones will be taken to clean open-admission facilities that have responsible policies about euthanasia and adoption. But many animals who are refused by turn-away facilities are dumped on the road, in the woods, in the yard of the local “cat lady” (also called a “hoarder“), or in the custody of some other unscrupulous person. Some don’t even make it out of the animal shelter’s parking lot.

Animals who are accepted into no-kill shelters may be warehoused in cages for months, years, or the rest of their lives, becoming more withdrawn, depressed, or aggressive every day—further reducing their chances of adoption. Conditions at some no-kill shelters are criminal. No-kill” shelters and “no-kill” rescue groups often find themselves filled to capacity, which means that they must turn animals away. These animals will still face untimely deaths—just not at these facilities. In the best-case scenario, they will be taken to another facility that does euthanize animals. Some will be dumped by the roadside to die a far more gruesome and horrible death than an injection of sodium pentobarbital would provide. Although it is true that “no-kill” shelters do not kill animals, this doesn’t mean that animals are saved. There simply aren’t enough good homes—or even enough cages—for them all.

No shelter that truly cares for animals should ever turn its back on an animal in need, even when that means taking in animals who are diseased, badly injured, aggressive, or elderly. These animals have little to no chance of being adopted or helped by anyone else, but a responsible animal shelter should at least provide them with a painless release from a world that does not want them.

Also, bear in mind that the Centre for Consumer Freedom, the group behind the PETAKillsAnimals website, is openly funded by the meat and dairy industries. They do NOT have the best interests of animals at heart.

Nathan Winograd of the No-Kill Advocacy Centre promotes a “No-Kill Equation” to dramatically reduce the amount of animals euthanized in animal shelters. I absolutely agree that implementation of these programs WOULD reduce the number of animals euthanised and should be implemented immediately everywhere, but I do think some healthy animals will still have to be euthanized, and demonizing shelters who have to do this is terrible

“Pets” vs. “Companion Animals”[edit]

Many animal rights activists would prefer people to use the terms

  1. “Companion animals” instead of “pets”
  2. “Guardians”/“Caretakers” instead of “Owners”

For what it's worth, I personally have no issue calling them pets. I would prefer "guardian" or "caretaker" over "owner" though.


  1. PETA's View
  2. The Animal Liberation Front's View
  3. The Abolitionist Approach's View
  4. Gary Yourofsky's View