Is it ethical to keep pets?

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I class myself as an animal lover.  I would love to have a pet dog one day, but not until I have enough free time to take care of it properly.  I’m not a fan of leaving dogs cooped up at home all day.

In the mean time, I have a pet hamster and two budgies.  I have had many hamsters in the past and I think they are adorable pets.  I never felt much guilt over them, I feel they have had pretty good lives and have been happy.  They are living an all-inclusive-holiday rather than prison.  I’ll admit that maybe this isn’t accurate.  I don’t know if my hamster would choose to stay with me if she had the option of exploring the wide world.

My budgies, on the other hand, are the first birds I have kept.  And I’m sad to say I do feel guilty about having them cooped up in a cage most of the time.  This is definitely a prison rather than an all-inclusive-holiday.  In the wild, they would roam so far and wide.  I’m sure they would choose the wide world over me.

Then I found myself in a pickle… I can’t release them as they probably wouldn’t survive for long in the wild.  They don’t know what they can eat or where to nest or how to avoid cats… and they would probably die of the cold.  It wouldn’t be fair to set them free.  That’s like setting humans free on a paradise island and saying ‘go, be free!’ but the reality is there’s a lot of hassle when it comes to finding food and shelter.  (I know this from watching ‘Lost’)

So I have decided that I will not get birds again in the future, but I will try to give my budgies and hamster a fulfilling life.

Cats and dogs are a different kettle of fish, but this is an interesting point to ponder, further explained in this article by the Guardian:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/aug/01/should-we-stop-keeping-pets-why-more-and-more-ethicists-say-yes?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+main+NEW+H+categories&utm_term=237572&subid=10292850&CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2

 

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I already have the book ‘Some we love, some we hate, some we eat: Why it’s so hard to think about animals’ by Hal Herzog who explores how humans treat different animals in such different ways.  I am yet to read it (it’s on the pile) but I think it is an interesting question.  Why do we love cats and dogs but hate rats and eat chickens and pigs?  Why do we not treat them all the same?

I think it’s so easy to forget that humans are animals too, but we barely see ourselves as all of the other animals around us.  And we forget that we control the lives of animals in ways that we would never treat our fellow human beings.

For now, I still think pets are awesome, as long as it’s a mutually beneficial relationship on some level and both parties are (relatively) happy.

 

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Humans are wise… but cruel

Humans are a cut above all the other animals on the planet.  We have bigger brains, opposable thumbs and the ability to create medicines and perform surgery to heal each other.  We are able to ponder how life exists, perform experiments and dissect bodies to understand how ‘life’ works.

Humans, Homo sapiens, are a species of animal just like every other animal.  Rats, cats, dogs, wolves, pangolins, zebras, bears, orang-utans, gorillas, humans.  Sometimes it’s difficult to think of us as animals.  Our lives and mental capacities are so different to ‘theirs’.  We are the ones who were able to take over and populate most of the land on earth with our amazing ability to communicate with each other, work together and take away the need to hunt or gather food.

We build machines like washing machines and cars to make our lives easier, and televisions and games consoles to entertain ourselves.  We build amazing homes and skyscrapers, and planes that fly across the world.  I can’t imagine any other animal capable of doing even a fraction of what us intelligent humans have achieved.

However, we use and abuse the animals around us without a second thought.  We don’t think of raising battery hens and milking cows as use or abuse… but I think it is.

It’s one thing if your hens and cows live happy lives in the green fields and you occasionally take eggs and some milk.  This is mutually beneficial for the hens and cows to some extent – they have space to run around, food, safety and good lives for the price of some of their eggs or milk.

It’s another thing when those chickens and cows have no quality of life.  Chickens raised in battery farms have their beaks cut off, don’t have space to move, never see sunlight, have their eggs taken away and are then killed for us to eat.  The male chicks that hatch are killed straightaway.  Cows are often raised in small pens, artificially impregnated so they become pregnant to produce milk, give birth and have their babies taken away so we can then steal their milk continuously.  We pump cows full of chemicals to make them produce unnatural volumes of milk so we can have more.

There is no quality of life for these animals.  I doubt this is a deal that any animal would agree to, be it a chicken, cow or human.  There is no mutual benefit.  Only the humans benefit from the lives of these animals, who get nothing good from the deal.

When did it become ok to take babies away from their mothers?  Why is it so normal for humans to drink the milk of another animal when most people would baulk at the thought of drinking human breast milk?  I assume the cruelty came about as the demand for eggs, milk and meat at a low price increased.  The logical solution was to mass produce using the smallest amount of space, and it turns out you can’t have chickens or cows mass produced in factories for less like you can with smart phones or clothes.

But cows and chickens are not plastic gadgets to be mass produced.  They are live animals with eyes, hearts, instincts and pain receptors … the same characteristics as humans.

There are some things that we have been doing for so long that it becomes absolutely normal in our minds and we forget to look at things objectively.

Admittedly, every hen will die one day, just like every cow and human.

But just because humans will die one day doesn’t mean we sit in a prison all of our lives awaiting death.  We go out and live rich and fulfilling lives as much as we can.  A right that the animals we use don’t get.  They are confined to prison with horrible conditions until we are ready to eat them.

I have a lot of respect for vegetarians and vegans who choose not to eat meat.  Personally, I think it’s ok to eat meat.  Humans are omnivores so eating meat is natural for us.  I would never hate a cheetah for catching and eating its prey.

But for our ‘prey’, aka chickens, cows, pigs, sheep… I think they still deserve a life worth living without cruelty before their untimely deaths.

I think humans like to think that animals are dumb and stupid, so that gives us the right to control them and do as we please.  We are ‘detached’ from animals, they are not like ‘us’ so we don’t need to care about their lives and we can kill them as we please…

It scares me how humans act so psychopathically towards these other living beings.

‘Other’ animals may not be AS intelligent as us, but they have many characteristics similar to humans and are intelligent enough to survive without humans.  I’m sure the earth would be teeming with wild animals without humans to interfere, particularly the ones that we have pushed to the brink of extinction because they got in our way or might have killed us.  Or we wanted to kill them for their ivory or beautiful fur coats, which we believe are ours to take.

There’s no denying that humans are the most intelligent and successful species on earth, but I wish we would use our intelligence AND let all animals enjoy a good life. Not just the animals we choose to keep as pets and pamper in our own homes.

It shouldn’t be us vs. them.  We are all on this planet together.

 

Here is a link to BBC’s ‘Carnage’, a comedy documentary by Simon Amstell that raises a lot of interesting points about how animals are treated in the food industry:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p04sh6zg/simon-amstell-carnage