As vegans, we care about animals, but where do vegans stand when it comes to pets and the freedom of domesticated animals?
The pet industry is huge.
Worldwide, it is worth billions of pounds, so it is unlikely that it is going to be wiped out anytime soon – but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t question it.
There has been so much written about the mass breeding of animals for domestic companions, and how many animals are abandoned or abused each year.
According to the Dogs Trust, 102,363 abandoned dogs were handed over to UK local authorities between 2014 and 2015 – that’s one dog every two hours. The RSPCA estimates that in 2015, the pet population of the UK stood at 8.5 million dogs and 7.5 million cats with around 20 million pets (not including fish) in total across the country.
That’s a lot of domesticated animals – so isn’t it legitimate to ask “should we be breeding any more”?
As it is, I have already discussed the issues around feeding pets a vegan diet, but is it vegan to “own” pets at all?
Most vegans will take issue with the word “pet” itself. They prefer “animal companions” as it doesn’t suggest ownership. Animals are living beings, so how can anyone “own” them in the first place? Vegans will also point out that almost all of their animal companions come from rescue centres, shelters or are unwanted/uncared for animals from people they know.
Indeed, this raises the point: “If we aren’t going to care for rescue animals, then who is?” While we may campaign for an end to the pet trade, somebody needs to care for the already domesticated animals that share our country with us.
These living beings would often not survive on their own in the wild, and therefore need human carers to provide for their needs. Although, it can be argued that many cats can survive on their own outdoors, and, indeed, wildcats are a glorious addition to the Scottish countryside. But they are in decline, and part of the threat to their survival as a species comes from domestic cats – who are breeding with them in the wild – damaging the bloodline of the feral natives. Of course, once you put two and two together this provides an argument for not allowing domesticated cats to be given free reign across the Highlands – unless they are not capable of giving birth.
Many people will tell you that cats will indeed just wander off if they don’t like it at your gaff. They aren’t so loyal that they wouldn’t choose Mandy’s house up the road over yours if she has better food. This freedom, to me, makes cats a more natural choice of animal companion for vegans than dogs.
The issue that the young lady who suggested this subject for a blog has with dogs is the question of restraint. Is it right to restrain an animal against its will? Is that really vegan. This issue can be extended to caged animals such as hamsters, birds, guinea pigs etc.
My dad wouldn’t let us have a dog as kids as we lived in a town. He grew up with dogs in the countryside and they were just set free on the farm (non-animal) in the morning and returned home in the evening.
There are, of course, many places where dogs are free to run off the leash – we all have local woods, fields and marshes where this is allowed – and should be encouraged. A bigger and more worrying issue is one of loneliness. Is it fair to disappear for eight hours a day and leave your companion animal on its own?
Animals need love and companionship as much as humans (there aren’t many loner emo dogs I’m afraid) and one does have to question if its right to take on the duty of care for a domesticated animal if nobody is going to be home for long periods of time. At the very least, it has to be one of the biggest considerations before choosing whether or not to share your home with an animal – vegan or not.
Motive has to be a major question for vegans considering caring for a companion animal. Why are you doing it? Are you doing it because the animal needs support (the answer may well be yes for many vegans), or are you doing it because you want a cute friend who will look fluffy in your Facebook and Instagram photos?
The counter-argument, of course, would be that it is unvegan to turn your back on an animal in desperate need of some love and a home. But isn’t it at least right to question our motives, attitudes and habits when it comes to domestic animals?
It’s certainly an interesting debate, and I’m not one to shy away from an interesting debate. I, incidentally, have never had an animal companion as an adult.