They have been called “Man’s best friend” and I’ve heard that “a house is not a home without a pet.” People love their pets – in truth many people treat their dogs and cats more like children (whether they want to be treated that way or not) – dressing them up in ridiculous outfits, primping and grooming them till any ‘natural’ smells have disappeared, and housing and feeding them like they were human.
But when talking about lifestyle conflicts and veganism, it seems to me that whether or not vegans should have pets is a question at the heart of what it means to be vegan. If veganism is about treating animals well and fighting against cruelty, then what is wrong with having a pet? There are millions of dogs and cats that need good homes – can you call yourself a true vegan if you DON’T offer to share your home with at least one of these creatures (who otherwise almost certainly face early death)?
But if it’s about avoiding the exploitation of animals in general – if it’s about fighting against oppression and the concept that animals are on this planet for the use, entertainment and comfort of humans, then how can a vegan have a pet? And if that’s the view you take, even the argument that there are many animals that have been ‘domesticated’ and wouldn’t survive in the wild – that we have created pets, and that we should take care of them, is a fallacious one. It is, actually, almost as bad as the argument that farm animals have been domesticated to such a point that we may as well eat them since that’s their purpose now and they wouldn’t exist if humans didn’t eat them.
Most vegans I know share their lives with pets – usually many of them – and their pets have good lives. The animals and people enjoy each other’s company, and bring happiness to each other. How can that be a bad thing? This is one issue in the larger vegan worldview that is absolutely indicative of the fact that this lifestyle is not black and white; it’s not all right or all wrong. And it’s an ideal that exists in the midst of a non-vegan reality.
And that’s not even getting into the argument of whether you should feed your cat or dog vegan pet food….or why, among the general population there’s such a disconnect between treatment of the animals that we worship and are happy to share our lives and homes with – and the ones we judge ‘inferior’ (in North America) and are content to let suffer horrible existences (since unfortunately that’s their lot in life) until such a time they end up on our dinner plates.
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