Vegan Uncensored: Can Vegans Have Pets?

Image: federico stevanin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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.

Vegan Uncensored is a weekly space on this blog where people can bring interesting topics of discussion to do with veganism to the fore. Read it, respond to it, pass it on to your friends – vegan and non-vegan – through Facebook, Twitter, or by sending them a link to this blog. Do you have a vegan issue you’d like to see in this space? Email [email protected]

By | 2016-10-17T10:42:22+00:00 October 14th, 2010|Vegan Uncensored|7 Comments

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  • Meg

    “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.”

    You say it is fallacious but you do not explain why. There is quite a large difference between rescuing animals (that would otherwise be killed!) for their own sake and killing animals for our sake. Rescuing “pet” animals is like creating animal sanctuaries for farm animals — not eating farm animals. Are you against all animal rescue/sanctuaries? And if so, what do you wish to see happen to these animals? Kill them? I do not see how killing healthy, adoptable animals instead of taking care of them is vegan.

    Of course, we should not BUY pets. The breeding of animals for human amusement is just as much exploitation as breeding them for our tastes — and we absolutely should not contribute to that. But, the animals that are here are not some abstract problem, they are real, live animals and many of them are on death row. If you want to save a life, go and adopt one for their sake and try to give him or her the best life you can.

  • Jason

    Good points, Meg.
    I think that is a completely reasonable position.

  • Tracymgriggs

    I cannot believe this argument is worthy of publishing…….

  • VM Blog Manager

    Hi Meg – I think what the writer was trying to say here re the fallacious argument was that if a person takes and stands by the strong stance that animals should not be used for human purposes, whatever those may be, it is difficult, from a theoretical standpoint, to say that having pets is ok (for the reason that we have pets because they serve a purpose to us, even though that might be innocent and gentle enough). Having said that, I don’t think they were arguing that we shouldn’t have pets – or that we shouldn’t save farm animals. The reality is that we live in a world where pets and farm animals already exist, so this is one of the lifestyle conflicts that a lot of vegans live with, because it is the best option in the existing situation.

  • peace

    Vegans often speak of saving lives. It’s hard to imagine a more direct way to save a life than by adopting an animal who would otherwise be killed!

  • maggs

    What about vegans that have a pet dog that they lock in a crate all day. Why is that not cruel an d inhumane and a direct contradiction to their belief system

  • Miss Cellany

    So vegans support the idea that dogs (and possibly cats) should go extinct?

    Dogs and cats EVOLVED NATURALLY to take advantage of the niche of living with humans. They SELF DOMESTICATED and this natural turn in evolution has been supremely advantageous for them – the number of domestic dogs and cats in the world is many magnitudes greater than the number of wild wolves and small wild cats in the world. Getting rid of dogs and cats is effectively making a natural species extinct. Yes humans have manipulated and mutated dogs beyond recognition in some breeds, but what about pariah dogs and village dogs? Those are fully natural species that have not been subject to selective breeding.

    Or are vegans saying dogs and cat should be set free to live wild? Which would be unethical for 2 main reasons: 1- dogs particularly cannot survive on their own without humans (many cats could but dogs are poor hunters at best). 2 – domestic animals living wild in nature would change the natural balance of the ecosystem and make many natural species extinct (songbirds would be threatened by cats and foxes and any scagenger animals would be competing with dogs).

    Or perhaps all dogs and cats should live as pariah animals on the outskirts of small villages? With the expansion of human population this won’t last much longer as small villages turn into towns which turn into cities.

    I think it’s silly to determine that dogs and cats should not be kept as pets – they evolved to live alongside us (for better or for worse) and have benefitted in the larger scheme of things as they are still here in huge numbers whereas many wild species have gone extinct or are critically endangered.