Saturday, January 15, 2011
Our pets couldn’t use “animal rights”
Returning to Lee Hall’s book, “On Their Own Terms. . .” let’s consider domesticated animals, such as cats and dogs. These animals are not the ones Hall says should be allowed to live free, “on their own terms.”
The reason: dogs and cats are in the “purpose-bred” animal category. They were bred from other pets to be pets. And “pets” are dependent creatures. (They count on us for shelter, food, medical care . . . Just imagine your cat or dog suddenly having to live outdoors in even a New Jersey winter, foraging, sleeping and surviving outside.)
Hall describes domesticated animals as “refugees of our custom of dominion.” She discusses how pet-keeping came about – it’s a surprisingly recent practice -- and says we should of course take care of these “refugees.”
But she raises the startling question of whether bringing dependent animals into existence is “a habit we could, and should, relinquish.” Just think of all the backyard breeders and puppy mills, not to mention the (relatively) bona fide dog and cat breeders – and the gigantic industries that have grown up around our pets: food, amusement, health care, grooming . . .
Hall says, “It’s to the undomesticated communities of wildcats, to wolves and free birds and rabbits, that the animal rights ideal applies. Rights cannot be meaningfully extended to purpose-bred animals, beings perpetually at our mercy.”