I’m not the most qualified person to write about this, but it’s my blog, so er, I’m writing it.
The language we use to discuss companion animals is an interesting subject in itself.
Some people believe that we don’t ‘keep’ pets – because they’re not our property.
I’ve not researched this much, but I’m inclined to agree with what I’ve read so far. I mean, you can be responsible for something’s (e.g. your kids) welfare without owning it.
Language is important and is fluid. As we learn more about the world around us, language changes.
However, I’m probably going to use the terminology I always have because otherwise it’d take me forever to write this out AND I want to write an article people can understand.
So vegans love animals, yes? Dogs, cows, tigers, etc. But is it actually ethical to keep them as pets?
Considering their popularity, we don’t actually know exactly how dogs became companion animals, though they’re believed to be the first animal humans domesticated (somewhere between 13,000 and 30,000 years ago).
Cats are an entirely different kettle of fish. I’m assuming that cats were tolerated because they caught mice and stayed because they wanted to. Humans had little choice in the matter.
My dad fervently believes (and I’m inclined to agree) that wolves were drawth to the warmth of campfires centuries ago and we kept the ones that didn’t eat us because they’re cute and occasionally useful. The first time early man dropped a gnawed-on bone for the dog to finish off, dogs were happy to be by our side.
In fact, it would be downright cruel to cast domestic dogs out into the wild. They’d die; as would many cats.
But for someone like me, that disagrees with the breeding of dogs for profit, the truth must be faced: our end goal is ultimately to eradicate domestic dogs.
If it means no dogs will ever suffer, I’m cool with that.
(Also it definitely probably won’t happen in my lifetime, so who cares?)
So, whilst I don’t think the act of keeping a pet is morally wrong, there are so many things humans do (often unknowingly) that make their pet-keeping immoral.
Inappropriate environment –
- Being kept in a small cage
- Being kept outside without sufficient shelter
Inappropriate treatment –
- Too much/little food
- The wrong food
- Lack of stimulation and/or exercise
- No access to vet care
- Exploitation such as overbreeding
This list is inexhaustible and when you extend it to pets like fish it becomes a far bigger problem. My boyfriend kept tropical fish for years. I completely understand why people abhor this, but I think that it’s ok (not ideal though) so long as the fish are kept appropriately.
But people don’t view fish like they view their fur babies.
They keep them in tiny tanks with wanky tankmates because they’ve been given crappy information. Here are some things that should be beared in mind (I know that’s not good grammar but I like it, and as I mentioned earlier, language is fluid ;))when keeping wet pets:
- Don’t buy wild caught. That ain’t cool. Adopt don’t shop, y’all. I’m seriously-ish considering setting up a fish rescue.
- Make sure all your fish share a water chemistry preference
- Make sure all your fish will get on. Don’t just assume. Angelfish, however pretty they are, are arseholes. And need a mahoosive tank. You wouldn’t keep a rabbit with a python, don’t keep a neon tetra with an Oscar.
- Get. Fish don’t grow to the size of the tank – they try to keep growing, can’t, get stunted and die. And fish don’t grow in the same way as mammals. A goldfish that’s been the same size for five years may have a growth spurt for reasons known only to itself.
I had a bearded dragon once (a rescue), and he was an incredible pet, but I don’t really agree with keeping exotics anymore.
There’s just too much to go wrong – heat lamps fail, the electricity goes out…and finding vets that can help is nigh on impossible.
I suppose it’s the same with tropical fish. Heaters and filters can fail. Hmm. Ok, my stance remains that rescues are fine, but don’t buy or breed animals.
Also feeding live food is wrong. It’s bizarre to me that more people don’t complain about the boxes of crickets for sale in Pets at Home.
They’re little animals being sold to be eaten alive.
A lot of small animals are destined to spend their days in hutches at the bottom of the garden bored out of their minds.
Don’t get your kid a bunny if it’s going to be played with for a month and then given the absolute bare minimum of care for the rest of its life.
If you get a small animal, make sure that you can afford (both financially and with regards to space) a companion if it requires one. Degus, for example, will literally die of loneliness unless you can convince it you’re a degu (I tried this with ours when he lost his two brothers – I carried him around everywhere with me but he was too sad).
Now let me tell you about rabbits.
I know a lot about rabbits.
They are NOT good pets for kids. Most of them hate being picked up (because they think you’re going to kill them), they have very sharp teeth and claws and a very strong kick. If your kid wants a pet, get them a guinea pig.
I currently have one bunny; our other one died last year aged eleven. Good game George (and that’s another thing, rabbits live a hella long time).
It may seem contradictory to say we’re not getting another bunny for a friend for Isobel when it’s well known that rabbits love a companion, but Isobel is a lone wolf. She barely tolerated George.
And there’s the difference: Isobel is a house rabbit. She’s very old (well, only 9, but she’s a fancy breed and had a terrible start in life so that theoretically should have shortened her lifespan) and has arthritis.
She has always lived indoors. And so do we. We’re her company.
She occasionally has a brief foray into the garden but she’s happy sat inside on her little cushion in a sunbeam.
As she’s unable to hop into a cage anymore she wees on puppy pads and has a little fort setup.
We’ve adapted to her needs because we love her.
Since we got rid of her cage (it was an open one, before anyone starts) she’s discovered the radiator which she LOVES. Isobel also likes the fire, which is unusual for a bun, but she’s always been a trailblazer.
It’s v dangerous for rabbits to have surgery because they often stop eating, which interferes with their gut and they die. Isobel had a tumour removed from behind her eye last week and was eating before she’d fully come round. The vet was very impressed.
As I write this, freezing rain is being dashed across the window by the wind and my heart breaks for the thousands of bunnies freezing in little hutches on their own.
I’m sure there are many outside bunnies happily snuggled up with their friend that are treated very well, but I feel like small animals are dismissed as not being proper pets.
So many people can’t believe that our rabbit lives inside. Yet it would be weird to keep a dog outside. The only difference is our perception of that animal’s value – Isobel is litter-trained, sheds fur and begs for food like a dog.
She doesn’t spend all day barking at next doors cat though. Though she absolutely would if she could.
Where the hell am I going with this?
I’m not a crazy person that doesn’t agree with pets, however, I hate how many animals are kept as status symbols or because they’re exotic and different.
I also don’t like it when people don’t let their dog up onto the sofa. Can you imagine living your whole life in a house and never being allowed on the sofa. Get washable covers.
What I really want is for people to think before they purchase pets.
Don’t get a husky if you only want to walk for half an hour a day (get a greyhound. Or a cat).
Don’t get an iguana if you can’t give it an adequate enclosure.
And please don’t put a cat on a vegan diet without researching and committing to regular blood tests. Cats can definitely live well on a (supplemented) vegan diet but they differ massively in how long it takes them to adjust.
If you want a vegan pet, get a bunny.
P.S if you’re interested in this subject please read this post on why keeping a pet is fundamentally unethical. It’s an eyeopener. I don’t agree with everything that is mentioned, but I think it’s an interesting perspective.