Should Animals Be Kept As Pets? My Thoughts On National Pet Day
With most of the world’s population obsessed with keeping at least one pet in their house, it was no surprise that #nationalpetday hashtag was trending on Twitter today. Are you also celebrating National Pet Day today? How do you celebrate this day?
Pet Lifestyle Expert & Animal Welfare Advocate Colleen Paige had founded 11th April as National Pet Day in 2005. Since then, this day has kept increasing in popularity. But I'm writing this piece to highlight that "animal welfare" doesn't automatically imply "animal rights".
Worldwide, over 57% of households own some kind of pet. With 82% household owing pets, Argentina has the world’s highest rate of ownership followed by Mexico (81%), Brazil (76%). With about 70% of households owning at least one pet, USA stands at 5th rank.
Pets are mostly kept for companionship, to protect a home or property or their beauty and attractiveness. While the most common reasons for not owning a pet are lack of time, lack of suitable housing, and lack of ability to care for the pet when travelling.
While Dogs & Cats are most popular animals kept as pets, it can be any animal or bird including bunnies, mice, guinea pigs, parrots, pigeons, dove, squirrels, cows, goats, ponies, horses, camels, tiger & lion cubs, colourful and exotic birds, sparrows, turtles, frogs, ducks, hens, turkeys, monkeys, fishes, snakes, crabs, lizards, etc. There is no limitation to the definition of a pet. Millions of animals are spending their whole life in a human captivity and subservience as a pet.
According to Wikipedia, in 2013 pets outnumbered children four to one in the United States. So you can imagine how popular and acceptable it is to keep a pet.
When any animal is made to live according to human desire and in a man-made environment, we are obviously robbing it away from natural and independent life of its own. The animal becomes completely dependent on its owner for food and shelter. They ain't even left with any choice of their own social life. Thus making them our pets, we have taken away almost all the liberties of life from them.
Pet industry itself has become a multi-billion dollar business. There are several puppy mills or breeding shops where exotic breed of puppies are “produced” to meet the rising demand of pet enthusiasts. Several of them, who do not sell in time have to be slaughtered mercilessly. Over-breeding and forced insemination makes the life of the mother painful and short.
Many birds and fishes are coloured and tattoed to look beautiful & attractive. All animals are fed an unnatural diet according to their owners understanding and availability. The pets had to be "trained" to adjust their life to suit the human needs.
Similarly, pet food industry is literally making a killing.
Strangely enough, all these pet keepers portrays themselves as animal lovers. But what kind of love it is when you keep one animal as a pet but eat the other as your food? Most of the pet owners live a non-vegan life. This reminds me of the title of Dr. Melanie Joy’s famed book Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows. This is what is called as speciesism – a discrimination on the basis of the species of any creature.
When you love an animal as pet, shouldn’t you be concerned of what you are feeding him / her? Do you consider it sane to take 100’s of lives to nourish and sustain just one life? Most pet food available today has a very cruel origin. Did you ever consider how many fishes, chickens or other animals’ lives were cut short to pack it into that pet food? Who is actually responsible for taking all those lives? Why do the love of all such animal lovers is so compartmentalized? Or they just want to own their pets under the guise of loving them?
Keeping a pet may be detrimental to their health due to inappropriate feeding at unnatural timings. Many pet owners don’t have sufficient knowledge of the care required for their pets. Consumption of chocolate or grapes may prove fatal for dogs. Several garden plants like aloevera, Easter lillies, philodendrons, begonia etc. could be either fatal or cause severe damage to their kidneys and other disorders in pets.
Housepets like dogs & cats in urban settings are highly susceptible to obesity which then cause several other dangerous diseases like diabetes, joint pain, liver problems, kidney failure and even cancer .
Health Risk To Pet Owners
Aside the health problems faced by pets, there are some risks for pet owners too. According to Wikipedia, health risks that are associated with pets include:
Aggravation of allergies and asthma caused by dander and fur or feathers
Falling injuries. Tripping over pets, especially dogs, causes more than 86,000 falls serious enough to prompt a trip to the emergency room each year in the United States. Among elderly and disabled people, these falls have resulted in life-threatening injuries and broken bones.
Injury, mauling, and sometimes death caused by pet bites and attacks
Disease or parasites due to animal hygiene problems, lack of appropriate treatment, and undisciplined behavior (faeces and urine)
Stress caused by behaviour of animals
Anxiety over who will care for the animal should the owner no longer be able to do so
Huge number of pets in the world also poses massive environmental problems.
One-fifth of all dietary energy and one-third of all animal derived energy are consumed by dogs & cats that are kept as pets in USA. They produce more than one-third mass of the feces as all Americans. Dog and cat animal product consumption is responsible for release of up to 64 ± 16 million tons CO2-equivalent methane and nitrous oxide, two most powerful greenhouse gasses.
As much as 1/4th of environmental impacts from animal production in terms of land use, water, fossil fuel, phosphate, and biocides is cause by the diet of American pets.
Considering all these, I don’t think it makes an ethical choice to keep any animal or bird as a pet.
I know, many of you will come up with an argument like we don’t buy a pet but adopt a rescued one or we don’t feed any non-vegetarian meals to our pet and raise them as vegans etc. But the whole point is we are not doing any good to them in the long run. Our activities only promote pet-culture.
If an animal is sick or rescued, it should be taken to a veterinary hospital or an animal shelter or sanctuary and should be released in the nature after treatment. If needed, they can be kept in some shelter or sanctuary for all their life. Why do we want to promote the practice of individual adoption and keep them as our pets? This only strengthens the evil of pet culture.
Our society has come up with so many pet related days like this National Pet Day, Take Your Dog To Work Day, Love Your Pet Day, Pet Day and Pet Months. I think all these days help in promoting pet culture and serve the ulterior motives of commercial pet industry.
In my country, I know that Jain religion is strongly against keeping any animal as pet.
- Do you know any other such religion that is against the practice of enslaving animals?