Is it wrong to keep pets?
Man's best friend or his favourite slave?
Is it wrong to keep pets?
In this episode, Jake and Ant look at the ethics of pet care. Is it ok to keep any sentient living being as property, free to be made infertile if their incessant humping annoys us and even to be put down if they become an inconvenience or minor danger.
To help structure your thoughts, here’s how we broke it down over at the Morality of Everyday Things:
1) First, we have to be clear about what “pets” are - humans and animals have co-existed, not always peacefully, for millennia, but pet ownership in its current form is a relatively recent phenomenon. Most pet owners identify companionship as the primary reason for keeping pets and see their pets as an extension of the family.
2) We came up with two reasons why it might be wrong to keep pets. One, if doing so causes an animal to suffer (e.g. they cannot meet their physiological needs). This isn’t a particularly contentious reason, but you may be able to think of examples where it is violated (Tiger King 👀). The other is more philosophical - is it right to keep animals as property?
3) What rights do animals have? What rights should they have? We look at positive and negative freedoms and how they might apply to animals.
4) Is it fair to characterise the owner-pet relationship as a form of slavery? Or is it technically a hostage situation? Or a form of symbiosis? Or is the status of animals such that this isn’t a relevant way to look at it?
5) Lastly, is it inconsistent of people who are anti-livestock/vegan to be pro-pets and advocate for keeping animals as property?
Send us your comments. Where do you stand on this question?
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Until next time!
Jake & Ant