Sure, your dog may seem happy. And your cat may appear content. And your parakeet may sound cheerful.
But pet joy is a facade, a charade, a parody.
Owning domesticated animals is wrong. Unethical. No good.
At least, to some online animal rights extremists.
PETA and vegans have long said you shouldn't eat other creatures. These days, a trickle of righteous op-eds and Internet thinkies say petting little furry ones and letting them sleep in your bed is deeply un-woke.
From The Guardian newspaper:
Pet ownership is problematic because it denies animals the right of self-determination. Ultimately, we bring them into our lives because we want them, then we dictate what they eat, where they live, how they behave, how they look.
In a socially just society, dogs would have freedom to decide whose bed to snuggle up into, or which backyard to roam around in. How they would get to self-determination when they can't open up a door, the author doesn't say.
It's not just one isolated article. On the website The Conversation, Corey Lee Wrenn, founder of the Vegan Feminists Network, crusades against the injustice of companion animals (as pets are now supposed to be called). She writes:
Although we love [pets], care for them, celebrate their birthdays and mourn them when they pass, is it ethical to keep pets in the first place? Some animal rights activists and ethicists, myself included, would argue that it is not.
PETA shocked the world years ago with its "Holocaust on Your Plate" campaign, comparing chickens to murdered Jews. Now, vegans are comparing pets to slaves.
Animals are unnaturally forced under human authority, restrained, and re-socialised. True consent is not possible under such conditions. Animals are groomed to participate and those who are unable to follow the rules of human social life are likely to be punished – sometimes fatally.
Vegans like Wrenn have a super-duper tough time owning pets. Why? Because dogs and cats can't thrive on a vegan diet.
"Therefore, by knowingly adopting a carnivore or omnivore as a pet you are contributing to the meat industry by buying pet food," wrote a vegan on Quora.
Dogs and cats will always part of the dominator society because they can't be vegetarians, no matter how hard they try.
Will the anti-pet movement gain any ground? It already has. In liberal neighborhoods, it's still socially acceptable to own a pet — but only for now , only if you got your pet from a rescue shelter. You'll get a nasty look if you bought from a breeder. Come around with a sharpei, and the hipsters will practically kick you out of the knitting circle or the fixed-gear bicycle club.
Yet the ironic thing is that the rescue folks love their rescue doggies — doggies and kitties which had to come into the world through breeding. So for the ethical pet-keepers, what's the end game? Save all the animals in shelters, but not breed any more pets? Then pet ownership will just naturally fade away?
Yes, that's the goal, according to Wrenn, a natural end to an unnatural arrangement. For Wrenn, there'd be an added bonus to a pet-free society. A dog and catless world would — wait for it — help smash the patriarchy:
Pets also symbolically reinforce the notion that vulnerable groups can be owned and fully controlled for the pleasure and convenience of more privileged and powerful groups. And this has implications for vulnerable human groups. For instance, sexism is partially maintained by treating women linguistically as pets – “kitten”, “bunny” – and physically by confining them to the home to please and serve the family patriarch.
Is it still the patriarchy when a female owns a dog? These are the deep questions.
Animal activists aren't always wrong. They long ago convinced the world to be kinder to our pets, which we now are. And they were right that some animals aren't meant to be pets. When Michael Jackson and Justin Bieber owned monkeys, or Seigfried and Roy owned all those tigers, or Russian circuses trained those bears, it was reasonable to groan at the weirdness. Rightly, circuses are now shutting down, Bieber ditched his monkey in German, and a tiger nearly sent Roy to that big zoo in the sky.
But when the rights activists turn their sights on Fido and Rex, they're on a strange side of the (dog park) fence.
It barely needs saying that humans have been living with dogs and cats for thousands of years. Wolves evolved into dogs because we treated them so nice they decided to hang with us. There would be no dogs if we hadn't selectively bred them. Cats use humans as much as we exploit cats. In fact, if you don't own a dog or a cat, you're leaving 10,000 years of co-evolutionary money on the table.
Anti-pet arguments are good-hearted. But they just show what happens when well-meaning, justice-seeking, Earth-loving wokesters take well-intentioned arguments and emotions too far.
For example, there's this story about a guy named Jim Thompson, which a researcher told on NPR. Thompson had a pet bird. Loved the little tweeter. Then, Thompson started reading about animal rights. Thompson became a vegan, shed his leather, and made his girlfriend give up meat, too. And then he looked at his bird and realized it was wrong to cage a living thing meant for the skies. So he took the bird outside and freed it. And his heart was filled with joy as he watched it fly away. And then he realized, later, that the bird probably starved to death. Freeing the bird satisfied Thompson's feeling of righteousness, but wrecked the bird's life.
Dogs and cats cannot live without us. Cows and chickens, either. Yes, we should treat them as well as we can — at least as well as they treat us.
But animals, in the end, are not humans. It would be wrong to put a human on a leash and keep them in a yard, but dogs and birds are made for that. What looks like cruelty can actually be kindness. And dog smiles and tail wags aren't distress signals from canine servants. It's actual love.