Saturday, April 10, 2010

Save the Planet, eat your dog?

Ok, that's not actually what this article says, but it's how it's titled.

The comments afterwards are, in my opinion, a little hysterical, which I would totally be if someone actually tried to take my dog for food (or hurt any of them for any reason)

I started writing this ages ago, and am going back to check on my "drafts"

I'm not sure what I was going to say about this, I'm horrified by the title, of course (well, of course for me anyway) but it brings up some stuff I think about quite a bit.

For one thing, I'm basically on board with this, in the way I'm on board with many things (like population control - I'm not down with killing people, but I do think that any and all efforts to keep population down by educating women and guaranteeing access to birth control, as well as personal choice is a good thing)

So, I'm a fan of not breeding pets on purpose. I would actually advocate simply doing away with the practice. I have lots of pets, more than I want (at least twice as many as I'd like) because I function at maximum carrying capacity on the theory that that's one more animal that doesn't end up euthanized - it's pretty sad to think about, really)

And I would advocate that just from the perspective that if you want a dog or cat (or hamster or ferret) you can almost definitely find one at the humane society. If breeding were seriously curtailed, maybe they'd all find homes (if it was actually effectively stopped, there might actually be a "shortage" of pets, but how likely is that it could really be effectively stopped altogether?) Certainly the environmental perspective is added incentive.


I don't feel like I ever developed a theme for this, or figured out what I wanted to say. But there's something to say here. Our relationship with animals, particularly pets, is to say the least bizarre. People (many people, in the US) freak out about eating dogs, but think you're a terrorist if you oppose torturing dogs in a lab to find out neat scientific facts (or cure cancer - ha! that's going really well, how about we stop as a society doing all the things we're pretty sure cause cancer? Like spewing pollution, spraying our food with pesticides, etc?) nor do (most) people mind at all eating cows, pigs, chickens, etc, NOR the fact that they are treated brutally for their entire short lives before they are eaten (I probably still wouldn't eat meat if I knew it was raised and slaughtered "humanely" - but the difference between that, which I have no theoretical problem with, and how your meat is produced is HUGE, unless you know the farmer personally (and how it is slaughtered no matter what - farmer's aren't allowed to slaughter their own animals they HAVE to go to licensed facilities, which at this point are pretty much all awful beyond belief)

Anyway, what is up with that? Why not eat the dogs killed at the humane society and spare a few cows and pigs terrible suffering? Why not just be a vegetarian? why not get rid of breeding pets altogether? (really, it would take years to "catch up" and run out of pets, I promise)

And, a friend just recently posted something on facebook, as an example of racism, that someone arranged to fly a bunch of dogs out of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. (this is an example of racism I guess because everyone knows dogs don't matter, or at least not much, so doing anything to help them while black people are suffering is racist - don't get me wrong, I don't have anything good to say about the official handling of hurricane Katrina, I just get tired of people freaking out that some people care about dogs, even though there are other bad things in the world too) I actually assume that the only other option for those dogs was to be left where they were to starve to death, which was never considered as an option for any human being, so I'm not at all worried about some imbalance or misplaced compassion)

But really, dogs have no rights. Dogs were not allowed to be evacuated (even when people were, which sadly wasn't always either!) People were not only encouraged but forced at gunpoint to leave their dogs to starve.

Just the other day I saw a sign at the dogpark that people in our area are going around stealing dogs to sell to labs and for pitbull bait. I have no idea how accurate or hysterical this concern is, but I've been worried (sometimes frantic) about it. And the truth is if someone stole my dog from my yard I most likely couldn't expect any help from the police looking for her, certainly not more than I would get for a bike, and, if caught, the thief would most likely suffer no consequences worse than if they stole my bike (dogs and bikes, after all, cost about the same)

I guess I'm just sooo sick of hearing how animals have such a privileged place in our society, and comparing how well we treat them to how poorly we treat some people. I don't disagree that we treat some people poorly, but the problem is not that we treat animals better (we don't) but that we shouldn't be treating anyone that badly.

I'm also really sick of people's bizarre sentimentality when it comes to dogs and cats (at least those not used in labs) - I live in a city where dogs and cats are killed frequently, and where a lot of animals get eaten frequently, and yet these people are too tenderhearted to eat dogs - not to kill them, not to eat other animals. apparently just too tenderhearted to make any sense, or be honest with themselves


James Riemermann said...


I'm with you about the harm of excessive breeding of dogs and insufficient spaying/neutering, and also about the arbitrariness of our views on what animals it is moral to eat, and which animals it is immoral to eat.

But I find the ideas in this article almost as absurd as some of the shocked protests in the comments.

The writer's simplistic ideas about eco-footprints just don't hold water. An ecological system absolutely cannot support more life than it is capable of supporting, and usually supports far less than it is capable of supporting. Ecology is not a "zero-sum" game where 1000 dogs less means there is 1000 dogs' worth of resources left for the future. Dogs are resources as well as consumers of resources. Dogs and people take in resources and the earth takes those resources back in a different form. How different that form is, depends on where the creature is in the food chain.

The big problems I see are are not with too many dogs, but with people poisoning the air/water/soil in a way that reduces its ability to support diverse life, followed by the complications of distributing food in a global and rural/urban economy, where places without many resources (deserts, cities) support large populations using food from other places.

You raise some interesting points, and maybe even the writer of this article does, but I think he needs to think about it a little harder.

earthfreak (Pam) said...

actually, looking at this article again, I think the "math" is suspect. SUVs don't really use hectares of land, they use up oil and electricity - therefore upping the needs for nuclear power (to build them, mostly not to run them - yet) and drilling, which we have so recently been reminded is a lovely thing for the planet! They also cause pollution, which is amazingly damaging to our health (and the health of other animals), and require roads to be built (which I'm guessing isn't in the equation) add in things like pets reducing your blood pressure (and take away the eco-damage from creating drugs to control it for all those extra people) and I personally am pretty sure dogs come out way ahead.

James Riemermann said...

I suspect you're right. But the greatest underlying problem with the math, I think, is the idea that the existence of a living creature, canine or otherwise, can be counted as a debit against the earth. That's just backwards thinking. Life is the point, not the problem. Overpopulation is a problem, sure, but only because it eventually collapses for want of resources. That's how the system rights itself.

earthfreak (Pam) said...

Right, James, that's part of what I was getting at, and maybe one of those things that's so inherent to me that I had trouble articulating it. The difference between this suggestion and "save the planet, eat your child" (which to me sounds like a similar proposition!) is that it's quite legal to kill dogs in this country. The humane society does it all the time, labs do it all the time, the army used to do it all the time (for some sort of testing) - so the thought horrifies me, but then the reality of the world horrifies me.

And pigs are just as intelligent as dogs, or more so, and if we take intelligence out of the criteria for living things deserving to get to live their lives, then the problem does (or should) extend much further than this article makes clear.