Adopting a Pet is the Way to Go!
This is a controversial subject, but it is my firm belief that no one should be breeding companion animals. This is not because I think humans don't get a huge benefit from being with their companion animals or that companion animals don't love their lives with humans. I will not even address the things wrong with the breeding industry, both big and small.
Consider the term “pet owner” - humans and animals are not equally considered in this equation. If we consider 6.5 million animals end up in a shelter every year, it becomes clear that humans do not take the responsibility of being a parent to their companion animals seriously. And, this is all topped off by the fact that 1.5 million of these animals are euthanized each year (ASPCA).
So, you might respond, but I'm a responsible parent to my companion animals, why punish me? But this ignores so many other factors. For instance, many of the animals that are kept as pets are pack animals that have family structures. We purposely tear babies from their mothers so that someone might enjoy the company of that animal. Imagine if the same thing were done to a human. Why do we assume that humans evolved to care about their family but animals didn't? Who is the most dangerous animal in nature? The mother. In nearly any species where parents are present to raise their young, a mother animal will defend her children at all cost. Nature is filled with examples of very diligent and caring animal parents that stay with their young long past weening, sometimes for several years of more.
I live with a mother pig and her daughter. They are nearly inseparable. Charlotte is 1 year and 3 months old, but if her mom Pumpkin hears her cry out for any reason, she comes charging in. There is a bond there that seems every bit as strong as what I see between human mother and child. In the wild, this bares out in the fact that often mother pigs and their children will stay together as a family long after her children have weened (Humane Society). We know the same is true of dogs. Wolf packs in the wild consists of parents and their more recent adult pups (wolf.org). . So, what makes it okay to take the babies of companion animal mothers away after a few weeks to sell for a profit?
Is it truly fair to animals to artificially control the course of their lives for the benefit of humans? If we truly love animals, would we separate their families for our own benefit? And considering the number of animals abandoned for being destructive within their home, whether by chewing on things they shouldn't or peeing inside, it is clear that as hard as we try to make them compatible with human homes, these animals still have some of their wild ancestry inside them.
Now, I'm not suggesting that people should stop taking in companion animals. As long as there are animals in shelters or being abandoned on the streets, it is our responsibility to take care of these animals and give them the best life possible. However, when we know it goes against their nature to be separated from family, forced to live under human rules, and all the while knowing that millions of animals suffer lives of neglect and abuse, continuing to breed animals seems irresponsible and anything but fair. This is not to mention that currently, there are almost no guidelines or regulations regarding the breeding of companion animals. Anyone can do it under nearly any condition without much fear of repercussions.
Thus, the slogan, "Adopt, don't shop!" is not just about making sure animals who need homes find one, it is also about the fact that breeding animals leads to some of the worst forms of animal abuse, such as puppy mills. I love my three rescued pigs and rescued Yorkie fur family, but it would be selfish of me to believe that my enjoyment of their company justifies the breaking apart of mother and child, the forcing to live in artificially-imposed conditions contrary to their nature, and sentencing many companion animals to suffer at the hands of irresponsible humans.
I appreciate all the people who do an amazing job providing their companion animals with the best possible life. This blog post is not meant to in any way malign those of you doing your best and treating your animal family like exactly, well, family. But, I hope you will consider what I have written and join with me in promoting the idea that animals are not our possessions. We should not be dictating their lives by breeding them for human purposes which are so contrary to their inner nature of these animals.
Try out this thought experiment: Consider a benevolent alien race coming down to Earth and selectively breeding humans to be as happy as possible living with them as a companion human. Overtime, I have no doubt that humans would adjust to many aspects of being the possession of an alien being who treated them well. And in the foreign circumstances of alien life, humans would feel dependent on the alien “owners” for survival. Deep down, though, do you think our drive for freedom would ever go away? Do you think that a mother's love for her children would ever wane as the children were taken to be sold off as companion humans to the alien race?
Every day we learn more about animal intelligence and all the evidence coming back suggests that animals are way more aware of their existence than previously thought (check out the book by Barbara J. King’s Personalities on the Plate). Animals have strong family bonds and think about the past and the future. Sharing so much in common with humans, should we not reconsider how we are treating them? Forcing an animal to have babies so that those babies can be taken and sold (or even given away) seems wrong by every standard we use for justifying our treatment of other humans.
Being of a different species is not sufficient justification for ignoring the needs and desires of these animals.