May 03 2011

Here, kitty-kitty

No time to post! So here’s the discussion topic for today, inspired by TwissB’s comment on a recent post.

Pets: wholesome, mutually satisfying relationship, or slavery?

Fran and MaypearlI had the misfortune yesterday, while driving through the picturesque Texas hill country in the rain — (that’s right, I said “rain.” It hasn’t rained here since about 1839. My sidekick Stingray called me up, a nervous edge to her voice. “The air is all wet!” she said, “what the fuck is happening?” “Don’t worry,” I said, “I just Googled it. It’s only Jesus crying tears of joy because the American military finally smoked Bin Laden out of his hole. Go USA!”) — to hear a radio interview with Alice Walker. Walker has a new book out about the spiritual awesomeness of keeping chickens in her back yard.

Walker, it turns out, doesn’t eat her chickens. She adores them instead. She actually writes them love letters when she travels around cavorting with exiled religious leaders, referring to herself as their mother in the third person, à la: “Mama met the Dalai Lama today in his palace. Mama doesn’t think they should call it a palace, as that’s pretty fuckin classist.” (I paraphrase.).

It is nauseating when popular authors infantilize and anthropomorphize and write letters to pet animals, so I had to turn this interview off. But not before I started considering what it means to live with domesticated animals.

I live with a couple of dogs and horses. It is a problematic scenario. Wild equines would never let me get within 200 yards of them, much less tie them to a post and pick the rocks out of their feet. Wild canids would rather rip my throat out and feed me to their young than drop rubber balls in my lap as I snooze in the lime green recliner. The domestic animals at El Rancho Deluxe didn’t choose to live here. I have all the power in our relationship. They depend on me for everything. Rightly or wrongly, they are the product of thousands of years of human interference with the evolution of their species that has made them ill-equipped to go native.

If I turned them loose they would probably have a pretty high time for a while, but eventually, if they didn’t come back on their own, something crappy would happen to them. The dogs would lose a fight with a feral hog, or get shot by a hunter, or starve because they don’t know how to catch squirrels. The horses would get hung up on barbed wire fences, or get caught by some farmer who’ll sell’em at auction to kill buyers who’ll truck’em to Mexico for slaughter. Or any one of a gazillion unpleasant scenarios.

Given that the domestication process, product of patriarchal oppression though it be, is a done deal, and that these animals exist, and that “setting them free” is not an alternative, the only options are a) keep them alive using the best possible stewardship practices, or b) euth’em.

Please puke forth thy views in the comments.


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  1. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Around here, it would be a rare day if it *weren’t* raining. And if everything didn’t go “squish” when trod upon.

    My domestic companions appear to be content as long as the kibble hits the bowl at the appointed time and outside trips (rolling in squirrel dung, annoying the kids next door) are frequent. Ear-scritches and rump-rubs must also be duly administered. Honestly, I’ve never stopped to consider the power balance. But if I grant ’em autonomy, they have to get jobs.

  2. Schnee

    So, here’s the choice open to all creatures : Patriarchy or Blamatariat. If you’re a non-human creature, your life’s going to be run by one or t’other, so you’re better off being in league with the side that has your best interests at heart rather than the lot who only have their own and unremittingly, unfailingly their own interests on the agenda.

  3. kelly

    But! Yes, we domesticated some animals for our needs but by making things like catching food/travelling long distances/being aware of predators at night super easy, such animals encouraged us to live a certain way… It is a two-way street, they domesticated us as much as we domesticated them.

    Living wild might be “authentic” but it is not particularly comfortable, wild animals spend their entire lives scraping out of living only to die horribly. They never die in bed, these wild animals. This question of comfort is especially a problem for animals selectively bred to rely on our species.

    As long as domestic animals are treated with respect at all times, I think they even get a kick out of being with us? As long as they build up enough positive associations with their human, spending time with that human is pleasant.

    To them, we are not some special over-species who OWNS them but a weirder version of a dog (or horse or cat), with access to bags of food.

  4. buttercup

    The Savage Death Island outpost of Buttercupia does not encourage ownership of pets by people. People are responsible for the animals that live with them because modern life, to some extent, needs opposable thumbs and the occasional trip to the vet. In return for comfy living, medical care, and all the stink bugs they can chase, the animals provide an approximation of affection and stress relief to the people they live with.

    Euth being an unsatisfactory solution other than in the worse cases, I think we owe it to the critters we’ve created to make their lives as good as possible. Give them a job if we can. Don’t breed any more, especially if you can’t feed ’em. Shut down puppy and cat mills as fast as you can.

    Chickens have delightful personalities for the most part. Most birds I’ve met do. It makes it very difficult to be an omnivore. But that’s another discussion.

  5. Rice

    This is, weirdly, something I’ve been giving a lot of thought to of late. It was inspired by viewing how a friend’s 10 year old treated her pet kitten – she would throw him around, twirl him, generally plays rough. The kitten doesn’t necessarily enjoy it, but her parent’s response is to tell her to stop, but not properly explain why or the consequences. She continually reinforces her own dominance over her pet as if it were nothing.

    Made me think about my relationship with my cat. I like to think that he has a choice – he doesn’t wear a collar and can come and go from the house as he pleases, and he seems to always choose to come back for the grub and a spot on a cushion.

    But that power imbalance definitely exists, and the more I see the way people treat their pets the more clear it becomes.

    On the other hand, what level of choice could exist? While some animals are treated well, the culture of dominance over animals creates the possibility for the mistreatment and harm inflicted on them. Break down the patriarchy and break down this possibility? Will it require viewing animals no longer as ‘sub-human’? It would be great if society started with not seeing 50% of the human population as sub-human first, but these ideas on pets (and livestock) are interesting.

  6. Darragh Murphy

    or c) don’t participate in pet owning and/or write a blog that encourages others to stop participating in the enslavement of animals.

    If it’s not possible to have a satisfying (to the human) relationship with an animal outside of a rigid power structure then it does seem that SDI’ers, who look forward to the day when rigid power dynamics no longer rule our worlds, would be naturally inclined to eschew pet ownership altogether. And to be vegan I suppose.

    But that’s clearly not the case. The Blog Owner, herself, is a gentleman farmer with lotsa animals in her Cottonmouth Queendom, and many many commenters here seem to have very strong attachments to their menageries. So if the evidence here is meaningful at all, radfems of the lesbian or straight variety seem to very clearly NOT eschew pet ownership on the grounds of its icky likeness to P.

    Why is that? Is it because the P doesnt apply to ALL power structures among living creatures, perhaps? Is it Patriarchy when Asian carp invade Lake Michigan and destroy all the native flounder? I don’t know, but I do know it’s very oppressive of the flounders’ rights to life, liberty, etc.

    But, then again. Are humans special? Where do we draw the line, if at all, between appropriate, by which I mean conforming to a radfem standard of liberty, relationship structures among humans, and appropriate relationship structures between members of different species?

    However there is something unsettling about the idea of conflating a political philosophy of women’s freedom with a philosophy of animal freedom. It’s angering to think that women and goats or women and beagles are vying for the same autonomy in some people’s “egalitarian” minds. Are women not better/more important/more special/more inherently entitled to social power than ANIMALS?

    But TwissB’s comment, “spending untold hours feeding, grooming, nursing, dressing, training, and carefully observing and responding to the physical and emotional needs of an animal enslaved for their enjoyment- and fancying that it loves them back.” sounded so uncannily identical to the exact way husbands (in most all cultures) are trained to view their wives, it made my head spin.

    I guess my view is that it is okay to treat animals like animals, and that it’s best to treat them with care and kindness, but it is really not okay to treat women like animals. Twissb is a real eye opener!

  7. Bushfire

    But TwissB’s comment, “spending untold hours feeding, grooming, nursing, dressing, training, and carefully observing and responding to the physical and emotional needs of an animal enslaved for their enjoyment- and fancying that it loves them back.” sounded so uncannily identical to the exact way husbands (in most all cultures) are trained to view their wives, it made my head spin.

    I had never put that together before. This is such a great place for a young blamer!

  8. Nepenthe

    It seems incredibly short-sighted to equate keeping pets with keeping human slaves. Humans can comprehend an abstract notion like “freedom”. Companion animals cannot. My cat appears to wonder where the kibble is and why I’m not petting her right now. My snake thinks “waaaaarm” and “fooooooood”. (Slow metabolism, slow thinking, you see.) “If I were X, then I could Y” is a complex mental exercise that even young humans take quite a while to get the hang of.

    A pet might suffer because it is mistreated, not given enough space, etc. But a captive human suffers in the abstract, from the lack of “freedom”.

    Also, you can explain to a slave that they are oppressed, but I challenge you to get across to my cat that she’s an Uncle Tom because she seeks tummy rubs (at 3am. only at 3am. haven’t slept through the night in months. ugh.).

  9. Tigs

    Well, I’m not an Aristotelian generally, but the Aristotelian-flavored (developed in recent times by Nussbaum) idea that the proper end of justice is to produce richly lived lives organized around fundamental dignity is useful here I think.

    Generally (again, following Nussbaum), if we understand that all beings have particular capabilities–and that these capabilities begin with life itself, but also extend to valuing play, enriching human and animal relationships, creative productivity, and some various other things, I think we can organize relationships with non-self-determining (and therefore not capable of consent, because that’s the problem here, right?) creatures that are not destructive of justice.

    Of course, any creature that is capable of self-determining has self-determination itself at the center of the capabilities approach, and the most expansive conditions for self-determination ought to be the goal.

    1.) There is inherent dignity in all entities, but that dignity requires different responses appropriate to the entity itself.
    2.) Developing conditions wherein that dignity is most deeply respected is what is required for justice.
    3.) The dignity for a dog is probably not the same as the dignity for a person.
    4.) This is tricky, because what is required for deeply respecting an entity’s dignity is generally determined by the dominant class.
    5.) Just because something is tricky, doesn’t mean it’s useless.

    I’m not convinced (I’m never convinced) that the liberal model (in which one either is or is not a body with rights) is useful in this conversation.

  10. Holy Moly

    If they’re happy and well-taken care of then continue keeping them happy and taken care of. I think it’s much more pertinent to discuss how contributing to the death and torture of animals via the dairy, egg, and meat industry than worry about happy companion animals. Or, maybe have a dialogue about Carol J. Adams’ ‘The Sexual Politics of Meat.’

  11. Sarah

    I’ve been volunteering with my local no-kill animal shelter for years and I also did a PowerPoint presentation on this subject a few years ago, so this is a subject about which I have done quite a bit of thinking. As you point out, if you turn your domesticated animals loose they won’t survive–and that’s even more so if they have been subject to certain surgical alterations such as declawing. (Although cats that are not declawed are not necessarily going to survive in the wild either. My mother’s cat got out of the house by accident a few years ago and got bit by a dog. Took a puncture wound to his abdomen and another on his right thigh. He lives with a dog who weighs about six times as much as he and who likes to play with him, so I think when he saw the strange dog he rolled over on to his back and showed his belly. It took two surgeries and lot of medication totaling about $1200, but he lived.)

    Anyway. If you turn your animals loose on the anti-“slavery” principle and they don’t get themselves seriously injured or killed, they will probably be picked up by animal control services. The most recent numbers that I know of for my own county was a euthanasia rate of over 70%. Nationwide we are euthanizing cats and dogs at a combined rate of about 3 to 4 million per year. So. What, exactly, would anti-“slavery” advocates like for us to do? If we are talking about stopping puppy mills and doing away with pet stores, I’m all for that (although the imbecilic teabaggers are opposing these measures for the sake of anti-government ideology). Mandatory spay and neuter laws don’t work (people who can’t afford the spay and neuter costs will simply drop their animals off at the already-overwhelmed shelters or turn them loose on the street). And if you try to go after responsible breeders I guarantee you are going to have a backlash.

    I don’t believe in buying from breeders, not when we are euthanizing so many animals annually, and my animals get spayed and neutered. Unfortunately a lot of people think that having certain breeds (“designer animals”) is a status thing akin to having a Gucci bag or Prada shoes. Buying animals needs to become less socially acceptable, the way wearing fur has.

  12. Ron Sullivan

    If you want to twist the question a little harder, consider the interface between human-subsidized fauna and indigenous wild fauna—and flora, for that matter. The current “dialogue” between dog-owners and shorebird advocates about the GGNRA beaches in San Francisco reveals so much cluelessness about how critters actually live that I can’t stand to read it any more, out of consideration for my own blood pressure and digestion.

  13. Wuyong

    Back in the days when it was totally legal and acceptable to keep human slaves in the USA these were exactly the sort of arguments people used to justify it: They can’t understand abstractions like “freedom.” They can’t take care of themselves, we have to take care of them. They’re happy to get fed. They’re happy! Look at how happy they are (shot of “happy” enslaved Africans smiling and cheerfully saying “yes massah!”) Look how uncomfortable life was for them back in Africa, they spent their entire lives scraping out a living. I grew up with a mammy and she loved me like I was her own child, and I loved her too! I even took her to the doctor when she got sick. Etc.

    Back then African slaves were considered sub-human. Women were considered sub-human. Jewish, Asians, even Irish people, etc. in the US also used to be considered “blacks,” which in those days meant sub-human. And because they were subhuman their enslavement went unquestioned.

    So does this mean I think people shouldn’t have pets, or that animals should have the same rights as humans? I live my life as if I, because I consider myself a human, am more important than a cat or a dog or a chicken. I’d be lying if I denied it. And I can’t pretend I really think keeping a pet cat is just as bad as keeping a human slave. But is this as it should be, or is in merely a self-justifying illusion? I honestly don’t know.

  14. Tehomet

    The Animal Rights view is that it is okay to have a companion animal living with one, providing that it is primarily to that animal’s benefit. As Twisty says, her horses and dogs would suffer if she were to release them. It’s okay to take in rescue animals. But that doesn’t mean breeding horses or dogs or any other animal is acceptable in AR terms.

    Those usually kept as ‘pets’ by humans should obviously be treated as well as possible, but in the long term, the keeping of pets, as such, is not compatible with animal liberation. Another area where the balance of rights between the individual and the group must be examined is in the case of spaying and neutering. Sterilising animals is an intrusion on the animal’s rights, but in terms of the whole animal population, there is a welfare justification. Albeit in the context of the wider issues of the genetic modification of animals to make them better ‘pets’, the lack of natural predators in the urban environment, and so on.

    Similarly, some AR folk have sanctuary farms where ex-dairy cows and ex-battery chickens and so forth can live out their natural lifespans in comfort and safety. But actually keeping cows and chickens for meat or for the humans’ benefit is part of the system of domination, and therefore IMO not okay.

    It may seem strange to be concerned with AR when there’s so much cruelty to humans, especially women and children, but one may as well start at the root.

  15. nakedthoughts

    Protect the ones that are alive and for Maude’s sake stop breeding new ones!

    most farm animals are here because the uterus that bore them forcibly had semen placed inside. To fight for an end to rape we should fight for an end to raping cows, pigs, horses, as well as humans.

    Of course with cats and dogs, the issue of neutering comes up. I still do not know which is worse, neutering an animal or letting it procreate with the knowledge that its offspring will face the same power imbalance and could end up in a home where they are not respected as much as the power imbalance allows.

    The fact that we have a choice to euthanize them shows the extent of their property status. they may not want freedom from a loving owner, but the power imbalance is there. And ANY owner can choose to kill their beloved pet at any point.

  16. Mary Tracy9

    Huh. After living with pets for, I don’t know, my whole life, I’ve discovered I’m allergic to pet hair. Probably what happens when you live with a cat in a flat.

    I live in a flat and I have a cat. I have constant allery. He is the biggest nuisance in the world, (no “good kitty” for him), he bites through things, he wants to eat the plants and climb up the window sill. Worst of all, he doesn’t let me cuddle him. And I still try, because, believe it or not, I love him.

    It is called love because it is no rational.

  17. Manuela

    Domestication is a done deal, yes, and so I’m with nakedthoughts in says protect those alive and stop breeding new ones.

    But I also think it is more than just breeding, because the discussion is not just about domestication and the imbalance of power in the human-animal relationship (though the whole concept of “owning” an animal really gives me the creeps).

    We must also talk about how there is no way to participate in the pet industry (even for such ‘humane’ reasons as sheltering ‘homeless’ animals) without supporting capitalism and the money making machine that this industry actually is, and without perpetuating a human(i.e. male)-as-master-commander way of being in the world.

  18. yttik

    Interestingly, one of the worst things you can do to an animal is to treat them like a people. Seriously, it totally impresses all these human defects onto the poor critter’s psyche. For example, have a look at a small dog that compulsively nips people’s heels and chases it’s tail around 2/7. They’ve likely gone half crazy from being somebody’s little person. It teaches us some fascinating things about human love gone all wrong. Adults can be just as blind to the impact of their behavior as a kid who insists on “loving” a kitty by carrying it around by the neck and squeezing it. People do the same thing to each other, have no awareness of where they end and another person begins and as a result their love can be quite self centered and toxic to those they target.

  19. FyrDrakken

    A timely thought, since I just ran across another blog post pertaining to the topic of domesticated animals frequently purchased as a seasonal gift and then “released into the wild” for a rapid death a few weeks or months later — which is to say, rabbits, which are Nature’s Happy Meal even as true wild animals and utterly helpless as former pets dumped by purchasers who found them to be less fun than hoped once they hit puberty and became territorial, grumbly and prone to spraying to mark territory. I’ve got a pair of them acquired as abandoned pets from a local rabbit rescue organization — both of them no doubt former Easter bunnies — and I do what I can to discourage people from buying a rabbit at all (let alone from a pet store) unless they’re prepared to deal with a nervous high-maintenance pet utterly unsuitable for a house with small children.

    Would my rabbits prefer to be freed in the yarn to hide under bushes, eat the spring grass, and scamper freely? Undoubtedly. Do they have the sense to avoid poisonous weeds, let alone cats and dogs and hawks? I strongly suspect they don’t. Am I keeping them inside? Yes, I am.

    (I just don’t have these worries about cats. But cats have always given me the sense of being animals that self-domesticated, choosing to live with us because we provide food and warm dwellings out of the rain and soft furniture to lie on. Ours get let outside nearly as often as they please, and wouldn’t come home if they didn’t prefer here to elsewhere.)

  20. slade

    I love animals and the people that love them. I believe that people who don’t like animals are to be avoided. They have some sort of major character flaw.

    I’d rather live with a cat than a person. People are basically very annoying and intrude on one’s privacy.

    I love listening to a cat purr.

    Loving a cat has given me more joy than loving a person since persons require so much damn attention and care. I find people absolutely exhausting. Trivial conversations, tedious activities. I have to leave, come home and take a nap.

    I don’t where ‘my kind of folks’ live, but it certainly isn’t near me.

    My cat used to listen to all my rants and when I was done, he would nod and blink his eyes…as in ‘Well done, my dear.’ Try to do that with a person.

    Go ahead and call me Crazy.

  21. JewellStar

    We are the stewards of the earth. Waxing spiritual, I can’t help it with this topic, we have a rational awareness that they don’t have. Human slaves are not the same because they are human. We can set them free and they can cope with their big brains and opposed thumbs. If necessary we can educate human slaves and give them jobs. Barring mental and emotional retardation from their traumatic experiences, they can become “productive.”

    Critters are dependents, like children that never grow up or like handicapped humans that will always need a mentor or a maid. If we want to compare pet ownership to something then compare it to parent/ handicapped child. We all know that adopting a pet is a life time commitment.

    We can’t make pets just “go away.” They exist and they need to be cared for. But we can make the profit for animal breeding go away. That would be a fairy tale come true. If all the critters were here because we loved them and not because of particular attributes. Gee, doesn’t that work for baby humans, too?

  22. LondonFalling

    In his book, “The Open”, Agamben wrote that animality is as performative as humanity. He coined the concept of the anthropological machine, an apparatus of various scientific, ontological, and political considerations creating a fundamental caesurae between the human and the animal. It’s concerned with demarcating exactly what is human by animalizing certain parts of human life in order to declare those parts of human life that cannot be animalized as the definition of the human. Guantanamo as the flipside of the chihuahua day spa?

  23. Liz

    Perhaps we should dedicate our lives to collectively buying land and anti-cultivating it to make it a home for “wild” animals of whatever kind drop from the sky. I know just by letting the weeds grow in my yard I’m providing a habitat for bugs and worms and birds. Heeere, wormy wormy!

    I am only half un-serious.

  24. Pinko Punko

    People are selfish- I am selfish. I love my furry pals. They are living pharmaceuticals for their human owners. It sucks, but it will just automatically be rationalized for any number of reasons- like the unchosed tradeoff of getting their cancers removed in exchange for their liberty, yet their liberty would be a life of hunger and no tummy rubs. It isn’t “fair” but this is the world right now. Revolution will handle these problems, or perhaps human extinction.

  25. Laughingrat

    Option A is preferable, really. I live in the comforting knowledge that as much affection as my rats might have for me, they’d also cheerfully devour my carcass should I conveniently expire within reach. Bless their wee, precious little hearts.

  26. humanbein

    We can only guess at the contents of the consciousness of animals, relying on our own perceptions for any clue we might have to their feelings. Concepts such as ownership and freedom are most likely far beyond their ability to feel or comprehend, if comprehension is even a word that applies to a consciousness as alien as an animal’s.

    What intrigues me most about Twissb’s comment was the behavior we exhibit towards animals, since speculation about beings who share our concept of the world and have more sophisticated abilities to communicate, ourselves, it is much more likely to be aligned with reality.

    The huge role love plays in our lives is something we rarely address, though we all feel it in many ways. Love is like a kind of brain drug that we all take in varying doses, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it weren’t connected with a lot of out hard-to-eradicate cultural training. Take an activity that produces the feeling of loving, like caring for a child, or even a member of the opposite sex who hates you, repeat over and over, and how could you not grow dependent on this behavior, even if it seems like, or is quite true that this person is taking advantage of you?

    I can easily see how women become hooked on love and how men exploit this addiction. But I can’t see how becoming hooked on the love of caring for an animal can have a downside.

  27. Amos

    Analogies to the excuses given for slavery, patriarchy, genocide, or whatever don’t follow, because those are lies. Animals really are different from humans. I’ll even say subhuman; if my car is going to hit a human or an animal, then that’s too bad for the animal. Treating animals liberally and refusing to recognize their different psychology is also a big problem. I have seen too many people with confused and unhappy dogs because the owner does not properly dominate their pet. Dogs are hierarchical and cannot be educated to humanism.

    Neuter seems like a pernicious term. My dog did not stop being male just because I had him castrated.

    On a side note: the Dalai Lama is an asshat, and if he lives in a palace then that’s what Mama should call it.

  28. Metal_teaport

    I have never had a cat, but I always figured there little gifts of dead mice and birds were a sign of affection. However, even my cat loving friends admit there is a problem with keeping cats because it infantilizes them. I would say, any cat that has experience outside could survive on its own reasonably well if it wanted to, they are strong, callous hunters. I guess this is less so if the cat has never gone outside, but I don’t think that is the norm in the UK. I feel uncomfortable with the fact that most cats in the US are kept entirely inside, however I note it is a very different culture to the UK. However, personally, I would never keep a cat unless I could let it out safely. This includes not being near a main road. That said, I have seen a lot of cats cope with roads by either looking both ways, or judging on a crossing, they can be surprisingly good at it.

    I do think keeping small animals is fairly cruel though, because you keep them caged up, and not let them run free. At the same time I am not vegetarian so I don’t think I really have a right to comment on it. Animals definitely do have some interact with their human owner, but I have no idea what they think about it all. I think the same would be true of fish.

  29. Erinyes

    Metal_teaport – I think the dead mice and birds are a show of superiority from cats. Since we’re too dumb to go out and catch our food (it’s all boxed and frozen and comes home in bags) it’s a way of saying, “look, I know you’re an inept hunter so I brought this for you.”

    I don’t pretend that my cats love me; they would surely eat my face were I to die and not be found for a few days. They don’t seem to give a shit if I need affection, and only one of them will cuddle sometimes but I think it’s more like, “hey, human. Why aren’t you feeding me/paying attention to me right now? WTF is your problem?” They have become accustomed enough to my daily routine to know that I sleep at night, and if they want to stay outside that late then they’ll be out until whenever I get up in the morning. This generally results in my having a cat sleeping at the foot of my bed, which is pretty nice.

    It is nice having them around in general, and while the balance of power would seem to be in my court, I don’t know that I’m always getting the better end of the deal. Still, beats life with men who knowingly take advantage of the needs of women for their personal gains.

  30. pheenobarbidoll

    Dead animals left by cats are warnings.

    They mean ” you could be next, bald monkey” in catanese.

  31. Laughingrat

    “Animals really are different from humans. I’ll even say subhuman; if my car is going to hit a human or an animal, then that’s too bad for the animal.”

    That is certainly your choice to make, and most of us would likely make that choice. Your error is in believing that this valuing of humans over other animals is somehow objectively true, rather than something our species prefers to believe. It’s a kind of superstitious, even religious thinking, in fact. If something like this is objectively true, rather than just an opinion so widely held that it is normalized and regarded as objective truth, it implies that some authority greater than humans themselves has ordained that truth.

    That thought always makes me smile when the person frantically asserting the “superiority” or greater *inherent* value of humans over other animals is also an avowed atheist. Believe what you like–everyone does, including me–but don’t confuse your value judgments with objective truth.

  32. IrishUp

    What is the “natural” state of animals and plants? Seems to be to live as best you can (fed, sheltered, uninjured) while trying NOT to be eaten by something else for as long as possible. Selfish-geners might also throw “sufficient N of individuals produce progeny what can reproduce” in there somewhere.

    In the best case scenario, humans provide their domesticates with a level of food, shelter and freedom from injury far beyond what is found without. Some decent scholarship supports that the genomic effects of domestication have been beneficial to those critters. In return, these domesticates provide labor, pest and garbage control, crop fertilization, protection, and food. This looks like symbiosis to me. Obvious exceptions would be the clusterfucktastrophe that is commercial food production, and abuse or neglect.

    Peer-reviewed journals and anecdata indicate that this symbiosis is mentally and emotionally beneficial for both the human and non-human animals. As others have pointed out, denying that animals have emotions and feelings and personal boundaries that are important and valid and worthy of respect is indeed, to treat them as wives. There’s that wives = chattel thing again. I feel comfortable ascribing an emotional and mental life to animals without assuming that $X_critter’s understanding is exactly like my homo sapiens sapiens understanding. In line with London Falling’s points, there is something decidedly unsavory about using the injunction not to anthropomorphize as a way to justify the mistreatment or killing of another creature.

    Whether or not they would eat my carcass seems a strange gage of another being’s love. Should any of my loved ones – human animal or not – be looking at my carcass as a way out of starvation, or even the most handy snack available, well, my friends, have at. Better than being a part of the Death Industrial Complex, say I.

    I’ve always attributed P to the formation of the city-state, or at least sufficient levels of sedentary agriculture that resource competition created the perceived need for war. If so, domestication predates P by a good shot. No doubt about it that sedentary agriculture and war have both accelerated domestication, though. Has P tainted us so badly we can’t have symbiotic relationships anymore?

  33. Nepenthe

    Ugh, letting cats outside is like giving the middle finger to the local songbird population. Songbirds are already stressed by habitat loss, pollution and various other crappy things humans do to them. Unleashing our domesticated killing machines* on them is just plain mean.

    *Cute fuzzy killing machines.

  34. IrishUp

    @Nepenthe; I’ve read some of that data, truly appalling. Southern Fried Science has an interesting link to the enviro impacts of domesticates recently.

    Where I live, we have no songbirds. Seagulls and starlings aplently, but not so much as robins nearby. I admit, IrishKitteh is outdoors often, never over-night due to the coyotes. His predation on the mice, starling, and rat population is prodigious. I would never let out if there were anything non-invasive / endangered for him to encounter.

  35. A Ginva

    Human dominance over all non-human sentient beings seems like a bottomless pit – the horror and brutality that animals suffer from human beings /patriarchy is beyond imagination. Concerning domesticated animals, in an ideal world we would coexist with them peacefully without them being forced into domestication and subservience to human beings for survival – this master-slave relationship with animas makes me feel really uncomfortable. I also hate how animals grow to become so emotionally dependant on their human ‘companions’. Otherwise, when I see people who keep animals in cages at their homes it makes me want to cry.

    The domination over animals (and nature) and domination over human beings – by men over women, children and destitute/inferiorised men) all seem to come from the same thing, that arrived at the same time: patriarchy, or the possibility of thinking that all sentient beings can be owned, appropriated, transformed into objects to be exploited, and consumed or destroyed. This is a necrophilic culture in which the only relationship that counts is a relationship of property, where someone is the master-owner and someone else the owned-slave.

  36. Discombobulated

    Laughingrat, thank you so much for your reply to that “subhuman” comment. I couldn’t reply myself, feeling repulsed and yet at the same time very, very tired.

    Ah, humankind! So convinced of how awesome you are, because it makes you feel so good about yourself.

  37. Cyberwulf

    If you’re going to keep an animal as a pet or livestock then you owe it to the animal to do it properly. That includes slaughter methods that are as humane as possible. But let’s not kid ourselves – animals aren’t people. I can’t stand it when people claim that given the choice between a child and a puppy, they’d gleefully run over the child and spare the puppy because whatever. It’s bullshit. Anyone who would seriously do that has fucked up priorities, or is desperately trying to be “edgy”.

  38. Melinda

    Animals aren’t subhuman, they are nonhuman (however you define “human”).
    I seriously don’t understand how TwissB’s comment about the human/pet relationship is “uncannily identical” to the way husbands in most cultures treat their wives. In what culture does a husband spend countless hours paying attention to his wife, carefully observing her and responding to her physical and emotional needs? I can’t think of a single one. In fact, I’d say it’s the reverse–that’s how wives treat their husbands!
    I don’t believe there was anything oppressive or nefarious in the domestication of companion animals, such as cats and dogs, because it was for mutual advantage. But as a vegan, I’m not thrilled with the way our treatment of food animals has changed over time. But that’s a different subject.
    There’s no reason to believe that what seems like affection from an animal is not affection; we do have many similar brain structures and behaviors. I know that my cat misses me when I’m gone, and is happy in my company. It’s not just food. And although he enjoys being in my garden, I don’t let him roam the neighborhood because he doesn’t belong there and it’s not safe for him. They have not evolved a way of dealing with fast-moving vehicles; they can’t even register their speed and direction accurately. Cats didn’t evolve in this environment–they are an invasive species–and they disrupt what’s left of the natural ecosystem when they kill birds and compete with native animals for resources. I have taken on the responsibility for providing a good life to my cat, and that suits us both.

  39. Cimorene

    I don’t know if I think that domestication is necessarily patriarchal. Actually I definitely think it isn’t. Based on my extremely methodologically sound research, based almost entirely on watching documentaries about dogs on netflix and reading random internet articles, the likelihood that dogs domesticated humans is as likely as the reverse. Most likely, though, we evolved in a way that involved coequal, symbiotic domestication.

    I think, also, a distinction needs to be made between domestication and taming. Species are domesticated; individuals are tamed. My dog is domesticated. Among other things, this means that his chances of survival in the wild is slim to none. Also he’s pretty dumb and not good with survival, something that I notice when he tries to attack and kill city buses or dump trucks. Those moments remind me that my leash and, indeed, poke collar are key to his survival, even if they may be on an immediate level oppressing him. Cows, also, have been domesticated–they would not survive in the wild, without fences and other artificial protective measures taken to secure their safety. I assume that cows were domesticated as patriarchy was developing, but I’m hesitant to say that patriarchy developed in a singular way–I imagine that patriarchies developed in different ways, in different forms, at different times and different speeds, around the world. It’s only for convenience sake that we use the singular when, really, they’re historically and geographically specific. And I’m not sure when domestication happened in relation to that social development.

    Taming an animal that’s a member of a wild species is a whole other kettle of fish, so to speak. They don’t need humans to survive, and would probably be a lot happier without us.

    But I do think that domesticated animals, or at least the ones we don’t eat but keep for pets (cats, dogs) are happier with us than without us. Part of this may be rationalization, but it’s also born of observation. The most recent addition to my family is a little big fatcat who interrupted our walk home from the grocery store demanding to be our slave-pet. And we took him in and he’s clearly better off with us (when we got him he had fleas, worms, and was half-starved). He needed a human to make sure he was ok, because he didn’t know how to survive without us.

  40. mythago

    Analogies to the excuses given for slavery, patriarchy, genocide, or whatever don’t follow, because those are lies.

    Exactly. And frankly seems to minimize the suffering of slaves – are we supposed to believe that slaves forbidden to leave their owner’s property felt JUST LIKE a cat does when you don’t let it run into the yard?

    If we’re talking about non-domesticated animals kept as pets, then I think there’s a much stronger argument for humans exercising dominance Just Because We Can and for captivity alone being abusive; but domesticated animals are by definition domesticated and were before we came along. None of us are pondering over the ancestors of horses saying “Let’s see, let it roam free or ride it?”

  41. Mortisha

    Do animals love us? I guess we will never really know the answer to that. Some people believe that they don’t have emotions at all. Though they certainly can bond and communicate with humans once they know they can trust you. Personally, I hate anthropomorphizing, it shows disrespect and contempt for the true animal nature. How can you say you love another sentient being we you deny and suppress their very living essence? Sound familiar?

    With the world population becoming more and more urbanised, many people will never experience what it is like to live and learn with wild animals. Anthropomorphism , while distasteful to a snob like me at least serves to provoke a empathic response that may improve situations for other members of the species. Take increasing pet dog ownership in some Asian cities leading to the younger generation finding the consuming of dog meat to be an unappealing option. It is a double edged sword most of the time.

    I’ve been a wild animal rehabber for years and frequently in awe with the complexity and depth of a wild mind. They are far from the mechanical simplicity of instinct and hormones we are lead to believe.

    One old horse I rescued from an very abusive situation. He had a bad reputation, everyone hated him and he hated everyone. Cunning smart, he’d very gleefully would kick the shit out of anyone he thought deserved it. To cut a long story short he and I worked out an understanding, his cunning plans were turning out to be not only a fascinating insight into a horse’s planning skills but pretty darn amusing.

    One night here, it was snowing and blowing a gale. Wind chill unspeakable. I was lying in bed stressing that I didn’t put enough rugs on one old and sick horse I had here at the time. So I grabbed a torch, put on the gumboots, grab an extra rug and set off on what I thought would be a short 15 min trek to find the horses. Two stupid hours later, found them far away from home and sorted the problem, said goodbye and headed back. On the way home my torch died, no lights to be seen and I fell down a ditch, rolled a few times, got disorientated and stuffed my ankle. FUN!!!

    A while later, a felt a horse sniffing my head, I reached up and grab its mane, figuring if I hang on to the horse while it was grazing. It’s body warmth would help me until the sun starts to come up and I can see what direction to get home. This horse was determine to keep moving, not in an I’m outta here way but a slow steady walk in one direction. I had no fricken idea where I was going, couldn’t see a damn thing and fought with horse occasional to get it to stop so I could rest my ankle plus I was worried about where in the hell I’d end up. Turns out it was the cranky old people hater that left his herd on a ferocious night, sought me out and spent 2 hours dragging me home to my back doorstep. I’m still astounded at that night.
    Go figure that one.

  42. Mortisha

    Humans ARE animals.

  43. Comrade PhysioProf

    From what I have read about the domestication of cats and dogs, they started the process themselves by hanging around human beings to cadge food, water, and shelter. Over time, the ones that were genetically predisposed to be “nicer” to human beings got better access to food, water, and shelter, and thus enjoyed improved reproductive fitness.

  44. FemDoc

    At the end of the day, it’s my cats who are pushing me out of my spot on the bed, drinking out of my water cup, using my reading chair as a scratching post, and waiting with barely-concealed impatience as I scoop their poop out of the litter box, just so they can soil it all over again, and tread, with dirty paws, across my counters. I’m not sure where I fall in the power and dignity structure of this family, but it sure ain’t near the top.

  45. nails

    I linked to a documentary from the BBC on my blog awhile back, it was about the different kinds of show dogs and the kennel clubs that judge em, and how they were bred in the past hundred years ago, etc. I believe its called “Pedigree Dogs Exposed”. The process is monstrous. The pit bull research I have been doing has also made me incredibly sad. Most of these pets are bred with genetic problems so that owners can have the “perfect” pet or win contests (or in the case of pit bulls look masculine and earn money from fights). Dog breeds were made this way to do jobs originally, but now it is more of a fashion show because few dogs work. It is gross in the extreme, what is worse is how many people think they have some kind of right to do this to animals. What could be done about animals that exist now, though, other than to take care of em? Not too sure how this applies to cats or bunnies or other animals, it seems like they all went through less abuse than dogs.

    That said, simply having power over another being isn’t always problematic. No one here would have a problem with caring for a person who has a level of functioning comparable to domesticated animals. In fact, failing to exercise power over a person in that situation would be seen as much less moral than caring for them. Although animals never cross into the territory of being able to comprehend and act as humans do, there are plenty of people who do end up with capacities comparable to animals. Considering people like that can guide our decision making in a way that isn’t as speciesist. If the needs and experiences are of prime importance rather than the species of the being then this is a very good way to decide what duties humans have towards other animals.

  46. slade

    Most animals are smarter than human animals.

  47. TwissB

    @ Melinda “I seriously don’t understand how TwissB’s comment about the human/pet relationship is “uncannily identical” to the way husbands in most cultures treat their wives. In what culture does a husband spend countless hours paying attention to his wife, carefully observing her and responding to her physical and emotional needs? I can’t think of a single one. In fact, I’d say it’s the reverse–that’s how wives treat their husbands!”

    Melinda wins the hand-crocheted toaster oven for correctly interpreting what I had in mind when I wrote that comment in reference to Kate Middleton’s likely fate. What no one caught was the unintentional ambiguity that makes it not quite fit either interpretation. Language bees that way sometimes.

  48. buttercup

    Yeah, the cats that live with us don’t go outside. Only one of them wants to, and we take him out on a leash from time to time so he can sniff around. The other two are terrified of the outdoors. We have a lot of birds and bird feeders, big woods out back, about four different kinds of woodpeckers, finches, cardinals, doves, sparrows, robins, jays, you name it. No way I’m letting cats out. We also have a family of hawks that live in the woods who probably would carry off a sufficiently small cat, not that any of ours fit that bill. I’ve shared the photos of our backyard turkeys before, too. They’d probably eat a large housecat without even blinking.
    Humans are in charge of the dog in the household because that’s the best thing for the dog. The cats make their own little solar systems of interaction with us and the other cats and the dog. Their power structure is very malleable and interesting. Figment, in particular, is in charge of almost everything all the time, especially me.

  49. Barbara P


    Not trying to particularly pick on you, but I found your comment interestingly revealing. Your phraseology sounds a lot like the “man of the house” jokey attitude where the wife is the “boss” and she and kids are really the ones running roughshod over the poor man. It’s funny because it’s not the normal order of things, see? The fact is that you do have enormous power over your pets because it’s your choice how you interact with them.

    Aside from that, great conversation. I don’t have a firm position on how humans should treat animals. However, all feminists can surely agree that women should not be treated the way animals are treated now, even if it’s “kindly”, the way one keeps a pet.

  50. Alexandra means She Who Wards Off Men

    What about the long-term prospects of liberated animal slaves/companions? That is, if I release my dog, I can pretty much guarantee he will be devoured by the pit bulls one block over, if not hit by a car on his way over there. But if we were to, say, liberate all the sheep or cows or horses, eventually they would go extinct. As it is, we don’t have any use for horses beyond keeping them as pets or for recreational activities. Not many people can even afford one. One suspects perhaps there are fewer horses around than, say, 200 years ago (although one does not know for sure).

    It may be that we never should have created domestic sheep and cattle, etc. in the first place; but now that they exist, do they not have a right to continue to live? I’m assuming here that sheep don’t think about the future of their species, or indeed their species at all, but only about their own individual survival. But one could argue that we have a duty to think about it for them. It seems both cruel and irresponsible to me to say, “Well, we made you like this, but you’re on your own now. You’re probably gonna die, but we thought you would appreciate a brief taste of freedom. Good luck!”

  51. Wuyong

    Hey Irishup, you get my hand-crocheted toaster oven for bringing up the next issue I would love to see discussed here, an even more difficult problem than pets, in short:

    Whence the P?

    If women really are not inherently “lower” or “inferior” or something to men in any way, how come the P (and social hierarchy, and violent group attacks on others of the same species, i.e. war) is (nearly?) 100% universal in all human groups for as far back as we can see, including in pre/non-agricultural human groups? And I may be wrong about this, but my understanding is that (almost? hello, Bonobos?) all primate groups are also male-dominated, with clear social hierarchies, as are dolphins, chickens, and pretty much everybody on the planet with perceptible social structure (okay, not bugs and plants and viruses, maybe … ) …

    What up with that, blametariat?

  52. girlanachronism

    So many people with so much to say about something so inconsequential. You know what IS slavery? The global trade in women to be used a sex slaves for men with money. You know what ISN’T slavery? My pet cat.

  53. Mortisha

    “all primate groups are also male-dominated, with clear social hierarchies, as are dolphins, chickens, and pretty much everybody on the planet with perceptible social structure (okay, not bugs and plants and viruses, maybe … “)

    While many do have social hierarchies, it is not correct that most animal groups are male dominated. Males may fight each other for the purpose of mating privileges. But Alpha females support or reject that status and provide the cultural continuity of the group.

    But all that is is a whole BBC series.

  54. Wuyong

    Thanks Mortisha. You sound like you probably know more about animals than I do. Now that you mention it, I think the inclusion of non-primate animals in this question might do more to weaken rather than strengthen the point — in any case it’s unnecessary. So here’s take II:

    If women really are not inherently “lower” or “inferior” or something to men in any way … (bla bla bla) … all primate groups are also male-dominated, with clear social hierarchies reinforced through violence.

  55. A Ginva

    The fact that we see a lot of animal groups as male-dominated might also be a result of patriarchy that distorts our view of animal societies. I read somewhere that a lot of animals groups are matriarchal because their social organisation is organised around fecundity and female animals always chose their mating partner. The fact that males fight for mating actually doesn’t influence the female’s choice, since she can chose the loser or refuse both. Don’t know about primates though.

    The problem with domesticating animals is that it’s a vast industry, millions of animals get killed, beaten and horrifically mistreated every year by ‘traffickers’ ‘sellers’ and ‘owners’. The domestication and artificial breeding of animals for human interests and ‘needs’ in general has also created vast environmental problems by introducing invasive breeds that disrupt the ecosystem and kill other wild species, by monopolising and exploiting arable lands to feed the animals, polluting the air and the environment.

  56. Vinaigrette Girl

    @Wuyong, you are perhaps close to trolling. but read up on patriarchal interpretations of existing data on primates, on the dangers of extrapolating from inherently-biased study designs on nonhuman interactions to human power relationships, and then ask us some good questions.

  57. Wuyong

    Ok, I hear you. Forget about the animals part, it’s confusing and unnecessary. Take III:

    If women really are not inherently “lower” or “inferior” or something to men in any way, how come the P (and social hierarchy, and violent group attacks on others of the same species, i.e. war) is (nearly?) 100% universal in all human groups for as far back as we can see, including in pre/non-agricultural human groups?

  58. Wuyong

    One more footnote and then I’ve reached my limit for this thread!
    Honestly, I think this is a question we need to ask. It’s a hard question, I know — in fact I think it’s something of an elephant in the radfem living room, one of the elephants. But I want to look at those elephants. I don’t think it helps us to ignore them.
    Twisty herself says the P is universal. We want to change that, right? In order to change it (and keep it changed), we ought to consider how it came about, don’t you think? Especially in light of how incredibly widespread it appears to be.
    My intention is certainly not to troll. I do apologize for giving that impression. If Twisty decides my comments are inappropriate she can and will delete me, and that’ll be that.

  59. Cara

    On Patriarchy seeming to be near-universal in human history, as well as agreeing with other commenters that it probably wasn’t anywhere near as universal as our current Patriarchal society likes to think, I’d like to point out that there are lots of other things which are considered to have been near-universal in human history, which are not considered to have much relevance to our current society. Things like: absolute monarchs, feudalism, slavery, homophobia, not having plumbing, believing that spirits or gods play a literal, active role in day-to-day life, widespread illiteracy, most people dying before the age of 40, and not being able to travel long-distances or use the Internet.

    What I’m getting at is that the conditions of societies that existed more than, say, 50 years ago don’t have a whole lot of relevance to our current society, even if those conditions lasted a very long time or were very widespread, because things are very different now.

  60. Cara

    Also, suppose a person wanted to say if a certain group of people has been oppressed throughout history, this could be taken as evidence of that group’s inherent inferiority. (I’m not saying anyone here said that, but let’s suppose). The conclusion would be that *any* group that throughout history has been on the losing side, is inherently inferior. That would include, off the top of my head, women, Blacks, Jews, homosexuals, peasants, the working class… it’s nonsense.

  61. Wuyong

    Ok one last one and then that’s it I promise!
    You guys, I really appreciate how you are paring this question down to the only part that really matters:

    How did something as wrong as the P become universal? Why didn’t someone (women?) put a stop to it?

  62. speedbudget

    Wuyong, you are trolling. This thread is about human/animal interaction in the way of pet ownership, not about why women are inferior. We have heard all the shit you are spewing before, and we are not amused.

    You want to talk about elephants? Completely matriarchal. Otherwise, shaddap.

    Back on topic, it’s not right for us to consider NOT having pet ownership, given, as has been pointed out in the thread already, humans have domesticated these species of animals and made them utterly dependent upon us. It is incumbent upon humans to have as egalitarian relationships as possible with our pets, to consider their needs and their wants and their comfort as carefully as we consider our own. My own dog has quirks and needs that I absolutely must take into consideration for her own sanity, given I rescued her from a not-all-together pleasant beginning. And I do so happily, because what she gives me is love and attention and her clowning around the house.

  63. Jodie

    In the best cases, having a pet is a kind of symbiosis, I think, and as Irishup talked about above.

    In the worst cases, those where people mistreat, harm, or neglect their animals, that’s like Patriarchy.

    How to make sure all companion animals can have the first and avoid the second, that’s the big question.

    I volunteer for our local kill shelter. It’s hard, but most of those animals appear to crave human interaction and most people avoid it because it is hard, so they are caught in a double bind. Companion animals can’t be left to run wild as the vast majority (dogs and cats both) can’t fend for themselves (though…chickens are another matter…at the uni I work for, there is a little flock that has been there for at least 2 years with no human carers). Is a quick death (euthanizing) better than a prolonged death from starvation, parasites, or injury from cars (all of which sorts of animals I’ve seen brought into the shelter)? I know which I’d choose; then again, I can’t choose for all, and you may have different ideas. I’d rather pay more in taxes and have all shelters be no kill. Ours is trying and has the goal set for 2012. I wish they all would.

    I have three dogs (a result of said volunteering); they dance and jump when I come home. They don’t do this for casual visitors. While I can’t know for certain what’s in their heads, I am pretty sure they are happy to be here, with me.

  64. laxsoppa

    Wuyong, the very idea that the oppression of women, blacks, jews, children, etc is somehow based on some sort of “natural” fact that these groups are somehow inherently “inferior” – although I’d like to know how women *are* inferior to men without a system of oppression making it so – is itself a core belief and reproductive tool of the Patriarchy. I understand where you’re coming from with your questions, because it’s the same place as everyone else.

    Others have pointed out examples of how oppression of a whole host of groups, not all of them women, has been perpetuated through the ages through dehumanization and deeming them inherently sub-human and “inferior”. It is jarring to see this reasoning being presented as legitimate rationalization of continued oppression in this day and age, even hypothetically or for the purpose of playing Devil’s Advocate. It is victim-blaming on a more abstract level.

    The ongoing oppression of indigenous peoples in and out of Western countries is a particularly obnoxious example of how entire peoples’ rights to their own cultures and their ways of life are trivialised as something outdated and unsuitable for the “modern life”. Inferior. If you permit a personal anecdote, my entire fucking family has been bullied out of speaking our own language, making my grandfather the last of us to speak it, because they were told it would be no use in the modern world; that our entire culture was useless now that we had roads and cars and stuff. And that is pretty mild compared to what other generations and other peoples have had to endure in the clutches of the Post-Colonial Western Patriarchal Complex. People have even killed and still do kill themselves over this kind of disconnect with their own background and the Western identities they were supposed to adopt in order to function in Western societies. Does that really imply our inherent inferiority?

    Or, to bring the subject to a setting that is probably sadly familiar to everyone here, what gives a bully in the schoolyard the right to terrorise and subjugate others? The inherent “inferiority” of the bullied geeks?

  65. buttercup

    As a spinner and knitter, the thought of no more sheep makes me feel pretty sad. Can we just have free range sheep, alpacas, and camels who come in to have their excess hair removed on a regular basis?

    On a more serious note, fiber bearing animals are an important part of human survival in many parts of the world. It’s way easier to make clothes with felt, woven fabric, or knitted fabric than with animal skins, and way kinder to the animal than skinning it. Plant fibers are not usually warm, and are very labor and fieldwork intensive. Children in the Peruvian highlands are given spindles as soon as they can hold them and taught to spin. In Iraq and Afghanistan and Mongolia and many other places, the flock and the family are one and the same, and this incudes dogs, or llamas, to guard and protect the flock, whether they’re used for fiber, milk, meat, or all of the above. These animals are not pets, but they are essential to human survival in many places and have doubtless helped bring us to the place we are intellectually, good or bad. Where would we be without animal-based textiles?

  66. smaller

    Domesticated animals are ill-equipped to thrive without human care. A feral cat has what, an average of two to five years of life? And more than half of feral-born kittens die before they’re a year old, often due to human-induced problems like vehicles and feral cat overpopulation because people let their pets wander around unsterilized.

    The only humane response is to give our pets a safe, loving home, and spay the crap out of every domestic animal that moves until they’ve all passed on naturally without making more of themselves to continue any cycle of oppression or suffering.

  67. Kelly

    If a shoal of fish were threatened by a predator, we would let it happen because “it’s nature”. If we interfere, the fish live but the predator goes without food. We let the mass killing of prey animals by carnivores and omnivores continue without interference because it’s the ~circle of life~.

    If humans are threatened in this way, we roll up our sleeves and do what we can.

    Maybe objectively humans aren’t better than animals but it does not make any sense to say that they should have the same rights. Even domesticated animals.

    The reason the arguments about human slaves sound so familiar right now is because they were misappropriated from the arguments about keeping animals for food/companionship etc.

    The arguments about human slaves are wrong because human beings really suffer when they are not given agency, freedom, choice etc but animals do not notice as long as their concrete needs are met.

  68. tinfoil hattie

    My day is all messed uppe when Phisio omittes the exxtra vowels and consonanttes in his posts.

  69. Kathleen

    Wuyong might be trolling, but I actually think s/he raises a good question. There are only two possible answers to the universally inferior status of women in human societies (Wuyong is wrong about the primate stuff, but who cares, the interesting question is humans anyway): one, women are in fact inferior. Or, two, the oppression of women is a fundamental part of the human story and human difference (which in itself makes human-animal relations interesting to feminists) and means that the feminist project is at odds with humanity as we know it, which explains why it is so effing hard.

    There are two responses, in turn, to the second answer to the previous question: one, feminists should cut it out, they are undermining humanity as we know it! Or, two, feminists should carry on, humanity as we know it is no great shakes.

    I opt for (2) and (2), obvy.

  70. Kathleen

    about animals — do our current relations with animals (even loving, caring, affectionate ones) kind of suck? yes. Would they be different in unpredictable ways in a feminist-transformed world? Yes.

    (sorry for the Rumsfeldian form of the question-posing, it’s lazy I know).

  71. minervaK

    Isn’t swerving to miss a human and instead killing an animal with one’s car a prime example of the type of biological determinism that underpins patriarchy? i.e., we make the automatic assumption that the human is more “valuable” simply because s/he is a member of our species; simply because we share biological traits. What if the human were an axe murderer?

    As an animal lover — I unashamedly admit that I love my animals as much as I have ever loved any human being — it drives me crazy to listen to humans talk about what animals can and can’t do. Given that the common human definition of “love” is just a fetishization of the sexual urge, it should surprise no one that animals dispense with it, but gimme a break on the “animals can’t love” thing. How the hell do we know? Because we have such big brains and walk upright? My critters follow me around, snuggle me, gaze at me adoringly. If they only do it because I feed them, the same could be said of The Spouse — that he follows me around, snuggles me, and gazes at me adoringly because I provide him with stuff that he likes. The behavior signifies something that I recognize as love, no matter what flavor of being it emanates from.

    Also, the giving of love to a sentient being is rewarding, regardless sometimes of whether or not it’s reciprocated. The idea that loving a creature that doesn’t love you back is stupid is patriocapitalist in the extreme.

  72. minervaK

    Just had a look at Wuyong’s question, which reminds me to clarify something: we are animals. We see things through the lens of our human animalism. We deem other animals (and sometimes other classes of people) “inferior” or “superior” based on our subjective, human understanding of Reality. We think we have, but do not really have, a direct line to The Truth unavailable to other peoples or species. In short, we are frequently blinded by a belief in our own superiority (after all, we’re at the top of the food chain, right? We must be The Best).

    I believe patriarchy evolved from the male pre-human’s propensity toward violence and the female pre-human’s propensity toward peace-making. Yes, biological determinism, but wait. As we EVOLVED into higher-brain functioning, this “tradition” followed us via our limited understanding of The Truth, as described above. In short, we fucked up, and we still haven’t fixed it.

  73. Kathleen

    minervaK: ? where in de hoomin (or pre-hoomin) brain are these propensities located?

  74. Kali

    There is an objective morality, and then there is a morality defined by the powers-that-be. In terms of objective morality, all sentient beings have the same value and rights – caterpillars, humans, dogs, cats. It is immoral for the cat to knowingly cause unnecessary harm to a bird, or for a human to knowingly cause unnecessary harm to a dog, or for a caterpillar to knowingly cause unnecessary harm to a human etc. The “knowingly” caveat lets the caterpillar off the hook – the poor thing doesn’t know it is causing harm. The “unnecessary” caveat lets all of us off the hook when we act in self-defense or for survival. The “harm” caveat lets Twisty off the hook because she is following the option that causes the least harm given the situation she is in.

    All this talk about who is inferior to whom, and who is entitled to enslave whom, is the second kind of morality (a fake, self-serving, dishonest one) – just a convenient way for the more powerful to justify whom they can exploit, abuse, harm.

  75. Jezebella

    Kathleen: I suspect they’re located in the testicles, which produce the testosterone.

  76. Vic

    I’m “ill equipped to go native.” I wanna break out of wage slavery but I’m stuck. So I understand about the domesticated animal. I know we wish we could set them free and see them flourish, but we first have to figure out how to undomesticate ourselves, just to find the edge of the bubble. We see a wild thing and want to tame it because we ourselves have been hobbled. Or maybe we wish our overseers were so kind to us as we are to our pets. I know I never went to buy a pet at a pet store, and once I worked at one to see what conditions were being forced upon “the merchandise.” I’ve never tried to keep a pet in an apt. with limited space and the only time I felt compelled to adopt a furry friend was when I was trying to set up my living situation out in the country and a stray puppy tried to adopt me. We had a connection and I really wanted him, but the house building project I had gone there to do didn’t work out. I was staying at a relative’s place to save money and his house was in town. So I could not take the puppy in. He’s still on my mind and that was in 2003. I think if we stopped breeding pets for pleasure or service and concentrated on adopting all the ones who already exist, that would be a way to break the cycle. But then I also advocate that for humans…

    Sometimes on a farm I can get the feeling like there is harmony, and the animals who live and work there don’t feel like prisoners because they spend just a few hours working and the rest is theirs to hang out with their companions or family. But what do I know? I’m not Dr. Doolittle. But a farm feels more like what I would want for myself as a human, and I guess that’s my only frame of reference. To have the option to grow some of my food, to sometimes work for money but to not feel trapped by the money train because I can at least eat my produce if I go bankrupt. To be able to bow out from the rat race (sorry, rats) at times to refresh and recoup. (I know farming is money-intensive but I still idealize it as better than urban job life).

    I think your pet companions have the best possible living situation they could have in today’s world. A champion for their cause who loves them and is aware of the inconsistencies. Any guilt can be channeled towards smashing the fuckwads who invented this system and shoved it down our psyches. Oh, wait, you’re already doing that!

  77. Roving Thundercloud

    I’m with Smaller on this one: “The only humane response is to give our pets a safe, loving home, and spay the crap out of every domestic animal that moves until they’ve all passed on naturally without making more of themselves to continue any cycle of oppression or suffering.”

    The argument that “well if you turn them loose they’ll just die” is a specious one; of course they would, it’s not a serious proposal–this is a discussion of what benefits animals the most.

    Also, as Kali says, Twisty is doing the least-harm-now-that-I-find-myself-here path. Where does that leave me? I cherish our kitties but will not take on more. I feel bad about keeping a (very happy) Betta for my kid to groove on because the aquaria industry treats water-based life as disposable-for-profit. It’s hard for me to justify taking my little budding scientist to a zoo no matter how much she loves it, and I will definitely skip the circus.

    As an aside, cats–unless they have been taught to hunt by their mamas–can’t survive outdoors-only. Don’t forget that these days we also have feline AIDS and leukemia as well as cars, canines, and cruel humans.

  78. Lexie

    Hmmm, I’ve thought about this, because my dog actually has a job and is my slave. I have a guide dog, my second at that. On the one hand, he has a pretty good life. He gets to go everywhere with me and he seems to very much like to guide. He seems to like the challenge of it, and it keeps his mind busy.

    This brings me to my other point. My dog had a year and a half education. Which might be the equivalent to a Ph.D as compared to your average dog’s 8 weeks of obedience class at PetSmart. My dog knows how to find stairs and chairs. He knows left and right. He understands the nuances of how to act in a business meeting as opposed to the park. When I am around other dogs now, it is a little like what I would imagine being around an adult who was locked up as a child most of their life. They seem stunted and immature, as if there is so much more they could do, they just never got the opportunity to live up to their full potential. My dog even looks at them as if they are a little developmentally delayed. It makes me wonder how much we hold our animals back in an effort to keep them conveniently docile and dependent on us.

    I’m not suggesting that if we put all of our pets through a doctorate program that they could go off and live independently as fully sentient beings. I’m mostly just observing out loud. My guide dog, who can navigate his way to the train station, sit happily on the train, get off and walk his own self to my coffee hang-out, find me a seat in it, and then happily trot off to work still thinks “hunting for food” means sitting pretty with his tongue hanging out willst I scoop his cup and a half of kibble twice a day. But I also think it is something to think about (don’t know the answer) that animals can’t live in the wild simply because we’ve made them dumb and dependent, not because they really ARE too stupid to survive on their own inherently.

    (BTW, I could say the same thing about my kids. My two six year olds are perfectly capable of running to the store, getting on the (city) bus and heading for school, and riding their own bike to the park and back. But I’m not allowed to let them do that because someone would call DCF on me about the chance that they could get abducted. and that is more dangerous than anything else. So I see the learned helplessness they develop. THEY don’t realize that they could run out my front door and go purchase themselves their own CoCoa Puffs. And it makes my life more convenient, I s’pose. Learned dependence, a powerful tool of oppression!)

  79. Rachel

    Wuyong – The invention of Patriarchy, archaeologically/anthropologically speaking, is frequently hypothesized to have coincided with the rise of agriculture. As hunter-gatherer nomads, it was not practicable to have more than one kid every few years, both so they could keep up with the group and so the mother wouldn’t be constantly crippled with pregnancy and childbearing. As a result, gender roles were more or less equal (and everything about “men hunt women gather” is an utter vile lie, there are plenty of skeletons in full warrior regalia with some wide-ass female pelvises to be found in neolithic graves.) With the rise of agriculture, the farm lots of unpaid farmhands (children) could expand and thrive better than their neighbor, and since only women can get pregnant, men devised lots of lies and started putting on the pressure to trick or force them into assuming a basically all-reproduction, all-the-time slavery. That’s how the story goes anyway.

  80. nails


    “In terms of objective morality, all sentient beings have the same value and rights – caterpillars, humans, dogs, cats.”

    Why would things that have different capacities have the same rights? Men lack abortion rights (as in, the right to have an abortion performed on their own body) because they are not capable of being pregnant. The lack of capacity for pregnancy removes the reason to provide them equal rights relating to pregnancies. The difference in capacity between animals and humans is much more pronounced. It seems more reasonable to me to say that living beings merit equal consideration, exactly because their capabilities vary so much. Using the “all of us are equal in rights and values” idea would mean that humans should have drastically reduced rights or animals should have rights that they are completely incapable of utilizing in any meaningful sense. Neither thing sounds that moral to me.

  81. Treefinger

    Although I fear it distracts from the point (on which I pretty much agree with Twisty), I think one thing that can be distinguished from having pets/companion animals is the culture surrounding the “pet” as concept. This latter thing is pretty bad- the whole anthropomorphism, idea that certain pets are for certain genders, some habits that have evolved concerning how to treat pets for doing certain things. And of course, the stronger discourse of a D/s relationship between man and other animals within that culture.

    I wish I hadn’t grown up with a bunch of toy commercials for little girls convincing me that persian cats, the floofier and whiter the better, were the best cats. I can’t really harsh on myself for constantly begging for one when I was 7 years old and younger, but still. I love the cat we ended up getting (and always have), I just look back on the fact I essentially bugged my parents until they ended up supporting pedigree breeding with some annoyance.

    At any rate one of the most frequent ways I’m reminded that the cat is Inferior is how often my mother threatens to throw her out or put her in a shelter (usually for some very minor behavior like scratching on a carpet or not liking being grabbed and hugged all the time). It bugs me how easily humans will give away animals (or worse, neglect and abuse them) when they only show minor “bad behaviour”. When you take an animal into your home, you have to be prepared for the fact the animal is an individual and won’t always behave perfectly. Shelters are for animals you truly can’t cope with.

    Also, one thing to make you feel like a shitbag no matter what: you have a longhaired cat, but it hates being groomed. Violently. Until you discover the magic of pet shaving services (if you’re lucky that the cat doesn’t mind THAT), your choices are to let the cat develop knots that can cause all sorts of problems, or hold the poor thing down and brush despite its angry resistance.

  82. Kathleen

    Rachel — that story is wrong for various reasons (and, btw, it’s a zombie feminist version of an undead 19th century theory that arrays all kinds of human societies along a single staircase, with Industrial Revolution England at the top) . The “rise of agriculture” isn’t one thing that happened in every society; it’s an uneven thing that happened some places, not in others, that was combined with other stuff, that came and went over time — it’s not a step in a staircase.

    The many hunter-gatherer societies about which we do know quite a bit are less hierarchical overall than, say, state societies. however, it is a real human universal (to the extent we know the ethnographic and archaeological record) that women are less socially valued than are men in every kind of society from which we have relevant evidence (ethnographic, historical, archaeological). It poses a fundamental problem for feminism — a really interesting one, I think, and not one that makes me less committed to feminism but even more so.

  83. Alexandra means She Who Wards Off Men

    Buttercup, you raise an important point in re: human dependence on animal fibers. That got me thinking about a discussion that some of my non-American friends have been having about vegetarianism. Some of these friends, though great animal lovers, feel that vegetarianism–or more accurately, an anti-meat ideology/moral system–is inherently hegemonic and oppressive. They actually eat meat in protest. In their countries (one of which was India), poor people often depend on meat for necessary protein, while vegetarianism, as both a diet and an ideological stance, is a luxury of the Brahmin caste. The caste system reinforces the ideas that non-Brahmins are lower because they are not as moral, and therefore are doomed to reincarnate in a relatively low position. So if you’re poor, you’re going to be poor forever and ever…which is great for the Brahmins. I have to admit it does seem like a very similar logic to some of the rationales for keeping women lower.

    Anyway, I’m not sure where I stand in the meat-eating debate (so far I am a troubled omnivore), but I do think some of the moral questions we wrestle with here are luxuries others can’t afford. I do not think, however, that the same can be said of patriarchy. That is, I can accept certain arguments in favor of eating meat or shearing sheep or keeping pets, but not so for the P. So I guess I don’t see pet-having as equivalent to woman-oppressing.

  84. Manuela

    Mortisha, thank you for sharing that story. what an experience!

  85. Alexandra means She Who Wards Off Men

    Oh P.S. (meant to put this in the previous post): As for the origins of patriarchy and how it does or doesn’t pertain to other primates, in the case of other primates the larger physical size of males really does seem to be a critical factor. Chimpanzee females have a terrible time of it, bonobos not so much, but along with the less aggressive social dynamics of bonobos, they are also less sexually dimorphic. The implication is that it is not as easy for a male to physically overwhelm a female in an interpersonal dispute. It’s no explanation of human behavior though, much less a justification, because humans have very elaborate social systems for dealing with conflict and are probably the least sexually dimorphic of all primates. Yet we have the P.

    As for archaeological evidence, finding female skeletons with warrior regalia (these date from the Iron Age) actually tells us little about women’s status in those cultures, because (a) we don’t know what weapons in burials meant (i.e., symbolic or pragmatic, possessions or gifts, etc. etc.) but we also don’t know the gender of those individuals. E.g., they could have been a third gender.

    With regard to childbearing and use as reproductive slaves, it is worth mentioning that the birth spacing of hunter-gatherers isn’t entirely a matter of choice (e.g., to facilitate ease of travel/work), but is also physiologically determined. When there is little fat in the diet, lactation acts to suppress ovulation. Most hunter-gatherers don’t have enough fat to overcome this effect, whereas after the advent of plant and animal domestication, fat was abundant enough to suppress the contraceptive effect. This is one of the reasons for the rise in fecundity in farmers.

    I mention these things not to be pedantic about archaeological trivia (although I am) but because I think they have significant ramifications for the interpretation of archaeological data, and therefore, for our understanding of the origins of P and how it became so prevalent. Carry on!

  86. Shelby

    Kitty-kitty wakes me anywhere from 2am – 4am most mornings by meowing loudly whilst simultaneously slamming repeatedly into my closed bedroom door. He wants to go outside or he wants more food. Every night I vow I will not respond to his demands. There is a power imbalance in our relationship.

    Mortisha. Wowsers!

  87. alex

    Another factor to keep in mind when mulling over the morality of domestication is that the idea of domestication as something that humans imposed on animals–“Man saw the the dog could be useful in hunting, so Man domesticated him” sort of thing–is the P’s narrative about how humankind’s special relationship with some animal species began. There’s no way to know for sure, at this point, if that’s what really went down. The alternative theory that some species, dogs especially, in part domesticated themselves as they perceived advantages to living around humans is just as plausible. We can also observe in the natural world today that many kinds of animals live in mixed-species groups with no coercion going on–giraffes and zebras, for example, live in mixed herds.

    Now, the relationship between humans and domesticated species has definitely evolved to involve some coercion. Massive amounts in the case of, say, battery hens, and minimal amounts in the case of, say, pet cats who turned up willingly at somebody’s house and asked to come in (even in that case there are some coercive forces at work in the background, like the lack of safe habitat and food supply for feral cats–but a lot less than is the case with some other species). But it’s not necessarily so that the entire process of domestication is rotten at the core.

    If we’re just blue-skying, we could talk about how to walk back the process of domestication to the point where it is a mutually beneficial arrangement rather than a coercive one. It would take a lot of work to even figure out what that might look like*, but in practical terms it’s probably not any less realistic than the easier-to-formulate “eliminate all domesticated animals through cessation of breeding, while providing quality of life to all extant individuals” plan (which is to say that neither one is particularly realistic).

    *The situation that exists with feral cats is probably the first place to look in terms of working out what this might look like–cats are capable of surviving at least to breeding age without human assistance, but many of them behaviorally express a preference for human assistance when available, so…I don’t know; that’s as far as I got.

  88. minervaK

    Treefinger said:

    It bugs me how easily humans will give away animals (or worse, neglect and abuse them) when they only show minor “bad behaviour”. When you take an animal into your home, you have to be prepared for the fact the animal is an individual and won’t always behave perfectly.

    With which I wholeheartedly agree. When making household decisions where we live, the cats’ needs are always a factor. People think we’re nuts. I think THEY are.

    True story time:

    When the vet I had been using for some decades decided to cave to sickening cultural mores and begin offering on-demand finger amputation for cats (“declawing”), I had to find a new vet. I called and visited many, the most egregious of which was a vet who had DECLAWED HER OWN CAT because “she wanted to have nice furniture.” When I asked her how she could do such a thing, she rationalized it thusly, “I gave him lots of pain medication, more that I GIVE MOST OF MY CLIENTS.” I nearly vomited right on her.

    Fortunately, I’ve since found an awesome refuse-to-mutilate vet; if you’re in Austin and would like to support them, ping me and I’ll give you their contact info.

  89. Comrade PhysioProf

    In terms of objective morality, all sentient beings have the same value and rights – caterpillars, humans, dogs, cats.

    What is the means by which one can discern the nature of objective morality?

    What is the evidence that caterpillars are sentient beings?

  90. Jezebella

    Alex, a little anecdata in re: your comment about feral cats: my Nigel Kitty was one of about ten porch kitties I was feeding regularly a few years back. They all had regular food & water, shelter (albeit under the house and on the porch), but I couldn’t afford vet care for all of them. In fact, none of them would get anywhere near me and there is absolutely no organization anywhere near Buttcrack, Mississippi that will help a sister out with some feral cat trap-neuter-release expenses. Believe me, I tried.

    Except Nigel Kitty, the one who spent hours in the window of any room I inhabited, who would hang out on the windowsill interacting with my indoor cats, who begged for pettings when I was outside, and who eventually trotted right inside when I opened the door one snowy evening and said, “alright, already, come on in.” His propensity to interact with humans saved his life, as it happens, because the rest of his clan succumbed to a nasty virus about six months later. Despite their relatively safe habitat, fairly large and safe area of countryside to roam in, and steady food supply, their lack of access to human medical care meant they died much younger than wee Nigel, who is snoozing atop my bed at this very moment.

    I guess what I’m saying is that the idea that cats & dogs domesticated themselves is not so far-fetched. Seems a pretty sound survival strategy.

    And now there is a cat drinking from my glass of filtered water.

  91. minervaK

    “Objective morality?” WTF is that?

  92. Ayla

    Would it be inappropriate to post a personal anecdote/question about a cat? I know nothing of them but need some advice about what to do re: a cat that I do not own, yet feel a strange personal responsibility for, for reasons I could expound upon if this isn’t too tangential to the thread.

  93. Ashley

    I wonder if people’s views of romantic partnership generally line up with their views on having pets. For me, they do. In a post-patriarchy, we would still have relationships with companion animals, because I’m pretty sure people and animals pretty much love those relationships, when handled properly. I’d think people would just be much more careful to avoid anything that might harm and exploit animals in those relationships.

  94. CrazyQuilter

    Wuyong, you’re…did you just…try to justify the argument that domestic animals are slaves…by trying to draw parallels between the ANIMALS’ lives in the wild…and African people’s lives…in their CIVILISED VILLAGES and TOWNS? Where they, as human beings, you know, generally did fairly well, up until the whole ‘other people abducting and selling them as slaves’ bit? And who actually COULD fend for themselves, you know? Because they were HUMAN and not NON-HUMAN ANIMALS?

    i really don’t know what to think, if you want to seriously argue that keeping chickens is on par with keeping African, or later African-American, CHILDREN. what are you trying to assert, here?

    i would ask the same question about the other races, but you more or less spelled out the African issue. i’m dying to know if you really think those two are comparable.
    do you, for example, believe that a chicken has the ability to “conceptualize freedom” in the same way an African child does?

  95. CrazyQuilter

    @Wuyong again–
    and to clarify, i know you were borrowing and adding onto an old argument used by slaveholders.

    my question is how, and why, YOU, today, feel the need to use that argument to compare the suffering of millions of HUMAN PEOPLE to the suffering of animals.

    are animals’ sufferings “lesser”? i don’t know; my people weren’t ‘enslaved’ wild mustangs. we were too busy being treated WORSE than most people would treat their horses, for less food, and worse shelter and overall care.
    even back then, there weren’t many people who would rape a horse’s mother in front of them and then accuse that mare of being a black jezebel who leapt on him of her own volition. there also weren’t many people who would deliberately permanently cripple a horse because it had once run away. or who would cut a horse’s ear off for lying.
    actually, if you get right down to it, it seems slaveholders tended to be much kinder to their ANIMAL “slaves” than they were to their human ones.

    at any rate, your comparison and line of questioning made my eyebrows do a Shocked Creep towards my hairline.

  96. Jill

    “And now there is a cat drinking from my glass of filtered water.”

    That drives me batso! That, and they always want to sit on whatever you’re reading. And that business with the toilet paper-unraveling. And the shredded furniture. And kitty litter on the bathmat. And the refusal to be put in a carrier to go to the vet resulting in bloodshed.

    A cat with outside access won’t pee on your bed, but outside cats get sick, run over, and beat up in the city, and in the country the coyotes get’em and turn’em inside-out. So, no cats here at Spinster HQ.

    Naw, I’m not really a hata. My last cat Ozone lived with me for 19 years. She did this cute thing where she’d put her paw on my chin and just leave it there, which for some reason I got a big bang out of. I put the box supposedly containing her cremains on a rock with a view out in the Back 40.

  97. Treefinger


    I’m a Brit, but thanks anyway!

    We did once change our vet after the first one we had did something pretty unforgivable. Our cat had to be anaethetized for something I don’t remember, and we asked if they would groom her while she was out to avoid the stress she goes through while she’s awake. They agreed, but returned her with a fucking gigantic incision running from her chest to her back legs, all stitched up, and neglected to tell us they had done this. I think what happened is they tried to cut off some of her knots with scissors, and got the skin by accident (she has a lot of baggy skin around her abdomen), but Christ, you don’t just do that and not inform the owners that you slashed their cat by mistake!

    Luckily our new vets seem a lot more competent and nothing like that ever happened again. I’m surprised the cat is so healthy at 14 years old after everything that’s happened to her, but I guess being a homebody does protect cats from most of the horrible things that can happen to them.

    As for cute feline habits, ours likes to push human faces away if they get too close, take her owners on random walks around the house (she doesn’t want food, she doesn’t want fresh air, she just wants us to follow her around. I guess she likes being boss), and eat bread. If you have a nice piece of fish next to a slice of bread, she will steal the bread, not the fish. Weirdo.

  98. Jill

    Hey CrazyQuilter, without commenting the slavery metaphor, I’d just like to mention that people commit ungodly atrocities against horses every hour of every day. They starve’em, beat the shit out them, drug them, pour caustic chemicals on their feet (to make them pick them up higher), lock them up in 12′ x 12′ cells 24/7, use torture devices (twisted wire bits, insane martingales, twitches, whips, spurs), do crazy shoeing jobs (again, to make them pick up their feet) that make them lame, rollkur (which cranks their heads down at impossible angles), breed’em without regard for genetic disease, and all kinds of other hideous stuff. This stuff isn’t anomalous, either, it’s common and widespread. In many equine-related subcultures, such as the Tennessee Walkers’ “Big Lick,” abuse is actually the norm.

    It blows the lobe, really.

  99. Kali

    Why would things that have different capacities have the same rights? Men lack abortion rights (as in, the right to have an abortion performed on their own body) because they are not capable of being pregnant.

    I should clarify, when I talk about “rights”, I do not mean voting rights, abortion rights, first amendment rights, etc. I am talking about more basic, foundational rights, such as the right to bodily integrity. In your example above, men and women would have equal rights to bodily integrity if women had full abortion rights (which they currently don’t).

  100. Kali

    What is the means by which one can discern the nature of objective morality?

    Probably only by comparison with subjective morality. My point was that what we (humans) consider moral is very much tainted with the self-interest of the powerful (i.e. it is subjective and self-serving), and that in relation to animals we are powerful.

    What is the evidence that caterpillars are sentient beings?

    Would you set a caterpillar on fire?

  101. Comrade PhysioProf

    What is the evidence that caterpillars are sentient beings?

    Would you set a caterpillar on fire?

    What the fucke does whether I would set a caterpillar on fire have to do with whether it is sentient?

  102. Comrade PhysioProf

    Probably only by comparison with subjective morality. My point was that what we (humans) consider moral is very much tainted with the self-interest of the powerful (i.e. it is subjective and self-serving), and that in relation to animals we are powerful.

    It sounds to me like you are very confused about the relationship between your own thoughts and perceptions and the nature of external reality.

  103. Cimorene

    I think patriarchy started the way any oppression starts–who has the biggest stick (gun, bomb). Whoever is the strongest makes the rules and picks the teams. Prolly a long time ago, a group of MenPreHumans had bigger muscles their the female version of their species/community. It’s really nice to be on the winning team because it means you get to have people do shit for you, like cook and clean and service. And, realizing that having servants was nicer than not having them, and simultaneously realizing that there was a trend (or mini-trend, or even a mere confluence) of the penised having bigger muscles, they decided to make teams: the Boy team and the Girl team.

    Patriarchy worked out well for them. Even if there was a dude who had smaller muscles, or later a smaller stick, than they did; even if there was a woman who had bigger muscles (or later a bigger stick) than lotsa the men, as long as there are teams who Win and teams who Lose, they could ensure their team would win. And it’s in their vested interest to make sure that all men–even their enemies–would always win over all women, because it instituted a patriarchy.

    In the Middle Ages, when a member of the aristocracy was captured in battle, he wasn’t killed. He was ransomed. He (or his estate, or his friends, or whatever) could pay the other side to let him go. This obviously goes against national interests–if the French and the English are fighting each other, and the French capture the English prince, for example, it makes sense for the French to kill him or keep him if their highest priority is winning the war against the English. But it’s in the best interests of their class. So the aristocracy could have these rules in which they’d be ransomed and wouldn’t be executed, despite inter-nation war, because they were more invested in their membership in the aristocracy than in their membership in their country.

    It seems to me that patriarchy must have started off with similar ideas in mind. Even if the neighboring group of people are fighting with you for the best dinosaur hunting land, the man-people were willing to sacrifice their community stakes–not entirely, but a little–in order to maintain the gender hierarchy which kept the man-people always in charge. This is also the logic of why Joan of Arc was such a serious threat to the French. I’m not sure if I’m articulating my analogy accurately, but I maintain that big stick = winning gender team, and if there’s one dude with one big stick, he’ll just recruit dudes until they’ve gotten themselves a little union of men to maintain their superiority. Pregnancy exacerbated the problem, and then after a while it became naturalized.

  104. tinfoil hattie

    Hey, CPP! It sounds to me like you’re very confused about a long-time reader trying to exchange ideas on a feminist blog, and the nature of MANSPLAINING.

  105. FemDoc

    Barbara P, I AM joking…of course cats are not the “boss”, and have no real “power” in the household. But you must admit that scooping poop is not dignified, whoever is doing it. I’ve yet to see a man complain that his wife runs roughshod over him by forcing him to clean toilets…the housework still seems to be largely a “woman’s domain”. So I’m still not sure where I fall, as I’m kind of cleaning up after everybody around here. Less power than my husband, more than the cats, dog, and kids?

  106. Diana

    OK I can speak to this, because I bought my apartment because it had a catdoor that opened onto a courtyard that has behind it an ancient (well, 1830) cemetery that is closed to the public all but one day a year, and has no feral cat population.

    So then I went to the shelter and asked for a “difficult” cat, as I figured I had the perfect set-up for a cat. Later on acquaintances handed me another “difficult” cat, after word about my set-up got around.

    Both cats can go outside whenever they like and hunt whatever they want in the cemetery. Both of them love that cemetery more than their home (although neither ever misses a meal). Lately the older one (after needing dental care at approximately the same time the ground was covered with a foot of snow for a month) appears to have made the executive decision that she is retiring from hunting to being a housecat. She is much more willing to stay home and cuddle, now that she has decided she really doesn’t want to be outside all the time.

    In relation to animals we are powerful. But if we listen to them, and watch them, we can make them happy.

  107. Alex

    Some of the stuff you hear from “experts” on pets, especially dogs, is pretty disturbing. Seriously, listen to dog experts and they’ll say your dog must obey you, or you’re a bad owner. Maybe the first problem is that I don’t think of animals as objects to own.

    My dogs escaped from the backyard a lot…one sometimes after she looked me in the eye and “smiled”. Certainly gave me exercise chasing after them and I heard plenty of interesting stories from people in the neighbourhood about what they did on these adventures. They were frustrating at times, and everyone told me I should “control” them better. But I liked them that way because they were happy. They were certainly happy enough to be with us, it’s just that they only obeyed commands when they wanted to. And why is that such a bad thing? But, you know, according to every dog “expert” (usually male) out there, I was a terrible “owner” for not dominating my dogs. Seriously, I didn’t want something to own; I wanted a friend. My dogs were my friends, the most loving animal companions I’ve ever had since they weren’t afraid to be themselves.

  108. Keira

    Humans can comprehend an abstract notion like “freedom”. Companion animals cannot. My cat appears to wonder where the kibble is and why I’m not petting her right now.

    The way we talk about non-human animals freaks me right out.

    In relation to how much we assume about animals, I recently had and experience that changed my perspective.

    Frances (we called her) was a cat who had kittens outside our flat. We fed her, she fucked off, then came back three months later looking pretty crappy and with only one kitten in tow. We fed them both, they moved in over winter (sleeping in our lounge). We watched her teach her baby how to fight (again, in our lounge) by doing the same move over and over until he figured out how to avoid it (she basically beat him up), how to bathe, and how to suck up to people to get fed/let inside. Then they moved out again when it got warm. She turns up sometimes for food, and sometimes she doesn’t – she seems to be getting fancier stuff elsewhere on the block. We got them both spayed, btw, which we felt we should do to stop her having more and more kittens until she starved, but it did feel a little icky, assuming I know best what she should do with her fertility, even if I do think I’m right.

    It seems like choice to me, within the pressure of circumstances. We never locked them in or out, they just moved in when it was too cold and one of them was very vulnerable and kitteny, then buggered off when it was warmer out and the kitten could hold his own a little better. Looked the same as picking a nice safe cave.

    She never cuddled us, and neither does her kitten.

    This was disappointing, as kitten/cat cuddles are one of the best things going, but it also seemed a but right. They have their own family, they don’t need us for affection. It makes me suspect that all the cuddly, meowy, ankle-grazing stuff is either a) a response to the fact that most ‘companion’ animals have been separated from their own kind too early to miss them and now attach at random to the dominant creature and their visitors or b) very similar to the Patriarchy appeasing many women do in order to get by, like looking “nice” to get/keep a job or staying with a jerk husband to avoid being homeless.

    I don’t know whether cats can love, but I do wonder why they would chose a member of a different species as their object of affection, if there were other feline candidates around.

  109. Keira

    oops, first two lines were quoting an earlier comment. One day I will work out how to comment with italics etc.

  110. NomNomNom

    I tame feral cats and find them homes. I have 15 inside cats, 6 outside cats, 2 kittens, a loaned out cat, and a feral cat colony. All but one or two are ferals that I tamed. They aren’t slaves, they’re friends. I have had injured cats come to me for help; I have had pregnant feral cats allow me to take them into my home so their babies will be born somewhere they can protect them; I have had feral cats come to me when they were dying to die on my lap.
    “I don’t know whether cats can love, but I do wonder why they would chose a member of a different species as their object of affection, if there were other feline candidates around.”
    In my experience about 1/3 of cats prefer other cats to people, about 1/3 prefer people to other cats, and about 1/3 like them equally well. Unfortunately, I don’t have a reason why that would be so, it’s just an observation after many years. All of my alpha cats are and have been people-preferers. I don’t see a pattern among non alphas however. I have never noted any difference based upon cat gender. Many of my cats are related; there also doesn’t seem a correspondence between cats having close relatives present and not having close relatives present in their preference.
    Also, I didn’t see this mentioned above, I hope I did not overlook anyone’s comment, not only humans have relationships with other species in which they are a caregiver. And while some of these adoptions occur via human agency, some do not.

    re-Amos “Animals really are different from humans. I’ll even say subhuman; if my car is going to hit a human or an animal, then that’s too bad for the animal.”
    I don’t drive so it’s a moot point, but if I did, I’d pick the person to hit every time. They ought to know better than to stand in the street.
    re-Alex “They were frustrating at times, and everyone told me I should “control” them better.”
    They were probably people like me who’d had too many of their own pets killed in their own yards– yards that are encircled by 5′ high fences– by dogs of people who let their dogs run free. And even if your dogs weren’t a menace to others’ pets, and were only a nuisance: they and their pets would have no way of knowing that until it would be too late for their pets (or perhaps your dogs).

  111. Ashley

    It seems more reasonable to me to say that living beings merit equal consideration, exactly because their capabilities vary so much. Using the “all of us are equal in rights and values” idea would mean that humans should have drastically reduced rights or animals should have rights that they are completely incapable of utilizing in any meaningful sense. Neither thing sounds that moral to me.

    nails, that’s a good point, and I agree with you. But I’ve been thinking about this in the context of abortion rights (I often end up in long and tiresome conversations with pro-forced birth Catholic philosophers, for reasons I won’t get into). The trouble is, if you say we give different beings different rights because of different capacities, you have the problem of dramatically different capacities among humans, and which capacity is the one that gives someone moral value? You can see pretty easily the crappy places someone can go with such an argument. I think the idea of human “specialness” goes to a problematic place very quickly. Do you see a way around that?

  112. CrazyQuilter

    @ Jill–
    but the thing is that cruelty towards horses is not NECESSARY to keep horses. in fact, aside from all the screamingly stupid, cruel practices like everything you mentioned, and other meaningless cosmetic details, you, uh, don’t really need to change much about a horse to have a good animal.

    most of the ones i’ve met were people’s pets, and were totally chill, and really just wanted you to rub their sides a bit, and give them sweet things to eat. granted, none of them were show-horses whose owners thought they were really fun, really lucrative projects, more like breathing cars than animals.

    i think that’s the comparison that i’ve been looking for, which is a decent mode of treatment for animals, versus the “animals are just meat machines” mode that still seems popular. you actually DON’T have to abuse domestic animals to live with them and keep them safe, healthy and happy. anyone who says otherwise is probably trying to sell you some bullshit breed conformation crap.

    human-slavery, on the other hand, is inseparable from a profound degree of cruelty and abuse, because there really is no ethical, humane way to put another person on par with a non-human animal–without being brutally cruel.

    a horse is not a human slave. given a chance, that human slave wants her freedom; that horse, on the other hand, wants a nice hose-down and some shoulder-scratches (of course, from her human ‘slaveholder’), and to be let out into the back pasture for some grass. she isn’t crying out for her freedom…unless her (human) owner is a shithead who is actively antagonizing her. and of course, i don’t mean with regular rides, with the standard tack.

    keeping pets =/= abuse
    abuse =/= normal, wholesome, mutually-beneficial pet-keeping
    keeping pets =/= slavery
    slavery = abuse all the time

    honestly, how can anyone seriously compare people of “other” races, and their past subjugation at the hands of our fellow humans, to keeping pets?
    it’s really demeaning, actually, because unlike ‘subjugated’ pets, we can actually understand human-ese. because we are human. we are not horses or chickens or cats.

  113. laxsoppa

    “Seriously, I didn’t want something to own; I wanted a friend. My dogs were my friends, the most loving animal companions I’ve ever had since they weren’t afraid to be themselves.”

    Alex, please take a moment to reflect that your little friends are not able to read the roadsigns, as intelligent as they might be. Nor are they immune to violence from other people or dogs while running loose. Assuming that your dogs are good-natured and will not harm humans at least intentionally, you can probably get away with not controlling them, but there really is no accounting for a lot of things that also factor in the dogs’ safety.

    Controlling your dogs is *not* about beating them into submission or actually controlling every single minute of their lives. It’s about taking responsibility, which you seem to have overlooked completely based on your description of how you handle them.

  114. Helen Huntingdon

    What laxsoppa said. I don’t understand people who are criminally negligent because they think that makes them enlightened and special.

    Alex reminds me of a conversation about an issue not as life-threatening, but related: A brilliant scientist posted online asking for feedback about taking her baby grocery shopping. The baby was in the crawling phase and wanted to always be crawling on the floor exploring. The responses were pretty uniform: Either teach the baby to stay in the cart, or don’t take her grocery shopping. Letting her crawl around the aisles of a grocery store is not remotely safe, so that is not an option. The scientist kept repeating, “But that’s not what she wants.” Right, well, she’d probably want to play with fire too if you put that in front of her, but are you going to let her? How about a nice shiny pile of needles? She’d probably want that too if you set it in front of her.

  115. A Ginva

    @ Crazyquilter:
    What’s bad about slavery is not the unfreedom, but the abuse and domination. Slavery as unfreedom would imply that people are free outside, but are we really? Whatever we do or are in our lives, we have obligations, we are dependant or interdependant on other people and our environment. To a certain degree, it’s up to us to adapt to our physical and spiritual limitiations and to accept the permanent constraints necessary for our survival (if that makes sense).

    Focusing on a capacity to understand freedom is anthropocentric, liberal and in my opinion irrelevant to the concept of slavery – which I’d define as domination over a being as a means to exploit something (labour, product, offspring, food, sex…) from her. In order to qualify as a slave it is not necessary to define oneself as a slave, and therefore to be aware of what freedom means – many people in slave or chattel status would be very likely to deny their status – such as women in the domestic sphere – or some women in the prostitution industry.

    In the same way, it’s not because an alcoholic denies she is that she doesn’t medically qualify as an alcoholic. Knowing what it means not to be an alcoholic or being aware of her problem is not nessecary for us to determine whether she’s an alcoholic or not.

    What’s important about slavery is the harm that’s done to the being, the inequality in power and the fact that one is exploited for the benefit of the other. This type of relationship applies to humans as well as to animals, who are équally capable of feeling the harm that results from the exploitation and domination. I don’t see why we should discriminate between the two, as any discrimination would be arbitrary. (Many human beings – such as infants, disabled people, elderly people, would be incapable of understanding the very concepts that supposedly differentiate us from animals – does it mean we should dispose of them too?)

  116. Kathleen

    Crazy Quilter — you’re right.

    A Ginva — you of course don’t have to listen to me, but I would suggest you pick a different metaphor than abstract slavery to make your points, when slavery is a real, historical thing that has left a real legacy in the world as we know it, about which when you use slavery as an abstract metaphor suggests you don’t give a crap about. I know this gets trotted out a lot on feminist websites, but that is a pretty entitled/privileged/crappy as a rhetorical choice.

    Ashley — I got confused reading your objection to nails, and I know how hard it is arguing with forced birthers who are always going for the “thus, LOGICALLY, I am 100% morally right” mode of “engagement”. But I don’t know if it’s worth constructing an argument that is a defense against that type of attack, which is in bad faith anyway.

    I mean, I think nails is getting at just looking at the world sensibly: animals and humans have different kinds of capacities. Then, as you point out, different humans have different kinds of capacities (children, people with dementia, people with developmental disabilities, and so on). There really is not going to be a hard and fast THUS LOGICALLY APPLY THIS RULE 100% CORRECT VICTORY EVERY TIME way to approach that. People who trot that out are just trying to find a way to justify certain modes of brutality as being virtuous because of their consistency to a rule.

  117. buttercup

    My feline companion, Figment, washes me. He will wash my hands, arms, my leg or foot, even my face if I let him. (I don’t.) He then lays on me very hard and cranks his head around and purrs incredibly loud. I think he thinks he’s my parent. I have never known a cat that acts like he does. He came to live with us after I saw a photo of him on a local freecycle group. The woman he was living with at that time had not even given him a name.

    Biscuit, my grandcat, is completely different. He is more standoffish and sulks frequently, possibly because his human mom has been away for a few years and he misses her. He gets in moods after she comes to visit, he tries to avoid her at first then succumbs, joyfully, then when she goes back home (where cats are not allowed) his behavior seems very depressed. It takes him a good week to approach us for petting or conversation after that.

    Biddy came to live with us while my best friend was sick with cancer. Her husband, a knob if there ever was one, decided he was going to have her euthanized because he couldn’t be bothered taking care of her while my friend was sick. We took her in. She lived in the basement for almost three years before emerging. She is now Nigel’s BFF and refuses to go back into the basement for any reason. She also purrs like a farm tractor idling on a cold morning.

    None of them could survive long without human interaction of some type but of the three, Figment would probably suffer the least physically. I like to believe he would suffer emotionally or mentally without me, but that’s probably my own vanity and my adoration of him talking.

  118. humanbein

    Pets, babies, and the blametariat all help remind me that there is such a thing as love, that this emotion has nothing to do with sex, despite the widespread idea that sex and love are the same thing in the culture, used to bind women to men and to keep men hating women (because men are taught to hate love, but love sex, because love is not manly) despite the sexual bond.

    The feeling of loving a pet can be communicated non verbally, and the feeling that they love you back is felt the same way. Only your own observation of the feedback you get from your pet can change this truth.

    Sometimes, when my cat is playing, I’ll be seized with a feeling of love for her and scoop her up for a pet, and she’ll indicate she wants to get down instantly because she wants to play. That’s when I know the love I felt was unrequited. Than sometimes I pick her up and love her and she purrs and enjoys my caresses, and we both enjoy the feeling of pure love for another.

    All love for pets is on a moment-by-moment basis, like their consciousness.

  119. Jezebella

    A Ginva: I just am flabbergasted that you think slavery ain’t so bad, as long as there’s no physical abuse or “domination.” How the hell do you think a person keeps slaves in place? Abuse and domination. You’re honestly arguing that the “unfreedom” of actual human slavery isn’t any worse the “unfreedom” we all experience in the patriarchy? I really, really, really find that offensive and kind of nauseating that you can actually believe that.

    Your unfreedom is in NO WAY truly comparable to slavery. No wonder women of color don’t often stay long in honky feminist communities. You really need to rethink.

  120. Kali

    There really is not going to be a hard and fast THUS LOGICALLY APPLY THIS RULE 100% CORRECT VICTORY EVERY TIME way to approach that. People who trot that out are just trying to find a way to justify certain modes of brutality as being virtuous because of their consistency to a rule.

    On the contrary, when we have no consistency in rules, that allows oppressors to justify their oppression of others as “It’s different when I do it to you, because you don’t have xyz capacity, and are therefore inferior in xyz ways”.

  121. yttik

    Dogs are not people. They do need leadership and an opportunity to obey, they’re totally dependent on you. There’s nothing worse for a dog then being totally dependent on somebody who doesn’t know WTH they want or where they are going. Dogs are pack animals, they don’t suffer from these weird human fabricated concepts of domination and submission. Animals have a totally different concept of hierarchy then we do.

    Horses, too, judging from their behavior, they sure don’t appreciate confused and nervous humans who don’t have a clue about what they want. I imagine from a horse’s perspective it would be pretty terrifying to be approached by somebody lugging around all this baggage about human versions of dominance and submission who has some human utopian fantasy of the possibility of an equal relationship. I’m not sure animals even understand our concepts and when they try to read us, we probably just come across as totally confused and neurotic. I imagine animals are thinking, just cut the crap and show me WTH you want!

    It’s not kind to view animals as slaves, that just projects our own insecurities onto them. It’s also not kind to try and dump all these human neurosis about oppression and hierarchies on them. They don’t live in that world, they don’t operate on that level. Animals tend to live in the moment and they like behavior to be simple and clear. People are the ones who project all this human stuff onto them, allegedly because we love them so much, but think about that, you’re actually insulting a critter by implying it has human status and needs. What’s wrong with letting an animal just be an animal? All this pity and guilt sure sends the message that you think there’s something wrong with an animal in it’s natural state of being.

  122. Tigs

    +1 to Jez’s comment.

    Yah, for some good feminist discussion (though the academic-ese is a bit much at times) of the non-abusive-on-its-face domination of slavery see Saidiya Hartman’s Scenes of Subjection , wherein she discusses the extension of white domination into everyday life.

    Under a capabilities approach, one includes the difference between a human’s ability to conceptualize their own freedom and a dog’s ability to feel whatever it is that dogs feel.
    I think Ashley has gotten to the crux of the problem. How can we be sure that we understand the potential capabilities of creatures with whom we already have unequal power relations and probably also have extensive ideological programming about?

    Nussbaum seems to think that by starting with the similarities before getting to the differences, we will be okay. So, we start with the inherent dignity of life itself, then bodily integrity, and go from there. I’m suspicious, at minimum.

  123. cin17

    Kathleen said “A Ginva — you of course don’t have to listen to me, but I would suggest you pick a different metaphor than abstract slavery to make your points, when slavery is a real, historical thing that has left a real legacy in the world as we know it, about which when you use slavery as an abstract metaphor suggests you don’t give a crap about. I know this gets trotted out a lot on feminist websites, but that is a pretty entitled/privileged/crappy as a rhetorical choice.”

    A not so minor correction: Slavery is not only a “historical thing,” it is also a contemporary thing. It’s interesting that folks are often quick to acknowledge “historical” slavery, while remaining, apparently, unaware of its contemporary counterpart. Sometimes I think it’s because it’s easier to confront the abomination that no longer exists rather than face the fact that we are still fighting this battle.

    I don’t know how to tag links here, so here’s the url: http://www.abolishslavery.org

  124. Alex B

    By the way, I’m the Alex who talked about evolution as a mutual process; the one who doesn’t dominate her dogs is another Alex. Except that I also have dogs that I don’t dominate. However, when one of mine got into the habit of leaving the yard on her own–which she also greatly enjoyed–I kept working on fixing the gate to our yard until I finally got it to where she couldn’t do that anymore. We go to places where she can run free, but our neighborhood is not one of them. Taking sensible precautions is the middle ground between letting your dog unknowingly endanger herself and beating her into submission.

  125. Kathleen

    the adoption of the self-appellation “abolitionist” by that organization you linked is *exactly* what I am talking about. Slavery in the United States was the *law of the land*. Standing in opposition to it meant social ridicule (minimally) to imprisonment or death.

    To appropriate that particular red badge of courage for opposing the trafficking of children — jesus, what some people will do to give themselves extra cookies. How many prizes do you want for taking a risk-free stance affirming a minimal standard of decency?

  126. Kali

    Slavery in the United States was the *law of the land*. Standing in opposition to it meant social ridicule (minimally) to imprisonment or death.

    To appropriate that particular red badge of courage for opposing the trafficking of children — jesus, what some people will do to give themselves extra cookies.

    Just because the slavery of trafficked children is illegal doesn’t make it “abstract” as opposed to “real, historical” slavery.

  127. Kali

    Nussbaum seems to think that by starting with the similarities before getting to the differences, we will be okay. So, we start with the inherent dignity of life itself, then bodily integrity, and go from there. I’m suspicious, at minimum.

    Nussbaum stretches the capabilities approach too far into specifics, which is where the differences come in, thus giving space to justifications for discriminatory treatment. This is also where her co-developers of the capabilities approach disagree with her (i.e. she tries to make the list of capabilities too detailed and specific.)

    I also didn’t like her treatment of Mackinnon and Dworkin, basically agreeing with their analysis and then dismissing all their suggestions, i.e., “yeah, porn is bad, but don’t do anything about it.”

  128. Ashley

    There really is not going to be a hard and fast THUS LOGICALLY APPLY THIS RULE 100% CORRECT VICTORY EVERY TIME way to approach that. People who trot that out are just trying to find a way to justify certain modes of brutality as being virtuous because of their consistency to a rule.

    I agree with that too. But I do think we need a coherent reason for giving sentient beings legal rights that avoids the problem of human cells being given rights just because they’re human, even though they’re not conscious.

  129. Kathleen

    Kali: The dude, John Eibner, behind that Anti-Slavery Organization linked by cin17 is worth a google — you might be very surprised (I wasn’t at all). The easy invocation of historically-charged terms like slavery and abolitionism deserves a lot of scrutiny.

  130. Kali

    The easy invocation of historically-charged terms like slavery and abolitionism deserves a lot of scrutiny.

    There is nothing “easy” about child sexual slavery. I find it extremely offensive that you do not think that these children, who are sometimes chained, locked, beaten into captivity don’t deserve the label of slavery because you want to reserve the term only for its historical application. I don’t care what any dude such as John Eibner does. What he does or does not do doesn’t change the fact that these children are enslaved, and shame on you for giving his statements more weight than the reality of these children’s lives in deciding what to label their condition.

  131. Triste

    While no serious person could suggest that it would be humane to release domesticated animals to fend for themselves, I don’t think it’s an entirely outrageous suggestion that we might stop specifically breeding these animals by the boatload and generally treating them like factory processed goods rather than, you know, living things.

    I live with my parents, and we own a purebred Yorkshire Terrier despite my protests in favor of a cheaper and hardier mutt. I dunno how many of you have small dogs – we need them because anything bigger than a Jack Russel is too big and heavy for my brother to handle – or purebred dogs or whatever, but it’s my experience that these animals are just fucked up. I’m convinced that it’s the inbreeding, because there is nothing else that can explain how completely screwed these animals are. My dog can’t make it up fucking stairs. STAIRS, for Chrissake. And he’s not old or injured, he’s just so neurologically fucked that he can’t figure it out. That along with the bad knees, the night terrors, the complete lack of depth perception, the one eye pointing off in a totally wrong direction, and so on.

    This shit used to be a wolf? Really? And nearly every purebred I know is chock full of crazy health problems like this, particularly when it comes to these small breeds or dogs otherwise bred to some sort of physical extreme. Years of genetic breakdown from dog incest is the only thing that remotely explains to me how completely fucked up these dogs are.

    All of this puts me in mind of certain Patriarchal practices. I understand the call for small dogs as pets – Tobi has been a hell of a boon for us, my brother loves the hell out of him and that dog has helped him through a lot of tough times. But this shit of continuing even now to breed the dogs to make them purebred feels to me like foot-binding or something. Fuck the health of the animal (be it woman or dog), we want it to have a certain color fur or a certain shape foot, consequences be damned!

    I’m not anti-pet, but I am uncomfortable with the extent to which we seem to feel it’s okay to deliberately go out and make dogs that we probably know are going to have tons of fucking health problems (a lot more than mutts anyway) just because it’s fashionable or whatever the fuck. Come on, man.

  132. Kathleen

    Kali, that isn’t true. John Eibner and CSI were investigated by a Canadian government commission for fradulent claims of massive “slave redemptions” in Sudan, which they were using as a basis for fund-raising. Now, there are shakedown artists all over the place, sure. But by using charged terms like “slavery” and “abolitionist”, Eibner was in skillful con artist style able to tap into the massive self-regard of donors who were (and apparently, *still are*) encouraged to feel that by sending $50 bucks to his website full of photos of sad-eyed brown and black children they had earned the status of “abolitionist”. That money wasn’t helpful, and that attitude — of easy-peasy holy redeemer status — stands directly in the way of becoming properly informed about the social and economic conditions that lead to the exploitation of vulnerable people. I don’t think people like Eibner deserve to mouth the words “slavery” or “abolition” in the service of a quick buck, no. And when I hear people tossing those terms around, yeah, I do get pretty damn gimlet eyed for very good cause.

  133. DaisyDeadhead

    My oldest cat is almost 11, my mother’s lived to be 18+ and my beloved late Grand Old Man was 15. Of course, they are all inside-kitties; there is simply no way they could live to be that age around here, if they were regularly going outside. And they CAME from outside, one from the shelter (born in a warehouse!) and one a stray that walked right up to me and sat on my lap. (How he knew he could parlay that move into a long cushy life, I’ll never know.)

    They do earn their keep my mercilessly slaughtering any crawling critter that might get into my oatmeal storage, so that’s good. I assume that is how they got domesticated in the first place.

    Mine show no interest in going outside. They know a good deal when they’ve got one!

  134. cin17

    Kathleen, there are many anti-slavery organizations. I’m sure one must meet your approval. Try endslaverynow.com, or antislaveryinternational. Covering one’s ears won’t make it go away. Or do you honestly believe that contemporary “human trafficking” was invented by religious scam artists?

    It’s interesting that the only link I can find to the Canadian government commission you cite is from a book “A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery.” The Publisher’s Weekly review begins: “Today there are more slaves than at any time in history, according to journalist Skinner’s report on current and former slaves and slave dealers. Skinner’s travelogue-cum-indictment focuses most sharply on Haiti, Sudan, Romania and India, and is interspersed with a detailed account of the work of John Miller, director of the State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, or America’s antislavery czar.”

    And here’s a January 2011 link from Amnesty International about three anti-slavery activists who were jailed in Mauritania: “‘Those jailed are prisoners of conscience, detained solely on the basis of their actions in the struggle against slavery,’ said Erwin van der Borght, Africa Director at Amnesty International.”


    So you see, standing in opposition to slavery still means imprisonment. It’s real. And it’s not just “historical.”

  135. MarinaS

    The authentic farming or pastoral relationship (as opposed to the twisted monstrosity that industrial food production has become) is one of mutual dependence and mutual benefit. It’s a mistake to think of e.g. the animals that are kept in buildings – fowl, cattle, equines etc. – as “domesticated” and not of the field mice, starlings, barn rats, hares/rabbits & so on that have developed modes of survival that depend on farming and the farming landscape.

    The pet “ownership” relationship is a completely different thing: whichever way I look at it, and whatever the practical arguments for allowing it to continue (which are very persuasive, mind you) it is an unequal relationship in which human modes of living are imposed on animals for the gratification of essentially human emotional needs (like friendship & companionship).

    I’m not dismissing the reality of these emotional benefits by any means, but on a purely moral view the idea of “owning” a living thing is repugnant to me in a way that shearing a sheep that you’ve helped lamb on a snowy night isn’t.

    So, as long as you do it humanely (ha!) and with a mindfulness of the animal’s benefit & your responsibilities for its welfare, and an awareness of environmental impact of your actions, then I would be on the side of “euth’em” I guess.

    None of which is much use to the actual circumstances of city dwellers, of course – the meat available to us can never be assumed to be entirely free of cruelty and environmental degradation (which is cruelty to other animals by other means – and humans, too), and we do find ourselves surrounded by animals that have been abused and are in need of protection. The pragmatic approach is to eschew animal domination either in the home or in the diet, then.

  136. wondering

    Both feral horses and feral dogs survive pretty well and multiply. But it’s a problem because they compete with the native animals for food and territory. That’s when you get the dangerous packs of wild dogs slinking around the suburbs or herds of wild horses starving because the winter got too long or the snow to deep, and human habitation drove them out of the places they’d typically winter. Deer have the same problems too, lest you think it is simply the poor survival skills of bred-to-be-domesticated horses.

    All that being said, most domesticated animals i know live pretty good lives. It’s the ones who have asshole families that i worry about. For example, the dogs and horses back home on the farm normally did whatever the fuck they wanted, while not worrying overmuch regarding whether the food would show up in the winter. They only had to go to work maybe 20% of the days of a year. The horses who thought that was a bad deal adopted fake limps when it was time to be caught (we had one mare who was a terrible over actor) or just stayed well out of reach instead of coming in for some special munchies. The dogs were required to work even less frequently and were often found lounging about on the couch watching tv with the kids.

    The main thing, I think, is to treat other living beings well, especially ones for whom you have some responsibility.

  137. A Ginva

    “A Ginva: I just am flabbergasted that you think slavery ain’t so bad, as long as there’s no physical abuse or “domination.” How the hell do you think a person keeps slaves in place? Abuse and domination. You’re honestly arguing that the “unfreedom” of actual human slavery isn’t any worse the “unfreedom” we all experience in the patriarchy? I really, really, really find that offensive and kind of nauseating that you can actually believe that.

    Your unfreedom is in NO WAY truly comparable to slavery. No wonder women of color don’t often stay long in honky feminist communities. You really need to rethink.”

    Ah I’m really really sorry Jezebella, I must have expressed myself crappily. I was in no way comparing my unfreedom under patriarchy to slavery, on the contrary, I meant to argue that whether or not we’re free has nothing to do with recognising the existence of a master-slave relationship (domination and abuse). I was trying to suggest that the OPPOSITE or absence of slavery might not necessarily be freedom, but some form of unfreedom as interdepence in which mutual respect, bodily integrity, non-exploitative relationships, fulfilment etc may be possible (I should have made this more clear)

    I was responding to a post saying that animals who are dominated, coerced, exploited and abused by humans can’t be considered slaves in relation to those humans because they don’t know what it’s like to be free, as opposed to humans. I disagreed with it, because what matters to me is the objective harms caused by domination/coercion/abuse combined with exploitation, rather than knowing what’s freedom about or being able to define freedom under our own terms: because there’s no proof that the opposite of slavery is freedom. What counts are the harms of slavery, not the ability to define its opposite.

    Sorry for the offense. Would have appreciated to be asked before being yelled at though… Ok, I re-read this post hundred times, hope there’s no ambiguity.

  138. A Ginva

    And slavery existed long before white colonialism, and continues to develop today, taking multiple forms, but especially trafficking/prostitution. In the 80′, including only south east Asia, around 33 million people (mostly women and girls) were trafficked for sexual slavery – and in 2011, these numbers have increased by far. It’s more than the number of African people that were trafficked under 400 years of colonialism – 10,3 million. (see Richard Poulin).

  139. tinfoil hattie

    Getting “yelled at” as the first response to a comment is getting a little tedious.

    I actually understoond A Ginva’s comment the first time, and was surprised to see the pile-on.

    Can we give each other a break, here? Just a little? Does it take any more effort to say, “A Ginva, I’m a little confused by your comment. I read it as x. Is that what you meant?”

    Benefit of the doubt, anyone? Bueller?

  140. TwissB

    Random observation about anti-slavery and anti-trafficking organizations. MAPP in France, Apne-AAp in India and CATW International in the US with member oganizations and individuals worldwide are knowledgeable and uncompromisingly abolitionist, that is they reject prostitution (which always involves trafficking and degrees of violence)as a violation of human rights. It seems that many other anti-slavery organizations are into sophisticated marketing activities and most are amnbivalent about prostitution, reminding me of Andrea Dworkin remark that, as she spoke about pornogphy and prostitution, all she could see in the eyes of men in the audience was “But what do I get to keep?” At a program put on in DC by Free the Slaves (which a friend calls “Free Some Slaves) slick keynoter Ben Skinner told his shocking stories of prostituted girls in African brothels to an audience mainly of blase young women interns. Other speakers spoke daintily of HIV-AIDS work in the same places. I asked Skinner afterwards for his position on prostitution. His face got red and he answered belligerently that he had no problem with it if women chose to do it. I’m afraid that’s the prevailing level of understanding of an institution that marks all women as commodities, one way or another – scarcely sentient beings.

  141. TwissB

    Shucks. I can’t even begin to correct all the typos in thatpost. Sorry, gentle readers.

  142. iamlegs

    Reasons to not get a new cat, now that beloved kitty has passed away:

    1. Avoid supporting the pet food industry
    (violent chicken farms, subsidized GMO soy and corn industry,
    industrial food processing plants etc.)

    2. Avoid supporting the chemical industry
    (kitty litter, anti-flea chemicals and more)

    3. Avoid supporting plastics industry
    (containers, plastic bags, disposal of litter, etc.)

  143. Tigs

    We have this conversation a couple times a year, frankly. Some of us are too bitchy/self-righteous/MEAN!!! Some of us feel sad.

    We hash it out, at the end we all agree that there is something important in reserving the feminist right to anger and bluntness when we are told we need to be nice/group-oriented/concerned for everyone’s feelings in every other space in the world, but we also agree to try to be open-minded.

    There, we can skip that now, right?

  144. Kathleen

    A. Ginva — again, you don’t have to listen to me. But when you go out of your way to downplay the legacy of slavery in the society in which (I assume) you *do* live (slavery predates African/New World slavery, current trafficking is way worse), you are making choices which really fall into line with the yuckiest of U.S. mindsets. Just maybe give it some thought?

    The current language around “child sex slavery” is, people here may not be aware, really driven by a Bush administration campaign that funneled lots of aid to Christian right groups to “rescue” benighted brown women and girls. Its tone and approach is *unbelievably*, unredeemably, patriarchal and in practical terms the reverse of helpful. If this is an issue about which posters here care, they could really do well to inform themselves a little more thoroughly. There is a huge literature on what actually drives this kind of exploitation and what actually helps in eradicating it. The language of slavery is in many instances calculated to appeal to American audiences’ sense of titillation rather than compassion and to a white man’s burden sensibility. This might not be you, but if you are using that terminology without any sense of its horrendous baggage you are under-informed.

  145. tinfoil hattie

    KATHLEEN: Children anbd women are CURRENTLY sold into slavery for purposes of rape and whatever-all-else. I am sorry Bush and some evil Christianists exploited the word “slavery.” WTF? The more you argue, the more you sound like children and women sold into slavery aren’t “real” slaves, because CHRISTIAN CHURCHES AND GEORGE BUSH USED THAT WORD IN AN EXPLOITATIVE WAY! I’m not sure why your anger is over semantics instead of REAL, CURRENT CHILD/WOMAN SLAVES.

  146. Kathleen

    tinfoil hattie – I’m not the one using all caps.

    I just am saying, and people are free to ignore it, that super-insistence that one is the most concerned evar about exploited children combined with an absence of any evidence of having read about the exploitation-of-that-exploitation, or how effective advocacy for exploited women and children has been screwed up by a huge recent wave of phony patriarchal crusaders, and the uncritical repetition of the language used by those phonies, combined with total rage at being given information and context which one perhaps did not previously have, looks a little insincere. I would think a sincere interest in the plight of vulnerable people would involve an eager willingness to learn more about what they are actually up against.

  147. mythago

    laxsoppa – THANK YOU. Alex’s post bears an uncomfortable resemblance to that of parents who don’t bother to help guide their children’s behavior and then prattle about how they want the kid to be ‘happy’ and they don’t want to be a controlling parent….when what they really mean is they can’t be arsed.

  148. tinfoil hattie

    You’re kicking up straw, Kathleen. In the wrong place. Nobody here claimed to be the most concerned EVAH about anything. Ironic, considering your insistence on stating over and over and over how BAD A Ginva is for expressing concern over real, current, contemporary, happening-right-now enslavement of children and women.

  149. TwissB

    There’s no need to pick any particular faction of men-dominated organizations on left or right to criticize for manipulation of the sex trafficking issue – they’re all doing it, just with different hypocritical key words. What they all have in common is a refusal to reject prostitution and the privilege it confers on them and work to remedy the conditions of inequality that make women and children available for subordination and exploitation.

  150. Katherine

    @Nepenthe: Ugh, not this again. Some of us live in places where the native songbirds live on reserves where they are protected away from the cities’ cat and dog populations. Letting my cat out to get exercise results in dead sparrows and pigeons, not dead tuis, fantails, kakapo etc. I’m terribly sorry your country doesn’t believe in preserving its native songbirds and relies solely on individuals trying to persuade their neighbours to keep their cats locked up. Better to convince them not to have cats in the first place really.

    Can’t comment on the animal rights discussion, as I’d rather focus my personal attention on the animal welfare side of things first, especially re: unneccessary cruelty in food production. Some of the analogies to patriarchy are disturbing, but at the same time some of them seem to be humans stating what they’d feel in the same situation, which may or may not be what the animals feel. I’d rather try to take a scientific approach here (proper science, not biased science that came out with a lot of racist pronouncements in the past). I do agree that pet breeding is wrong when there are so many abandoned pets that get euthanised.

  151. Comrade Svilova

    Kathleen, I assume that you’re concerned about the exploitation of the issue of contemporary slaves, but that you don’t deny that human trafficking is currently a large and problematic industry?

  152. Jodie

    Katharine, how the heck do they keep songbirds from nesting in your neighborhood? From what I’ve seen, birds nest and live where they will. I like being able to see the cardinals, robins, doves, jays, hummingbirds, finches, orioles (and more) who frequent my yard.

    Our neighbors built a “cat run” which connects to a window of their home. The cats can go outside, but inside a large wire enclosed area. Mostly they sleep in the sun and watch the birds.

  153. A Ginva

    “A. Ginva — again, you don’t have to listen to me. But when you go out of your way to downplay the legacy of slavery in the society in which (I assume) you *do* live (slavery predates African/New World slavery, current trafficking is way worse), you are making choices which really fall into line with the yuckiest of U.S. mindsets. Just maybe give it some thought?”

    Kathleen – I think there’s misinterpration, actually I don’t really understand your critique. I wasn’t downplaying the legacy of slavery, I was simply arguing that the exploitative and abusive attitude of humans towards animals should not be excluded from the concept of slavery – argument unrelated to a discussion of the legacy of slavery itself.

    If you’d like to know my opinion on the legacy of slavery on our society, I see slavery as the very foundation on which patriarchy is based. The principles that underlie human slavery (appropriation, exploitation, consumption, objectification, binary view of superiority/inferiority, subject/object, master/slave, owner/property, active/passive, culture/nature etc) and the strategies used to enslave human beings (violence, domination, abuse, degradation, dissociation, alienation, terror, education/ socialisation into acceptance of subserviant status etc) are more or less the same as those used against animals. Our culture arose from slavery, our religions, our states, our language, our sexuality, our science, etc.
    Our modern industrial capitalist and scientific society could only take place by enslaving and exploiting most of the world human populationa as well as animals and destroying the earth at the benefit of a tiny minority of white men.

    I don’t live in the US (have never been there), I’m French, I had no idea that Bush exploited the idea of slavery for opportunistic reasons. However, it’s not because Bush mentioned slavery for bad reasons that as feminists we are no longer entitled to use the term in order to critique the slavery system. I will not prevent myself from defining slavery as domination/coercion/abuse as a means for exploitation (sexual, physical, any..) and naming any relationship that fits this criteria as slavery. Bush is not the centre of the world and does not hold the monopoly of naming things. Refusing to name slavery because of Bush would be giving him this power. Capitalism has also instrumentalised feminism and women-empowerment/liberation talk (ie buying a handbag and lipstick is now sold as empowerment and pornography as sexual liberation), but that won’t stop me from using these terms in the right context.

  154. A Ginva

    “I would think a sincere interest in the plight of vulnerable people would involve an eager willingness to learn more about what they are actually up against.”

    They are up against patriarchy, and it seems here that most people posting are sincerely interested in destroying it, out of a sincere concern for those suffering from it. They also show an eager willingness to learn more about all the different strategies of patriarchy by which it maintains itself over society. Is this discussion biting its own tail?

  155. Sarah

    “It is nauseating when popular authors infantilize and anthropomorphize and write letters to pet animals.”

    … is it less nauseating when unpopular authors do it? Like what about crazy old people who are not famous in any way? I fully intend to become a crazy cat lady when I’m old, and I’m sure writing letters to my cats won’t be completely outside the realm of possibility.

    As for pets, you said it when you used the word stewardship. In Defense of Animals has been proselytizing this very concept, which seems sound and workable.

    “Given that the domestication process, product of patriarchal oppression though it be, is a done deal, and that these animals exist, and that “setting them free” is not an alternative, the only options are a) keep them alive using the best possible stewardship practices.”

    Youth in Asia, unfortunately, is already being employed en masse. So instead of upping the killing, it’s our responsibility as non-assholes to care for the animals we do live with to the very best of our abilities, and if we decide to take care of more (or to bring some home for the first time), to adopt them from shelters rather than purchase “status animals” from breeders.

    Personally, I live with cats, and they make my life much more awesome. Not only are they fluffy and adorable, they also keep those fragile allergic types of guests at arm’s length.

  156. Lidon

    I like cats, but I’m one of those “fragile, allergic” people, and they kill too much (other animals’ lives have value too!), so when I can afford it, I’d like to get a dog or two at a shelter (of which there are many that I’m not allergic to).

  157. nails

    “The trouble is, if you say we give different beings different rights because of different capacities, you have the problem of dramatically different capacities among humans, and which capacity is the one that gives someone moral value? ”

    It does not follow that an inequality in rights means an inequality in moral value. Giving rights that cannot be utilized to feel fairness doesn’t really change anything, it would happen simply to make everyone feel better about themselves. The issue is one of equal consideration for the different attributes of living things, rather than equal rights or equal value. Giving consideration that is fair and appropriate is difficult and mistakes are made often, but alternatives to that approach don’t really make sense to me for the reasons I outlined before.

    Also, regarding the destructiveness of my idea: this is the alternative to the really barbaric mainstream stuff about animals from the bible and from dudes like kant. There are whole philosophies that justify the idea that animals are things here for us to enjoy and that there is no moral consideration related to their welfare. Accepting the ambiguity of our duties to animals makes for people who tend to take their decisions much more seriously, who worry about what is appropriate or not. When there aren’t clear cut guidelines about how to act people must think and consider before doing anything.

  158. Ashley


    I think I wasn’t clear. I totally agree with you. My concern is only with how to present that argument to respond effectively to people like Peter Kreeft, who is a total philosophical hack but who is unfortunately having a strong impact on a lot of people (especially college students) precisely because the only person advocating something like what we would is Peter Singer, who is so dudely and ivory tower and unconcerned with the real-world implications of shit he says for women that he has said that infanticide could sometimes be moral (because infants can’t suffer as adults do), thus giving forced-birthers an easy target.

    I think that maybe what you’re saying about accepting ambiguity and subjectivity could be a big part of building a better argument than Singer’s.

  159. A Ginva

    Did Singer really say that? Huh, guess I should reread him. Maybe I wasn’t critical enough – college time, though not so long ago. In which book/article did you find this Ashley? (Maybe everywhere). Without this second retrospective, at the time I read Singer I found him very convincing regarding animal ethics, and the way he showed that speceism is not a tenable and morally sound argument. I loved the way he crushed contract theory, having to endure liberal modern patriarchal contractualist dudes (Dworkin, Rawls, Cohen, etc) during most of my final year in political philosophy.

  160. random_anomaly

    Rescuing and caring for unwanted pets seems to be the most appropriate way of treating them. They can’t be released into the wild, but we can make their lives comfortable and try to provide them with whatever they need to be as content as possible.
    All the animals who live with me were either rescued, or were brought to me by people who could no longer care for them.

    The pet “industry”, and a lot of the breeders, are a completely different story.

  161. Linda Atkins

    It distresses me terribly that animals are mistreated in so many ways, and I take great satisfaction in knowing there is one animal, the cat I live with, who receives nothing but kindness and tremendous good care (well, plus the occasional request not to nestle in the pile of clean laundry). I got him from the SPCA. You are right that ideally all creatures would be at liberty, but life with a kindly caretaker is often safer and longer than otherwise. (Sorry if a million people already said this; I didn’t read the comments.) I wish I could save all animals, but all I can do is care for this particular animal with all my heart, and donate to the SPCA and PETA.

  162. TwissB

    Cheers for the ASPCA. Boos for PETA which uses a professed humane regard for animals as a pretext for treating women with contempt. PETA may not approve of skinning cats, but it delights in raising money by stripping women.

  163. Ashley

    A Ginva– That quote is in here: http://www.princeton.edu/~psinger/faq.html

    That one quote is really effective in turning people away from morality based on avoidance of causing suffering, which is basically the cornerstone of any liberation movement. A feminist intervention is definitely required.

  164. Rachel

    Just in response to a few people who have mentioned dominance in dogs. This is not a real thing. Dominance theory in dogs is based on old studies of captive wolves in artificial packs. The study was flawed and has been refuted in acamedia. In popular dog culture, dominance theory has thrived despite its basis in flawed science.

    My hypothesis is that it is because the idea of dominance is so powerful in modern American society.

    And this is what intrigues me with regard to the patriarchy. A lot of animal mistreatment stems from (and is rationalized by) shitty traditions and bad science, just like a lot of people mistreatment.

    I think it is just fine to live with pets (I also cringe at the word “own”). I love mine dearly. A lot of people are misguided about people-pet relationships and see it as a power struggle rather than a mutually beneficial partnership.

  165. Lidon

    @ TwissB: PETA has also done a fine job of using racist and fatphobic advertising in addition to their rampant misogyny. I hate them with all my vegetarian heart. My theory is that they get so much coverage, not only for using nudie pics, but because they undermine their cause so effectively thereby being no real threat to the multi-billion dollar fast food industry et al.

  166. laxsoppa

    @ Rachel – I’ve heard of that study although I haven’t had the time to even skim its contents. I’m not a fan of the “dominance” model either – having lived with dogs for almost my entire life in an area where we also have real wild wolves it’s pretty clear to anybody with half a working eye that dog =! wolf. Their intelligence warrants a lot more complex approach to laying down the ground rules than the simple dominance model.

    I just resent the carefree attitude Alex described having with his/her dogs. A pet is, in most cases, a dependent. Letting one run wild can endanger the pet and/or other animals.

    One of my charges, a huge wolf-husky hybrid, was the most sweet-natured dog (and very much a dog, not so much wolf) I’d ever come across and never a danger to others, and I always had him on a leash when we were walking. Sadly it happened a couple of times that some untrained, unleashed dog would approach him and even try to attack him – fortunately there were no casualties, even in the case of a mini samoyed the size of his head. Anyway, had there been a dog fight I couldn’t stop early enough and the unleashed offender died or suffered serious injury, whose responsibility do you think it would have been?

    @ Lidon – How do you think PETA could get any coverage at all if their message was truly subversive? Not only are they sexist and racist, but also fucking colonialist in the way they portray indigenous reindeer herders.

  167. SeleneD

    Late to the party, but…

    Arguing that animals must always prefer a life in the wild and anything else is only ever bad seems kind of anthropocentric and arrogant to me, actually. It depends on the species and the human they are living with, but why should we assume that only humans could possibly be happy with the privilege of living in a house, having access to food, safety, free time, and social concord? What makes us so special that we should not share what we have, even though our very privilege comes at the expense of the rest of the world? Do we not have an obligation to share what improved quality of life we have invented with our forebrains, considering that our brains would not exist without them (assuming you accept evolution), and without cutting into their resources and habitats?

    That sharing does not necessarily mean living with another animal — there are many ways we are obliged to use our intelligence to make life better for everyone — but living with an individual animal is one way of sharing, and I don’t see an ethical problem with that.

    At one point, I lived with a tamandua anteater, a prairie dog I’d rescued, a dog, and four-ish cats that sort of came and went, and out of the mix it was the anteater and the prairie dog that seemed the happiest. With all that time on their hands not having to run from predators and find food, both species did things like figure out puzzles, play, build things, and develop complex and surprisingly affectionate relationships with the predators in the house (including humans) who never once tried to eat them. They exhibited a great deal of intelligence that reflected Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs”, in that, without having to worry about food and safety, they could pursue other things with their minds. Why is it okay for humans to do that, but not other species? Why should sharing that opportunity with them be cruel?

    Now, I wouldn’t live with a tiger or a wolf that just has hard-core hunting instincts — we are obliged to those creatures in different ways — but many omnivores, herbivores, and small predators seem perfectly happy to enjoy an improved lifestyle. As long as you’re willing to provide an appropriate environment and be patient with their particular psychology, there really isn’t a reason to assume that no other animal except we of the primate brain likes privilege.

    So it’s a mistake, I think, to assume that everyone who lives with an animal is doing them harm or enslaving them, though there is something profoundly problematic with the capitalistic system in which we traffic animal life. But a problematic system does not imply that a living relationship with animals is itself problematic. Rather, I think that the system of trafficking is the product of Patriarchy, whereas our living-relationships with animals are the product of our individual consciousness and empathy toward animals as fellow living beings with minds and feelings, and those relationships vary accordingly.

  168. ugh

    I think you sillies need to understand that to own an animal is to oppress it. No matter what you think the animal thinks about it.

  169. ugh

    I mean for serious, there are so many paragraphs and paragraphs of text here just full of excuses for the fact that you all own slave animals, and why those slaves are cool with it.

  170. Jill

    OK, ugh. I look forward to your argument in support of your thesis.

  171. Red Sullivan

    I find Twisty’s point comparing the domestication of women to the domestication of animals very intriguing, and I will agree to some extent that it is cute.

    However, here’s something: for a woman who’s grown up internalizing the sexist shit surrounding her simply because the social role – as much as it might impact her self-esteem negatively – still generally gives her comfort through social acceptance, it would be very difficult to suddenly adopt a radical feminist stance and then go into society publicly espousing those beliefs. The immense social rejection and stigmatization she would experience is on a level she would be totally unprepared for (“undomesticating” yourself out of patriarchal notions you’ve taken for granted takes a while) – and this is somewhat akin to a domesticated animal becoming “undomesticated” and going out into a world defenseless simply because it has not yet properly learned the ways of the “undomesticated” to fend for itself.

  172. Red Sullivan

    Meaning – in addition to my previous comment – that I think Twisty should be a little more lenient on animals. Then again, you could say our intense obsession with adorable animals is a construct – but I’m not going to go there.

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