Pets


Pets? What is there to talk about them? You either have them or you don't. If you have them, it belongs to you and you're its master (or mistress; excuse the expression). I don't have any for this very reason. I personally feel animals should never have been domesticated and I think having pets is objectifying them. I think animals should be allowed to exist, without stupid humans interfering in their lives. Before you fly off the handle, hold on, and let me explain:

Once upon a time, when I was about 7 or so (all the good things in life happened to me when I was 7), I had a lot of pets. I had a lot of lovebirds, hanging suspended in a cage. And then I had a lot of fish (or fishes, since there were many kinds) in an aquarium. One night, we heard the birds screaming and we woke up to see what was up. The cage was completely covered by a blanket of African ants (you know, those big black ones). There must've been millions of them---it was an amazing sight! I guess their plan must've been to attack the birds. In any case, we splashed water on the cage to drive the ants away, but it was a tad too late: all but one of the birds died in the next couple of days and I let the last survivor go free, even though I'm quite sure it would've died as well since it wasn't used to surviving in the wild.

Now the fish: one day when I came back from school I noticed all my fish lying flat on the floor and my little cousin, who must've been around 3 then, wandering around with a ladle in his hand hitting things at random (it really is too bad he didn't cut himself on the broken glass and bleed to death or something). I cried. My aunt and mom were in the other room talking away while all of this happened.

I had mice too, but I couldn't bear to see them running around in their little cage without any freedom, and so I let them go as well. I have since then had a couple of "natural" pets, where, once in a while, an animal (not necessarily the same one) comes to where I am and I give it food or talk to it or whatever.

I realised though that my attempts at responsibility (and I was responsible, because had I not put them in a cage or an aquarium, they wouldn't have died) for their lives and existence had failed miserably. Never again will I undertake that responsibility. Those pets are not sentient beings (this is what I believe). They don't know they're even gonna die. Considering the fact that I am a sentient being, I should do everything in my power to make sure they stay alive. And keeping them "prisoner", in a cage or aquarium, isn't the way to do it. I don't get mad at people having pets, and I realise some people goto great lengths to make pets a part of their human family; I just don't believe in having them personally.

One of the key issues is objectification. To satisfy human ego, we objectify another animal. I do not let myself be objectified and I goto great lengths to prevent it. Why should animals be treated differently than how I would want to be treated myself? You think you give your cat a subjective, by using words like "her", and yet you say "my cat". Would you like to be "owned" by someone? (Note that I am talking about the issue of possessiveness here, not an issue of language.)

You don't let the fishes live their lives naturally. No, you pull them out of their homes, you don't let their parents take care of it, and you place them in this artificial environment. The comparable situation here is if someone kidnapped you and put you in a short prison. Someone who forced you to do what you didn't want to do. Do you really think they feel happy about being yourthey want)?

To carry this point further, why can't I have some human in a cage in my house? In a kennel perhaps? Because it violates human rights. I think animals rights and humans rights shouldn't be any different. What gives you the right to neuter or declaw a cat? Would you like that done to you? No. So it's all hypocrites who believe in "taking care" of pets. It's nothing you do can do right now, but as I said earlier, we should never have domesticated animals in the first place. I do, however, recognise the hypocrisy and thus arrived at my philosophy.

There is also the issue of choice and naturalness. Pets (animals) don't have a choice as I illustrated earlier. As far as naturalness, being a keeper of a human is what you're arguably capable of doing, not a keeper of fish or goats or dogs or cats or any other animal. No human has the capacity to do that because they are not that creature. The fact that we think we can is an anthropocentric view and pure human arrogance. Humans are arguably qualified, in a sense, to raise a human child and protect it to a degree and so on. In the case of fish, who or what decides that it is you that protects them from cats, etc.? When someone really close to you dies, your heart is wrenched out, but when a pet dies, rare is the person who sheds more than a few tears.

This is an issue I feel strongly about, and I can really go on about this, but I won't. All I encourage people to do is think about it: would you like being declawed (or your nails cut off)? Would you like being neutered? We can't handle our parents setting curfews on us, but someone keeping us prisoner? No way. Yet, this is the very thing we subject pets, who we claim we love and adore so much, to.

The above sort of thing, to a somewhat lesser degree, happens to girls in the middle-east for example, or slaves, etc. The thing is that humans are subjective enough to revolt. An animal isn't. They don't know, they are not aware, of the fact that they are objectified, because, in the end, that's what they are: objects (according to Sartre). Realising this, I just prefer to respect them than not, and leave them alone to their own lives


Addenda

A significant part of my motivation to do research in the area of computational biology is to do away with animal models entirely in the future (after some trying laboratory experiences).

I have received several comments regarding what I just wrote about pets. My childhood incidents were narrated to amuse, and to make one of think of responsibilities. It wasn't the pets' deaths itself but rather my futileness that bothered me---that I am in no position to take care of myself and yet, in my arrogance, I claim to take care of other animals.

It is true that there are some people who treat an animal in such a way that the definition of pets no longer holds. I was referring to what happens generally---walk around your local park and you will see.

There is at least one good reason why animals should be treated the way you would treat another human: Abusing animals is heading down a slippery slope that may lead us to abuse humans.

What I say is somewhat epitomised in Camus' The Stranger (the old man and his dog), and by this quote:

"No man is boss in his own home, but he can make up for it, he thinks, by making a dog play dead..." ---W.C. Fields

Pseudointellectual ramblings || Ram Samudrala || me@ram.org