Vegetarians are fond of equating animals with people and saying that it's wrong to cause animals distress and /or shorten their lives unnaturally. However, it seems to me that if you follow line of reasoning, keeping pets and creating zoos is also very wrong. The one is a form of slavery, then, and the other a form of kidnapping.


I believe that if you are a vegetarian and don't agree that it's wrong to keep pets or create zoos, you're being hypocritical.

You can say that most pets are happy to be pets and have even been bred for that purpose, but vegetarians often argue that "Well, but we are more evolved creatures and have an obligation to lesser creatures whether they ask for our help or not."

Okay vegetarians, it's your turn to reply, Do you agree that keeping pets and establishing zoos is also immoral if eating animal matter is immoral, or do you have any arguments to escape from this conclusion. I would hope none of you have dogs, cats, or parrots (especially parrots, since they are far smarter than dogs and cats).

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I'm surprised some of our animal lovers and vegetarians/vegans haven't jumped in here. This isn't a topic I just made up. It's discussed far and wide. Here are some links:

Can Animals Be Slaves?

Are Pets Our Slaves

PETA's SeaWorld Lawsuit Focuses On Constitutional Protection Agains...

Can An Animal Be A Slave?

Now, eating animals doesn't bother me, as long as they are crop animals like cows, sheep, chickens, etc, or game animals eaten after being hunted. So, I'm not much of an animal rights advocate. But if someone who objects to eating animal flesh on animalitarian grounds, I think that, to be consistent, one has to consider whether to apply human rights concepts to animals in other regards as well. So, are pets slaves? Are performing animals slaves, be they monkeys begging for change, dogs fetching sticks, or Orcas splashing around in a liquid cage? And zoos...what are they but prisons for animals?

I think the case would be better made if they talked about sled dogs / oxen who pull carts all day long or horses who pull carriages, etc.  It would be a much better case than talking about house pets.  

I am not one to call out animal rights abuses but I could possibly a case for animal slavery in the form I mentioned above.  But then again, perhaps the animals are just getting healthy exercise and a good life being fed and taken care for while they are not working.  

I'm both a vegetarian and a taker of internet bait.  So here's my response.

1. Pets.  I do not think it's inherently unethical to keep domesticated animals as pets.  If I may quote you at length, you wrote, "[Vegetarians] can say that most pets are happy to be pets and have even been bred for that purpose, but vegetarians often argue that 'Well, but we are more evolved creatures and have an obligation to lesser creatures whether they ask for our help or not.'"  It seems to me that you may have lost your train of thought partway through writing these lines, because you have expressed what I feel is an accurate line of reasoning regarding our responsibility toward domesticated animals.  The lifespan of cats and dogs in "the wild" (i.e. in a world shaped for and by humans) is substantially less than the lifespan of cats and dogs kept indoors.  I think it is clear that the most scientific and logical means of elevating the quality of life of these and other domesticated animals is through close management of their reproduction, diets, and health -- in other words, to do right by animals that we have both intentionally and unintentionally weakened through genetic and environmental manipulation, we have to sterilize, feed, and shelter them.  To do otherwise, to turn them loose in a misguided attempt to "free" them, is to condemn billions to lower quality lives and, ultimately, to death from preventable starvation, diseases, and accidents.

2. Zoos.  It is difficult to generalize about the ethics of zoos, because facts and circumstances vary widely from zoo to zoo and species to species.  Speaking very generally, if an animal is critically endangered then captivity may be its only hope for survival.  Small cages for, say, roaming cats may be inadequate, whereas larger cages or non-cage preserves for such species may be acceptable.  Certain species may fare poorly in captivity, whereas others may thrive.  Zoos are not inherently unethical, though some zoos surely are.  At all times the interests of the animals must take precedence over the interests of the viewing public.

One final thought: I reject the premise of your question.  Each separate use of animals raises unique ethical questions, and each circumstance must be analyzed sui generis.  Thus, a person's opposition to eating animals in non-survival circumstances should not imply anything about that person's stance on the use of animals for farm labor, for example.

I hope this response helps you better understand the diversity of the vegetarian perspective and that you don't simply retort with a list of rebuttals.

We are considering the arguments of many people who feel animals deserve the same ethical consideration as people, which means that just as smarter and wiser people have no right to impose their will on others using "But we are smarter and wiser than you" as justification, so the smarter and wiser species has no right to act on behalf of the welfare of lesser creatures.

Sure, if we were to free all pets tomorrow, many would die of starvation or predation, but that's according to what people fancifully call Mother Nature's Plan, not man's, and those who survive will form the core of a new life in nature, living the way an animal does in nature, which can be harsh. Dogs, and especially cats, have survival skills. They know what to do in the wild. A cat will simply start catching and eating small animals. Dogs will form packs and, a few generations on, will take on the characteristics of wild dogs around the world. Dingoes for example.

Quo warranto (by what authority)? Who gave us the right to prolong the life of individual creatures by removing them from nature, anyway? Or did we undertake it because we are so superior to them?

As for zoos, one can treat the animals in zoos as though they are the seed corn as justification, but if one is to consider the feelings of the tiger, empathizing with them as many vegetarians, vegans, and PETA say we should, would they prefer to be cooped up in a cage in order to preserve their species or would they prefer to be back in the jungle hunting wild game and let the chips fall where they may? We could ship all tigers in cages to Asia and open up their cages to see which ones left their cages and came back to their cage.

Ever heard, "If you love something set it free. If it comes back to you, it's yours. If it doesn't, it never was."

We can talk all we want about animal stewardship. Where did we get that idea that we have a special role taking care of nature and its creatures? Sounds awfully Biblical to me!

I don't know how to define "right to act" and "no right to act."  But right or no right, we do have an ethical responsibility to care for other species (and for other members of our own species).  I can't prove to you that that's true, because it's a matter of opinion.  I could tell you why I think we have that responsibility until I'm blue in the fingers, but I can see that it wouldn't be a fruitful discussion for either of us.  In short, to "let the chips fall where they may" when we have the knowledge to predict the outcome (extinction in the case of the tiger, untold suffering in the case of domesticated animals) and the power to alter it would be inexcusable.

Your Darwinian approach to the survival of domesticated animals is misguided.  "Mother Nature's Plan, not man's," you say.  Animals "know what to do in the wild," you say.  You should re-read the part of my previous post in which I mention "the wild," and think about whether such a thing really exists and whether, if it did exist, it would actually be the best environment for all species.

A parting thought: it would be deeply wrong to apply the policy "if you love something set it free. If it comes back to you, it's yours. If it doesn't, it never was" to domesticated animals. Domesticated animals lack the wherewithal to make informed choices or to care for themselves as effectively as human caretakers can.  That's not a matter of opinion, it's a matter of fact.  Perhaps it is a fact that makes some people uncomfortable, but it is a fact nonetheless.

I don't know how to define "right to act" and "no right to act."  But right or no right, we do have an ethical responsibility to care for other species (and for other members of our own species).  I can't prove to you that that's true, because it's a matter of opinion. 


You'll never prove that opinion, not because it's an opinion but because it's an opinion about something that isn't a fact to start with. Rights and responsibilities are matters of attitude, not matters of fact. So it comes down to you have yours and I have mine. You'll never get any further than that.

I could tell you why I think we have that responsibility until I'm blue in the fingers, but I can see that it wouldn't be a fruitful discussion for either of us.  In short, to "let the chips fall where they may" when we have the knowledge to predict the outcome (extinction in the case of the tiger, untold suffering in the case of domesticated animals) and the power to alter it would be inexcusable.

Is the price of keeping tigers in zoos forever past the time when they were viable in the wild not an act of cruelty in itself? Imagine that a few people were kept in alien zoos long past the time when any place where we could be kept free was gone. What are the ethics of that? And why, so that aliens could gawk at us to see what humans look like?

Your Darwinian approach to the survival of domesticated animals is misguided.  "Mother Nature's Plan, not man's," you say.  Animals "know what to do in the wild," you say.  You should re-read the part of my previous post in which I mention "the wild," and think about whether such a thing really exists.

I grant that the lifespan of cats and dogs in the wild may be shorter, but using that logic, all animals should be pets and the fact that they live out in nature is an abomination that needs to be rectified. Turn it around and suppose that you could give your neighbor across the street if you could only lock him up and manage his feeding and care. Does that seem ethical? Or suppose it was done to humans by a far more intelligent and wise race, all in the name of adding 10 years onto our lives. Would that be worth give up our freedom?

A parting thought: it would be deeply wrong to apply the policy "if you love something set it free. If it comes back to you, it's yours. If it doesn't, it never was" to domesticated animals. Domesticated animals lack the wherewithal to make informed choices or to care for themselves as effectively as human caretakers can.  That's not a matter of opinion, it's a matter of fact.  Perhaps it is a fact that makes some people uncomfortable, but it is a fact nonetheless.

Sure, if we set them free some would die. Everything and everyone dies anyway. But the ones that survived, be they many or few, would provide the basis for a functional and self-regulating gene pool.

Sure, if we set them free some would die. Everything and everyone dies anyway. But the ones that survived, be they many or few, would provide the basis for a functional and self-regulating gene pool.

Whether that would happen, and whether life would be better for the survivors, is difficult to predict, but I doubt that either is true.  In the meanwhile, we must not shirk our responsibilities to the dependent species that we have created.

Turn it around and suppose that you could give your neighbor across the street if you could only lock him up and manage his feeding and care. Does that seem ethical? Or suppose it was done to humans by a far more intelligent and wise race, all in the name of adding 10 years onto our lives. Would that be worth give up our freedom?

You began this thread by stating "vegetarians are fond of equating animals with people" and you seem to be quite fond of it as well.  I, however, make no such equivalency.  If how I feel about eating animals is not a predictor of how I feel about using animals for other purposes, you can rest assured that how I feel about pets is not an indicator of how I feel about humans.  This is not hypocrisy; it is recognition that the salient circumstances of each case varies.  That is the point I wished to make when I decided to respond to this thread, and I hope it is the point you will take away from our exchange.

Sure, if we set them free some would die. Everything and everyone dies anyway. But the ones that survived, be they many or few, would provide the basis for a functional and self-regulating gene pool.

Whether that would happen, and whether life would be better for the survivors, is difficult to predict, but I doubt that either is true.  In the meanwhile, we must not shirk our responsibilities to the dependent species that we have created.

There is a man-made fruit fly species. So far, no man-made domestic animals. Any biologist will tell you that the common domestic dog is still canis lupus. The domestic dog is just a variety. Dogs interbreed freely with wolves producing viable offspring. Dogs who go wild form packs and hunt. Of course, a Yorkie is at a distinct disadvantage to a Laborador, German Shepherd, or Pitbull, but, you know, it's back to natural selection. Within a few generations you'll have a dog somewhat resembling an Australian Dingo.

Turn it around and suppose that you could give your neighbor across the street if you could only lock him up and manage his feeding and care. Does that seem ethical? Or suppose it was done to humans by a far more intelligent and wise race, all in the name of adding 10 years onto our lives. Would that be worth give up our freedom?

You began this thread by stating "vegetarians are fond of equating animals with people" and you seem to be quite fond of it as well.

Oh, I'm not fond of equating animals with humans. I'm fond of taking people's arguments seriously enough to see where those arguments would go applied consistently, which often results in absurdities, anomalies, or conclusions most people would want to follow.

I, however, make no such equivalency.  If how I feel about eating animals is not a predictor of how I feel about using animals for other purposes, you can rest assured that how I feel about pets is not an indicator of how I feel about humans.  This is not hypocrisy; it is recognition that the salient circumstances of each case varies.  

All particular cases have variances, but those variances can and should be accounted for, or you're just being irrational.

If you don't equate animals with humans as some do, who say that we owe compassion to animals so that they can live out their natural lives, then you have your "out." You're being logically inconsistent, which is fine with me. As for me, I'm just playing Devil's Advocate. I myself simply choose not to apply logic to this area. I'm not a robot who operates as if on a program. I eat meat because I like it. If that makes me illogical, I don't view being logical as the be all and end all of being human. I don't even view being compassionate as important to being human. Any argument based on compassion is at its hard emotional, not logical, and is based on attitudes and opinions, not facts and evidence.

RE: "Who gave us the right to prolong the life of individual creatures by removing them from nature, anyway? Or did we undertake it because we are so superior to them?"

We first took in wolf cubs, due either to the novelty of the idea, or to humanitarianism, having killed their mother for whatever reason. Then a symbiotic relationship evolved - they learned they could eat without having to spend most of their days on the hunt and chase, and humans learned they could use the animal's keen sense of hearing and smell to detect enemies.

Omni est Gallia divide in tres partes (All of Gaul is divided into three parts)

It's been proposed that it's not even symbiosis anymore. They have become parasites, living off us far more than they contribute to our lives (lives in the sense of meeting the basic material needs). Being ingratiating is simply part of their parasitic strategy.

"If biologists weren't victim to the same blindness that afflicts us all, they probably wouldn't hesitate to classify dogs as social parasites. This is the class of manipulative creatures exemplified by the cuckoo, which lays its eggs in the nest of some unsuspecting dupe of a bird of another species; the poor befuddled parents see this big mouth crying out for food and stuff it full of worms at the expense of their own offspring. Every time they turn their backs, the cuckoo hatchling shoves another of its foster parents' flesh and blood overboard." (source)

RE: "They have become parasites" - suppose it's all part of their evil plot to take over the world and turn the human race into kibbles and bits?

They are working hand-in-hand with the tapeworms and liver flukes.

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