Saturday, August 19, 2017

People who love animals should not own pets

Charles Danten

This article was published by the Montreal Gazette as an Op-Ed on Oct 9, 2014. 

The exploitation of pets is much more cruel by its subtlety and sophistication than any other form of exploitation, including factory farming, force-feeding of geese, and vivisection.


It is now widely believed that pets make us more human, enhance our health, sense of psychological well-being, and longevity. But while some researchers have reported that positive short-term effects of the placebo type accrue from interacting with animals, in 30% of the population, others have found in convincing large-scale quantitative studies, that the health and happiness of pet owners is no better, and in some cases worse, than that of non–pet owners.

It is also widely believed that animals benefit as much as we do from the human-animal bond. Yet nothing is further from the truth: 

Because of the bond we impose on them, all pets by definition remain infantile never reaching any level of autonomy or emotional maturity. The maintenance of this infantile attachment feeds a permanent state of anxiety. This translates clinically to various psychosomatic diseases such as colitis, bladder inflammation, and skin problems. Psychological problems such as phobias, self-mutilation, and separation anxiety are widespread and as frequent as problems linked to domination, fear, and ambivalence. These animals will often be severely punished or abandoned by their owners who are unable to read correctly the meaning of these neuroses, which they mistake for a flaw proper to the animal itself. Curative treatments are doomed to fail since these diseases stem from the very concept of pet.

Vaccination for commercial and financial reasons is killing thousands of animals each year. Various mutilations like declawing, ear trimming, spaying and castration to make animals more appealing and easier to control (animals in the raw are less attractive and much more difficult to handle - this is the real reason for neutering) is causing untold miseries to animals.

Animal healthcare itself is a subtle form of animal abuse. It is a case of wishful thinking to imagine that a pet can understand and appreciate whatever good intentions are behind veterinary medical care. 

It is simply above and beyond their cognitive possibilities. An animal is no more conscious of being “repaired” than a car, with one major difference: animals are sentient beings who are perfectly conscious of the pain that’s inflicted on them for reasons beyond their comprehension. From their point of view, a veterinary hospital is indistinguishable from a pound.

We cause their diseases in myriad ways on the one hand, then play dumb and profit from them on the other. This schizophrenic absurdity suggests that our concern for pet health has much more to do with trying to meet our own needs than with anything else.

Sexual exploitation, a subject taboo in our well-meaning society, is widespread in all walks of life. The immorality of making a pet out of an animal opens the door to every conceivable type of exploitation.

According to a 2005 US embassy cable released by Wikileaks, on a global scale, the trade of wildlife, of which the main markets are the oriental medical industry, the clothing industry, and the pet industry in the U.S. and Europe, is “10 billion USD to 20 billion USD a year, ranking third after arms and drugs trafficking.” For the sake of a song and a little exoticism, the habitats and natural incubators of the entire world are being destroyed.

When they are in style, breeds become the object of intense breeding by various businessmen, amateurs, backyard aficionados and show breeders that rapidly leads to their deterioration. There are more than 300 incurable and debilitating genetic diseases in pets, mostly caused by inbreeding and consumerism.

Animals are afflicted with carefully planned anatomical characteristics that make nightmares of their lives. 

The physical conditions of captivity are also taking their toll. According to Dr. Karen Overall, a veterinarian specialized in animal ethology, only 1% of the population knows anything about the animals they keep in captivity. Restricted to small spaces for their entire lives, locked up while their owners go on with their lives, the majority of pets know an existence as limited and boring as that of prisoners or slaves.

The very nature of the food we give to pets is also the cause of many painful health problems.

Millions of animals are destroyed each year in pounds euphemistically called shelters. Others, that will never be adopted because of unredeemable physical or psychological flaws spend their lives cooped up in no-kill shelters at the total mercy of Good Samaritans, who are only pleasing themselves by insisting on keeping the animals alive, as a matter of principle, or for business and image reasons regardless of the animal’s best interest, sometimes for years, under miserable conditions from the animal’s point of view.

The list goes on and on… the human-pet bond is far from being the therapeutic panacea claimed by advocates of “responsible" animal stewardship. On the contrary, it is both self-destructive and destructive to the natural world. 

By buying into the fallacies just described, adoption and animal rights do more to nullify the wanted effect of saving animals and to amplify the dreaded effect of consumerism, with all its inseparable atrocities. The equivalent would be to pay a ransom to terrorists for a hostage. We don't do it because we know it just feeds the problem viciously. 

Innovations in education providing an honest look at the nature of our relationship with the animal world would be tremendously more fruitful than the lessons learned from the exploitation of a pet. In that case, animals are not the only ones on the losing end: instead of being properly educated, children become pets themselves when they are dumbed down and indoctrinated to believe at a very early age that life without a pet is unthinkable and that love and cruelty are good mixes. 

Once your pet dies of a natural death, for instance, you can choose in your own life, if you so desire, to put an end to this barbarism with a smiley face by simply walking away. Don’t be a hostage to those who profit from this abomination.

If we truly loved animals, we would leave them alone.

Charles Danten


Book review
Bangor Daily News: "Your pet is unhealthy and unhappy. […] Perhaps that smile you see on your pet’s face is actually a grimace. […] Exposes the dark and disastrous underbelly of the pet world, and it ain’t pretty  ».

Book synopsis
So you think that having pets is beneficial to both people and animals? And that pets enjoy an easy life? Think again! Longtime former veterinarian Charles Danten asks us to set aside preconceived ideas to take an honest look at what underlies our love of the animals we hold dearest.
This provocative exposé puts our most revered interactions with animals under the microscope. Meticulously documented, it raises poignant questions about the nature of our relationships with animals, and reveals little-known aspects of the industry behind it all. Pet food manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, veterinarians, shelters, humane societies, animal activists, factory farms, and even pet owners are at the core of a subtle exploitation that operates under the guise of love and compassion.

About the author
A graduate of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Charles Danten practiced veterinary medicine for eighteen years, ten of which were spent in his own veterinary clinic near Montreal, Quebec. At different times during his career, Dr. Danten cared for companion, farm, and zoo animals. A growing awareness of the undesirable aspects of human-animal relationships led him to sell his clinic and leave the profession altogether.