In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “Is it vegan to own pets?’ and will discuss why it is vegan to keep pets?
Is it vegan to own pets?
Yes, it is vegan to own pets. The presence of domesticated animals, such as cats and dogs, has many vegans preferring to retain them as friends rather than kill them. According to the Vegan Society, “a future where no animal is kept in captivity is what we should be aiming towards as vegans.”
In fact, vegetarians and vegans are more apt to care for animals and pets, thus they have greater empathy towards them. A study found that vegetarians and vegans, compared with omnivores, showed similar empathetic neural activation patterns when viewing the suffering of animals and the suffering of human beings, suggesting that individuals motivated not to eat animals show comparable empathy toward people and animals. Similarly, research on moral expansiveness has shown that people who include animals in their sphere of moral concern show greater prosocial motivations toward them (1).
Does Animal Welfare Qualify as a Vegetarian Lifestyle?
As with many of the problems we examine, the commonly recognized definition of veganism serves as an excellent beginning point. As you may have noticed, we’ve been discussing it a lot lately: Veganism is:
Encouraging the creation and usage of animal-free alternatives for the benefit both of people as well as of animals and the environment is the goal of animal-rights philosophy and lifestyle. In dietary terms, it refers to the practice of avoiding all animal-based food. In praxis, it is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment (2).
Pets as “property”
Let’s start with the terms “exploitation” and “cruelty” before moving on to other topics. The core of the anti-pet argument is that people who own pets regard them as property, which is a violation of their rights. Buying and selling a dog, cat, or any other animal is a kind of slavery. An animal that is unable to provide its assent is confined by its owner’s desires.
Even if no physical harm is done to the animal, such treatment is nonetheless cruel since the animal is exploited and unable to consent to its owner’s enjoyment. These are animals, and although they may no longer be wild, the environment in which they currently reside is a far cry from what they were used to.
It depends on the pet and the circumstance as to how accurate this last claim is. Even while a huge dog living in a cramped city dwelling is clearly in worse shape than a cat that lives in the countryside, both are having a different existence than their ancient relatives.
However, cruelty is defined as any “socially unacceptable behavior that intentionally causes unnecessary pain, suffering, or distress to, and/or death of, an animal”. Under this definition, emotional or psychological pain (e.g., teasing, bestiality), as well as physical pain, could constitute cruelty. In this case, no cruelty is done by only owning a pet, when the objective is to care for it, feed it and moreover, to have it as a family “member” (3).
“Family Members”: Pets
Many vegans and non-vegans who own dogs, however, would strongly disagree. Animal lovers, even though they may officially “own” their dog or cat, see their companions as fully-fledged members of the home.
They treat their partner with kindness, respect, and decency, which are all terms connected with the vegan lifestyle.
In a research, 77% of dog and cat owners say their animals are family members. Including a pet in the family should extend socially supportive qualities to these animals, equipping them with more perceived capacity to offer social support that can enhance owner wellbeing. Also, including a companion animal in one’s construction of family diversifies the types of entities in family membership, which should improve wellbeing as well (1).
Dogs and cats are not able to give permission
However, a cat, a dog, or a rabbit can’t say for sure if they’re okay with the idea of being maintained as a friend. But what is the alternative to this? ‘ Millions of animals all around the globe are unable to live in the wild for various reasons. If an animal is maintained in a loving, secure habitat and fed and housed rather than being left in the wild to face predators and other hazards, isn’t that preferable?
In addition, many animals have their lives rescued by shelters, when people have to relinquish their pets. Animal rescues typically take the time to find matches between the interests and circumstances of people seeking a pet and the needs of the pet, thus an appropriate home is of greater benefit for the pet than an animal shelter (3).
Animal Rescue vs. Breeding Purposefully
When it comes to keeping pets as a modern-day alternative to animal cruelty, most vegans draw a line between the two. This implies that a vegan may advocate for the abolition of animal companionship while at the same time retaining a pet of their own.
Many animals in our environment already have a better chance of happiness, safety, and long life as pets than they have in the wild. The presence of domesticated animals, such as cats and dogs, has many vegans preferring to retain them as friends rather than kill them.
It is apparent that the Vegan Society believes that as vegans, they we should be striving towards a society where no animal is kept in captivity, and this certainly includes pets. The goal is to eliminate animal confinement, but we must be realistic and practical to achieve this goal. That may never happen, given existing views, and even if it does, it will take a long time to get there.
Euthanasia, allowing animals to be released, keeping them in rescue centers, or keeping pets are all options in the meantime. Most vegans believe that the second option is the best out of a collection of poor choices.
Because of this, vegans may both own pets and oppose them, however, this means that most vegans will only ever adopt pets from rescue centers. It’s not only pet stores and breeders that contribute to the issue, but also “unintentional” breeders who let their animals procreate. For many vegans, the most humane solution to an intractable situation is to provide a loving home for rescue animals.
However, it is to emphasize that, when the pet is considered a “family member”, as it is in the great majority by the pet owners worldwide, this is extremely positive for the well-being of the pet – in addition to the well-being of the pet owner. The dog calls forth the best that a human person is capable of— self-sacrificing devotion to a weaker and dependent being (3).
Is the Idea of Pets a Painful Concept?
While it’s true that some people treat their animals better than their partners, spouses, or children, it’s also true that many people think they’re doing nothing wrong by caring for their dogs. However, it’s impossible to look at such individuals in a vacuum.
Millions of animals in the pet “business” are subjected to severe pain and misery. If we disregard further philosophical debates about animal rights and the right to freedom, many vegans believe that having pets is a bad idea because of this suffering.
The Trade in Exotic Animal Pets
Suffering may be found in a variety of forms. Wildlife wholesalers were found to have 80 percent of their animals either dead, wounded, or unwell according to an article in the Journal of Animal Welfare Science (with the rest all being at less than perfect levels of health). This survey, according to PETA, shows that “Seventy-two percent of exotic animals in the ‘pet’ trade die before they ever reach retailers”.
Highly organized criminal networks spanning several countries have been implicated in large-scale wildlife smuggling operations. Such operations are often not only cruel, with many animals dying in the process, but also endanger wild populations because overexploitation to supply the illicit trade can rapidly cause extinction (4).
The Puppy Farming Industry and Ignorant Owners
Additionally, pets are often abandoned by their owners, who are either cruel or incompetent. Long lengths of time may be spent in pet stores where they are not properly cared for. Puppy mills, or puppy farms, breed dogs on an industrial scale, sometimes in a manner that is very stressful and harmful to the young animals, and this practice is known as “puppy farming.”
Puppy mill‖ is a term used to describe a commercial dog breeding facility that profits from selling puppies on a large scale. Those operating puppy mills frequently prioritize profitability at the expense of their animals‘ well-being. As a result, breeders, seeking the most affordable means of production possible, create deplorable and unsafe living conditions for their animals (5).
Animals that are no longer desirable
In the end, we are left with a mountain of unwanted creatures. Animal shelters in the United States alone euthanize up to 4 million animals each year because there aren’t enough homes for them, according to PETA. Humans’ urge to own pets is directly responsible for the mass slaughter of animals.
Other FAQs about Vegans that you may be interested in.
In this brief guide, we answered the query, “Is it vegan to own pets?’ and discussed why it is vegan to keep pets?
- McConnell, Allen R., E. Paige Lloyd, and Brandon T. Humphrey. We are family: Viewing pets as family members improves wellbeing. Anthrozoös, 2019, 32, 459-470.
- Dutkiewicz, J., Dickstein, J. The Ism in Veganism: The Case for a Minimal Practice-based Definition. Food ethics, 2021, 6, 2.
- Blazina, Christopher, Guler Boyra, and David S. Shen-Miller. The psychology of the human-animal bond. New York, NY, USA:: Springer, 2011.
- Alacs, Erika, and Arthur Georges. Wildlife across our borders: a review of the illegal trade in Australia. Austra J Foren Sci, 2008, 40, 147-160.
- Burger, Kailey A. Solving the problem of puppy mills: why the animal welfare movement’s bark is stronger than its bite. Wash, 2013, UJL Pol’y, 2013, 43, 259.