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  • Writer's pictureEve Was Right

An Omnivore's Guide to Animal Welfare

The global struggle against oppression isn’t global until we include animals, too. 


I eat meat. I enjoy it. I also believe humans are omnivorous. PETA’s efforts to convince people to move towards vegetarianism or veganism is an example of making the best of a bad situation: in a profoundly unethical world, the least unethical choice is definitely veganism.


However, the purpose of this blog isn’t necessarily to live in the realm of “the best of bad options” territory. The point of this blog is to ask what other possibilities exist. What lies beyond and beneath the surface of our world? Why must we settle for the least bad option? What’s the best option?


The following article doesn’t come from a place of rigid moral superiority. For this reason, you won’t find any full-throated defenses of vegetarianism here, especially not when vegetarian foods are pesticide-filled, monoculture-ridden, price-gouging capitalistic exercises in exploitation. 


However, a recent encounter with my partner’s dog, who is now fully and completely our dog, made me realize we’re all - the whole world and every being in it - living under the same global system of oppression. Usually when people say, “This is a global struggle,” they mean it’s a global human struggle. In reality, it’s truly a global struggle; humans, nature, and animals - not animals as part of nature, but animals as individuals in their own right - are all involved.  


Our dog is an anxious buddy. She has good days and bad days, and her bad days have been made less frequent by an extensive protocol we’ve implemented for her. Lots of training, a central focus on her bed as a safe space, and controlled amounts of cuddles all factor in to some degree. However, on her bad days, many things set her off, including, occasionally, nothing at all. Once something sets her off, convincing her to  the danger has passed is incredibly difficult. 


Her high-pitched bark and the underlying anxiety both activate my PTSD in an intense way. I spent the first six months in a spiral of self-judgment - how could I be frustrated by a dog’s bark? It’s not her fault! She’s anxious, just like me.


Then, one day, after I had relaxed the self judgment, I realized her behavior was rooted in something other than “dog psychology.” In fact, her behavior was a manifestation of the same psychological drives humans develop as we force our way through this dystopia. 


Our dog is the equivalent of a child with ADHD. Is the child with ADHD actually impaired, or do ADHD brains more accurately depict the human struggle against the system in which we live? Is it the kid with ADHD who is wrong, or is it society? Is it our dog who exhibits maladaptive behavior, or is she just more connected to her natural state? 


I’ve learned a lot about canine behavioral modification and have had a great deal of success training dogs using tried-and-true methods. But my experience with our dog made me realize that we need these tools, training manuals, and schools of behavioral thought because, in an effort to help dogs cope with the pressures of living in a late-stage empire, we’re forcing them to do something profoundly unnatural.



Like all animals, dogs have to deal with the effects of late-stage empire, too. We’ve chosen dogs as our source of animal affection, which means they’re subjected to more pressure to conform to our rules than any other group of animals. 


When I say “our rules,” I don’t mean you and me as individuals. It’s not our fault - we’re doing the best we can with the hand we’ve been dealt. If anything, the vast amount of money people in rich countries spend on our dogs proves just how much we’re trying to shield them from the world we inhabit. 


So no, I don’t mean our individual household rules. I mean society’s rules, the same rules humans are subjected to. We’re all suffering under this oppression. My intention is not to make any dog parents feel bad about training their dogs. In this society, with the absence of other options, comprehensive dog training is definitely the best way to make sure dogs’ lives are enjoyable. But it’s a far cry from the ideal. 


So what is the ideal, not just for pets, but for all animals? 


Disclaimer

We’re omnivores. The reason veganism hasn’t had as much success as it otherwise could have is because it goes against both our nature and our culture. Human culture and food are inextricably linked; food is and will probably always remain the single most powerful route to connect people across the world. Food, physical attraction, music, and dance are the transcendent parts of human life. 


Vegetarianism is the ethical choice because of the world we live in and because it has no intention of changing, but eating meat is not inherently unethical. For example, if your dog could talk (which, maybe they can), try telling them they should go vegetarian. 


Given our situation, vegetarianism is the ethical solution, but it wouldn’t have been our inevitable endpoint if it hadn’t been for the obscene immorality of our food systems. 


Pets

In many rich countries, dogs are kept inside. This is the core reason that psychological issues such as separation anxiety are so prevalent in rich countries. 


Instead, dogs and other pets should always be allowed to roam freely. They should never have any restrictions on their movement, because ultimately, they are not ours. They don’t belong to us! They’re animals with their own hierarchy and social group. 


A dog should be able to decide whether they want to associate with us. If they come to us and decide to never leave, then we are blessed by their choice. But they should always be able to leave. 


Of course, this presupposes a world where humans have the ability to allow dogs to roam free, and it assumes humans have governments that wouldn’t, for example, send a van to take a dog into a shelter if it’s found roaming free. 


We’re all struggling against the same system of oppression. This global struggle crosses all national and species borders. Everyone deserves better. 


Breeding dogs to be companions should be outlawed categorically, as should neutering/spaying. If dogs procreated voluntarily and were not bred intentionally, and nature was allowed to do its job, the dog population would control itself naturally. 


Would our furry friends potentially enjoy a shorter lifespan? Sure. But there’s a gorilla who recently celebrated her 62nd birthday in captivity. Tell me she wouldn’t have preferred to celebrate 55 years of freedom. 


Farm Animals

Farms are an ecosystem unto themselves. Because of this, the first thing that should be done for all of Earth, not just for animals, is to outlaw breeding animals for meat consumption and artificially impregnating animals for dairy production. 


I’m not saying we outlaw meat consumption! I’m saying we respect the natural life cycle of each animal. Chickens lay eggs and remove pests from the environment. Eventually, those chickens will not be able to lay eggs anymore, at which point they become meat. 


The same is true for cows, goats, and sheep. They produce milk in their time, wean their babies, and eventually, when they can no longer produce milk, they become meat. Pigs forage and root, thus turning over the ground and increasing its fertility. 


All of this has a natural cycle. If we respected it, sure, we might have to eat vegetarian meals more often, but we would keep things balanced. 


“But prices would skyrocket!” 


Would they, though? In an ideal environment, essential items shouldn’t be publicly listed on a stock market or otherwise built for profit. 


Why are our food conglomerates allowed to report record profits? Why is food allowed to be sold at a profit at all? 


Wild Animals

Some animals should never have to interact with humans on anything other than a rare basis. The Serengeti provides ample proof of this concept. Elephants, lions, whales, and sharks should be left alone. They don’t benefit from interaction with us; it’s a completely one-sided relationship. 


Our curiosity about the natural world and our desire to see wild animals are good instincts for us to have, but our relationships with wild animals need to center their needs first. Animal tourism should be heavily limited and regulated because seeing these animals should be an immense privilege, not a right, and  shouldn’t involve interaction. 


If you are one of the very few people who decide to dedicate their lives to learning about a specific species’ psychology and physiology, and you want to spend a decade integrating yourself into their social webs in an effort to get them to accept you - congratulations. At some point, I’m sure they would. Otherwise, though, they and their habitats should be protected from us.


We’re all part of the same existential struggle against this oppressive system. It would be easy to blame humans for the horrendous treatment of animals and the extent to which we’ve subverted their nature. But that would ignore our own mistreatment at the hands of our society. We’re all suffering under the boot of empire, no matter how subtly.

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