On Eating Your Pets

Seth Victor

dog sandwich

An article caught my eye this morning about a man in New Mexico who was charged with a felony for extreme cruelty against a dog. The man allegedly stabbed his girlfriend’s dog in the heart, and then marinated the remains of the animal in preparation to cook it. While animal cruelty is a crime in New Mexico, eating dogs or cats is not, and if the defendant is successful in showing he did not act cruelly, there is no consequence for killing a companion animal for food.

These types of cases crop up every once in a while, often accompanied by outrage from some segments of the population over the wanton nature of the act. As always, since the law codifies our social voice, some states have put laws in place to discourage this kind of behavior. In New York, for example, one may not ” slaughter or butcher domesticated dog or domesticated cat  to create food, meat or meat products for human or animal consumption.”

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Keeping Pets out of the Market

Seth Victor

Though there is a growing dialogue about how to classify domestic animals, the norm in America is, and will likely remain for a great while longer, that animals are property that can be bought and sold, like a chair or the computer on which you are reading this blawg.

puppies in window

Of course animals are not just property, and millions of people believe that their furry friends are essential members of their families, member who should be afforded certain protections against cruelty. Most of you are aware that we do consider some types of domestic animal abuse as felonies (unless you are from the Dakotas). Clearly we care about domestic animals (I emphasize domestic; I’ll refrain from discussing the hypocrisy of our nation’s CAFO situation), but we remain entrenched in a legal framework that considers them to be chattel. No matter how egalitarian the owner, there is inherent inequality and lack of agency in such a system.To draw a common and controversial comparison, no matter how magnanimous the slave owner, it’s still slavery.

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North Dakota Votes Against Animals

Seth Victor

In what must be a move of Dakotan solidarity, the people of North Dakota voted last week against Proposition 5, which would have  made it a class C felony, punishable by incarceration, “to maliciously and intentionally harm a living dog, cat or horse.” There would have been the typical exceptions for veterinarians, hunters, scientists, and, of course, agriculture workers. This is a measure aimed at domestic pets, which would have enforced against instances akin to Michael Vick’s dog torture. Nevertheless, 65.4% of voters opted to have North Dakota remain with South Dakota as the only two states in the nation without animal cruelty felonies.

Interestingly, this comes in the same election when three states approved same-sex marriage, a measure in nearby Minnesota to outlaw same-sex marriage was voted down, and recreational marijuana was legalized in two states. Additionally, within North Dakota, voters opted to ban indoor smoking in the workplace by a 2-1 majority, but also voted 2-1 for a measure that bans any law that would abridge farmers and ranchers from employing their own industry practices. It seems that while we as a nation are in a piecemeal fashion expanding the liberties of our own species, animals are clearly still an “other” that do not receive the same considerations. The vote on the smoking measure in a state that is traditionally wary of government intervention shows that individuals do not have an absolute right to do what they want to the detriment of others, but efforts to extend that same logic to establish animals as something more than property remain trapped in our legal schizophrenia. I can grasp the reasoning behind the farmed animal vote; established industry, I expect, advertised, lobbied, and campaigned more effectively to keep the status quo. Why anyone in 2012 would want to keep torture to companion animals punishable only by a slap on the wrist, however, is beyond me.

Is a pet-free world possible?

Seth Victor

Gary Francione rejecting the premise that animals can be property is not new; the good professor has been expressing his view for decades that the key to animal equality must be, in part, approached through our definitions of ownership. He recently posted  that pet ownership is unnatural, even if it were possible to create and enforce laws that gave pets legal status as persons. He goes on to say that even if there were only two dogs left in the world, and good homes could be assured to all of the offspring, pet ownership would still have no place, and he would work to end the institution. Continue reading

When the Wild Things Aren’t

Seth Victor

Here’s the situation. You have several domestic cats in a neighborhood from different houses. For one reason or another, a couple of these cats leave their homes and wander the neighborhood and breed, becoming more or less feral. This goes on for several generations. Does there come a point when these cats are no longer domestic animals, but should be considered wild?

I pose the question concerning cats because feral felines occupy a middle ground in our society’s ever complicated definitions when it comes to animals. Cats are cute and cuddly and are one of the primary “pet” animals; though probably just a juicy and tender, it’s faux pas to eat them, and even the dumbest cat is more lauded than the smartest pig. Cats are also noted for their more independent behavior. Ask a “dog person” why he likes his dog better, and you will inevitably hear some mention of loyalty and companionship that he doesn’t see in cats (though the “cat people” will vociferously disagree). But can that make cats more wild, and if so, what does that mean? When are animals wild, and can they cross or re-cross that line?

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Israel Bans Declawing

Adonia David

 Israel has banned the practice of cat declawing, joining the ranks of a number of other counties that have found it inhumane enough to prohibit.  This week, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) passed a law prohibiting declawing (with a few medical exceptions).  Violators can face up to a year in prison as well as a fine.  This is good news for Israeli cats.  Unfortunately for American cats, the situation is not quite as bright. In the United States, declawing cats is a common practice among pet-owners, with one poll showing 55% of cat owners approve of the practice.   Unfortunately many people do not understand that declawing a cat is not simply the same as clipping its claws.  Declawing is really amputation, and similar to actually removing the last segment of a human’s finger or toe.  While some pet owners insist that their cats act the same as they did before declawing and they do not know the difference, the hidden truth is that declawing affects the way a cat walks and balances.  The difference in the way thei r feet grip the ground can lead to back pain.  Other complications can include hemorrhages, regrowth of the claw inside the foot, lameness, and abscesses.  For more information on the physical aspects of declawing, see here.    Continue reading

Cat Talk, Kitty Litter, and Inglorious, Litigious Homo Sapiens

David Cassuto

From the Where Litigation Should Go To Die Desk:

I’d like to think that Arm & Hammer dropped its lawsuit against Clorox Co., the maker of Fresh Step kitty litter because it (Arm & Hammer) was embarrassed.  Apparently, the gravamen of the suit lay with Clorox’s contention that “cats prefer Fresh Step.”  “Cats can’t talk,” sniffed Arm & Hammer in its complaint.  Continue reading

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