Breeding Our Companions:
A World of Excess and Its Price
©2001-2003 By Kim Sheridan
(Adapted from a lecture given by Kim in July 2001)
• It’s not a disposable world; humans just act like it is. From disposable goods to disposable companions, we live in a world of excess and irresponsibility.
• Animals are not “collector’s items.” There are two different issues here. One is that people often tend to think of “their” breed as an object worthy of showing off, not unlike the latest collection in the fashion industry. Sadly, those animals who don’t measure up are sometimes simply disposed of. The other type of collector – and this one is coming from a totally different place – is the person who is so overwhelmed by the human neglect of so many animals that they try to rescue them all. Although these people are usually coming from a place of love and genuine concern, they often take on far more responsibility than they can handle. For a great handout on Collectors, visit www.peta-online.org and download “Collectors: Kindness Gone Awry.”
• Animals are not commodities. Going back to the idea that animals are something to show off rather than someone to truly care for exclusive of their benefit to us, some breeders and pet shops see pets merely as commodities that they’re in the business of selling. There is a mentality of, “My litters are more beautiful, or more whatever; therefore, I deserve more money.” Regardless of how well they take care of these animals, they are dealers rather than caretakers. The animals are seen more as commodities than as individual beings. Perhaps worst of all are the animal mills, horrible prisons filled with inmates who have committed no crime. For a great handout on Puppy Mills, visit www.peta-online.org and download “Puppy Mills: Breeding Ills.” For a great handout on Bird Mills, visit www.peta-online.org and download “Captured or Captive-Bred Birds.”
• There truly aren’t enough good homes. This is something that all of us in the animal rights movement know all too well. The majority of us are involved in some form of animal rescue work, and as much as we all try to pick up the slack, we know that the numbers are overwhelming. As of this writing, approximately 64% of animals who arrive at U.S. shelters are euthanized. That’s more than 20,000 cats and dogs killed per day, 7 days a week. That’s a lot of lives. The sad thing (or, I should say, the other sad thing) is the fact that virtually everyone in our country knows about animal shelters. Pound puppies were a very popular item some years back, and the term is still fresh in our mind; and virtually everyone knows the term Humane Society. So, we need to educate people, whether they be breeders (professional breeders as well as the family next door that couldn’t resist breeding their beautiful family pet), or people involved in the pet show world wanting some new markings to show off, or the people who let their intact family cat roam the neighborhood without considering the ramifications (besides the problem of breeding, only 4% of lost cats who enter U.S. animal shelters are returned to their caregivers), or anyone who neglects the importance of spaying and neutering.
• Humans can be so fickle. Again, we live in a disposable world. What was a treasure to us yesterday can become old news very quickly. Sure, many people get excited about, for example, Dalmatians, after seeing the famous movie, but the appeal can wear off quickly as other interests pop up. Or they see the adorable puppies at the breeder’s house or in the window at the pet store, but they become overwhelmed when that tiny puppy becomes a 100-pound dog. So, then, it’s off to the shelter, or the streets, or the park, or the canyon, or worse.
• Excess = Neglect. As George Bernard Shaw once said, “The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them. That’s the essence of inhumanity.” And that’s the source of the problem here, whether one is indifferent to the true needs of their latest litter up for sale, or their prize show dog/cat/etc., or to the cries of the animals in the shelter, or to the fate of the animal they set loose. The excess caused by all of the excuses for breeding means neglect somewhere along the line. Again, even those trying desperately to save them all often end up neglecting them when they take on more than they can handle.
• Neglect = Abuse. Although the people involved in breeding (whether intentional breeding or accidental breeding) may not consider themselves animal abusers, they are all too often participating in abuse.
• Where do they really end up? Those of us here are aware of the plight of the animals in shelters, and how few of them come out lucky. We know how many of them come out dead. Perhaps the worst of all are those who wind up in rendering plants, or in the hands of researchers (usually more interested in that fat research grant than in animal welfare or even human welfare, despite their excuses). Any animal set loose on the streets, or dropped off at a shelter, or even adopted out through a “free to good home” ad runs the risk of unimaginable torture in the world of animal research or animal testing, which is truly animal torture.
• Find another hobby. We must encourage breeders to find another hobby. I encourage those who are into whatever breed they’re into to start a rescue instead (such as Greyhound rescue, Dalmatian rescue, etc.). That way, they’re still involved with their favorite type of animal, but in a whole new capacity. They still have their hobby, but now they’re contributing to the solution rather than the problem.
• Find another job. We must encourage breeders to find a more humane way to make money. There are lots of ways to make money, and lots of paying jobs that would still involve working with animals. We must encourage pet store owners to sell only supplies and not live animals. To use pet adoption, perhaps, as a humane way to get people in the door, and then to earn their living through the supplies that people buy. As for puppy mills, well, if we stop purchasing animals from pet stores, then we are eliminating that demand.
• Educate, educate, educate! As always, it comes back to education. We must amp up the importance of the slogan, “Don’t breed or buy while shelter pets die.” Many animal welfare organizations have powerful educational materials available. We must get them into as many hands as possible. Peta’s video of undercover footage at Nielsen Farms shows what really goes on behind closed doors in puppy mill prisons: filth-encrusted cages, extremely sick dogs with raging ear infections, disfiguring mange, and open, encrusted wounds. People need to see this. People need to know. People need to visit the shelters and hear the cries, and look into the eyes of these abandoned animals to really get what’s going on. The media has powerful influence over our world, so we must encourage them to influence people positively.
• Let’s take no-kill a step further. And now, I must bring up a final uncomfortable point. Besides the obvious types of animal abuse involved in all this excess, there’s a hidden form of abuse that usually isn’t even addressed. That is the real fact that all of staggering numbers of animals that end up in shelters must be fed. And usually these animals are fed other animals. They are not a part of the wild, so they are not a part of nature’s food chain. Instead, their care and feeding – and this is a tough issue – supports industries that are tremendously abusive of animals. We all know of the horror of the meat industry, and this is the industry that we unfortunately support when we feed all of these shelter animals. Many of us are familiar with the horrors of rendering plants and the dangers of the so-called foods that come from them. Many shelters barely have enough funding to stay afloat, so they must take donations of food from whatever source they can; and often, this source isn’t good. So, unfortunately, as much as I truly admire the good intentions of “no kill” shelters, they (by no fault of their own) aren’t truly no-kill, because, almost always, for every animal saved, many more will be killed to feed them. There are alternatives for feeding these animals more humanely – and, contrary to popular belief, just as healthfully, if not more so (in fact, as of this writing, the oldest living dog in the world thrives on a vegan diet); but unfortunately, a lack of information, coupled with a lack of funds, makes this a very difficult task. There are some rescues and shelters taking this next step, and I applaud them for it, but this is a tiny minority. Again, I don’t fault the shelters that are not doing this; they are truly doing the best they can, and I truly admire them for it. One of the goals of Compassion Circle is to expand the circle of compassion and take it a step further…to provide funding and education to make it possible for all shelters to take this important next step.
For more information on vegetarian/vegan dogs and cats, please see the Vegan Pets page on this site. It’s time to expand the circle of compassion for all!