How I Stay Vegan #4: Companion Animals

I came across an article by Eccentric Vegan at Vegan Soap Box titled, Can Vegans Have Pets, and it got my thinking about my pooches and the pivotal role they've played in my veganism.  Having those guys around really helped me understand the value of an animals life and the role they play in mine.  There are a lot of subtopics we could discuss here, but I think that focusing on caring for a species other than your own is most appropriate.

I don't remember the point in my childhood when I realized that a chicken was a McNugget, but I imagine that it was fairly early on.  Seeing animals as living, breathing entities with feelings is something that some folks have a hard time doing.  We're trained from early on to separate and curb our feelings towards animals in order to justify their use in food, testing and exhibition (defined as speciesism by Peter Singer).  This is a part of the seafood vs. sea animal debate.  Just because they're another fishes food, doesn't mean they're our food.  I'll tackle that one in another blog...
Knowing that a pig feels pain and is as smart as my alarm clocks that jump on my bed every morning to wake me up reinforces my veganism.  Caring for an animal lowers that barrier between seeing animals as tools and as sentient beings.  This reminds me of a conversation I had with a dude once about why I was vegan, and I responded with, "because I wouldn't eat my dogs."  Obviously, eating dogs is extreme but when all animals are held in the same regard as we hold the ones who live by our side cruelty will disappear.

This isn't a call for everyone to rush out and adopt a puppy.  Do your homework first, make sure you have the time and resources to give your new family member a great home.  Don't cause more suffering by not being able to provide everything an animal needs.  To quote the blog linked above:
Vegans do not want to put animals in bad situations or remove animals from good situations. We just want to save lives and protect animals.
Well put.  

Stay vegan!

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Lindsey said...

" Just because they're another fishes food, doesn't mean they're our food. I'll tackle that one in another blog..."

Looking forward to that one!
Animals eating other animals seems to be the one thing that really keeps most people from wanting to give up meat.

I love your answer to "why are you vegan?" There are sooo many reasons I am vegan that I often just get baffled when someone asks me, and they're not looking for book's length response. I'll have to use that one next time! Seems like it could lead to some good conversations since there are a lot of cat and dog lovers out there.

Amanda @ The Fun Side of Veganism said...

Good post. I was at the Animal Rights Conference in Washington DC last summer and this topic came up. This one couple there were adamant that their veganism should encompass NOT having companion animals. I think pretty much everyone else in the place disagreed, obviously because we were all animal lovers and all (presumably) had pets. It's a tough call. I understand the idea that animals should be used for nothing- food, clothing, and ENTERTAINMENT (which pets would fall into), but like you say, caring for my pets is a way that brings me closer to my veganism than almost anything else.

kelly said...

THANK YOU very much for this post! I became a vegan for health reasons. Against cruelty to animals reason came much later for me.

@Amanda I am with you....I think there are vegetarians who are extremist but I can respect their decision because come to think of it, many healthy abandoned animals have to be euthanized because no one adopts them. Add to the fact that domesticated animals may become defenseless because all their hunting skills are practically zero.

There is no easy black and white...there are some grey areas. I say just do whatever your heart tells you to do - if you think keeping a pet is alright, keep. If you think you should not, don't.

Stay Vegan! said...

@kelly and @amanda - You are totally right. The grey area for vegans to have pets is pretty thick and I certainly understand both sides of the argument. My whole thing is, my dogs are better off with me than without. That amounts to less suffering and doing the right thing.

Thanks to all of you for your great comments. Seeing this type of response is really encouraging for us to keep turning out more stuff for everyone!

Andie said...

I sort of understand the "don't keep companion animals" stance...but I definitely don't agree with it. Someone already mentioned that the animal may be euthanized without anyone to adopt him/her, but there are other reasons to have pets. For me, I share a loving relationship with my cats that is meaningful to me and presumably to my cats as well, and I don't see that as exploitation at all. Good post.

Vivacious Vegan said...

I'm very interested in what other vegans are feeding their dogs. It is a question I am grappling with right now. Any ideas?

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