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Response to the view of “pets as polluters”

by Paul York

More and more we hear the view that “pets” (we would call them “animal companions”) are emitting large amounts of C02, and contributing to global warming. A dog emits as much as a normal sized car and a cat a small car, apparently.

It has to do with their meat consumption, so clearly this would not apply to a vegan animal. But assuming that most animal companions are not vegans, what do we make of this?

I wrote a response to it today because a friend brought it to my attention. Here is his email:

“Here is an interesting article on the eco-footprint of “pets”- a cat has an eco-footprint of almost as bad as a volkswagen golf. According to this you maintain a small fleet of vehicles!”

He says this because I have four animal companions. Here was my response:

Animal rights activists do not wish dogs and cats to even exist. Did you know that? That is why every one is for spaying and neutering, to prevent future generations from existing.

I don’t have these four animals for my own selfish desires — they are not what climate ethicists call a “luxury emission”. This is because they are rescue animals. Their emissions are emissions of necessity, not luxury. That’s because they are living beings.

Now, if I had bought them from a breeder and had them because I simply liked them for myself, for my own selfish ends, then you could easily raise that criticism. It would be valid. They would have been brought into the world to serve human desires. That is wrong.

But if they are rescues and taking them in is done to be humane (to give them a place to live) then there can be no criticism of it.

To imply they are a luxury emission is like saying that a poor human being on the street should be killed because he emits GHGs. Maybe some people think that he should die, but it is contrary to the principle of justice, which says that no one is expendable, that everyone counts no matter what he or she looks like.

Dogs and cats look different that humans but they count just as much; we are all feeling, thinking creatures. Their lives matter.

To reduce a sentient being to “polluting pets” – as though they represent luxury emissions – is to reduce the animal’s life to the fuction it serves for the so-called “owner.” If that’s all an animal is – an object, a possession – they perhaps they should be killed, yes.

But we both know they are more than this. They feel, they love, they have thoughts and dreams. They are somebodys not somethings. No one can look at Baby or Midnight and think this creature is a thing, a possession, an object.

I should add that they have a right to live, but they do not have a right to reproduce. Nor do you or I, in this day and age. Nor does any person, in my opinion – not when human civilization is on the brink of collapse and soon to enter into a kind of chaos that no human or animal should be born into.

Moreover, each person or animals, beyond their own suffering, contributes to the suffering of the world, because of their emissions. That is a problem also. No one should be killed to reduce emissions, but I think it hurts no one to choose not to bring them into the world.

It is only if one think of domestic animals as objects or as possessions that one might get into that thinking in which their lives are expendable. Before we kill animals or each other, to reduce GHGs, we should get rid of cars and planes and coal plants. And stop eating meat …

Funny that a person would criticize an animal’s emissions that come from meat-eating, when the animal is a carnivore by nature – and in the case of cats, must eat meat to survive – and the human is an omnivore and has the moral choice to not eat meat.

I bet the people who complain about dogs and cats all have massive carbon footprints from meat and flying and they breed and bring kids into the world too. It is a very speciest point of view. It is like saying “black people emit GHGs, so let’s kill them all.” I guess some people actually think things like this, but clearly it is wrong.

I should mention also that all the animals in factory farms must stop breeding immediately and factory farms shut down. Then, if that happened (hypothetically) what to do with all the animals that are still alive? Some people will say we ought to kill and eat them.

No, the best thing is that they should all go onto farm sanctuaries for the duration of their lives, to live in peace. They will be the last of their kind, in a perfect world, because THERE WILL BE NO DOMESTIC ANIMALS AT ALL: no cats, dogs, cows, chickens, goats, pigs.

Humans will eat the food they grow locally, and animals can live beyond the towns and cities in the wilderness, as they have always done. Human will have to control their population, once they get down to less than one billion (ideally), so as to prevent this from happening again.

But the main point is that all existing animals must be allowed to live out their days.

And all breeding must stop, human and animal. And no more domestic animals, no more animal products or use of animals for entertainment or clothing. That is the most humane solution to the world’s problem.

Yes, I know it won’t happen, but it was an important principle that Kant expressed that we must always act as though the entire world depended on our actions. This he called “the moral law” and it is at the heart of true environmentalism.

It means we must always act in such a way that every action counts, that by our actions alone we can change everything, even if we can’t.

This view is called “non-consequentialism” because the value of the action does not depend on the consequences, as much as one intent of the action.

Imagine a scene in which you are the last man standing up for truth in a world gone mad. Is there still value in your action, though it changes nothing? Clearly there is.

That is why this ethic is important: your actions matter, regardless of their results. And every life matters, as well.

I state all this now because I fear a time when cats and dogs will mass murdered, as they are in China and Brazil and different places in the world. If they were killed for environmental reasons, this would be called “environmental fascism.”‘ That is something that should not happen, ever.

We need to speak up now for them, before it gets to the point where all dogs and cats are marked for death.

Tom Regan’s epithet for the land ethics of Aldo Leopold and others, which proposes an holistic approach to the biotic community and claims that the criterion for the morality of an action is whether it promotes the integrity, diversity, and stability of the biotic community.Regan , who stresses the central position of human individuals in moral considerations, claims that if land ethics faces a conflict between human interests and the interests of the environment, it would require the sacrifice of human interests for the greater biotic good. Since there are too many people and too few trees on this planet, for example, land ethics might demand that we eliminate much of the human population and plant many more trees. But defenders of land ethics have replied that this is by no means an inevitable consequence of this theory.“It is difficult to see how the notion of the rights of the individual could find a home within a view that, emotive connotations to one side, might be fairly dubbed ‘environmental fascism’.”Regan, The Case for Animal Rights”


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