Flawed normative ethics of virtue, rules and consequences applied to pet ownership

It is morally normative to conclude that owning a pet dog is good because respectable, likable and powerful people such as doctors and first ladies do it, and as a consequence of it you can reduce stress, get exercise and stay healthy, form beneficial social bonds with other pet owners at the park and walking around your neighborhood.

It is also morally normative to think that owning a pet cow is not good because respectable, likable and powerful people don’t do that, there are city and neighborhood rules against it, a cow needs a lot of space and pet cows are not used for dairy, meat or leather and treating a cow like a pet is imprudent because it makes meat eating pet lovers uncomfortable.
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Even if we change the word “owner” to “companion animal,” would it be morally defensible for beings with the power to do so, to separate us from our families and our natural environment, breed and obedience train us so that we are subservient, put leashes round our necks and use us for their health, companionship and social gain?

Every sentient being wants to be free, even domesticated dogs. If that weren’t the case and the breeding had truly taken all the “wild” out of them, we would not need all that obedience training, leashes or see so many signs for missing pets and hear so much barking from the dog who has been left alone all day in the neighbors back yard. If everybody does something, that does not make it good, right or just for you to do it. If it is your duty to do something, that does not mean you should do it if it is unjust or unfair.

Common virtue ethics objection: “I am being compassionate by rescuing him/her from a pound or shelter”.
The problem with this line of reasoning is that when we rescue animals that are not normally pets, we take them to an animal sanctuary, where they can live out their lives in freedom with their own species. By making that rescue dog a new member of the family you are perpetuating a morally inconsistent distinction between “companion animals”, and all other animals. What about not having been domesticated makes other animals deserve to be: slaughtered and eaten or saved in an animal sanctuary; ridden or allowed to run free; experimented on or rescued. After rescuing someone from years in a prison camp we re-introduce them to free human society, even if it takes decades to do so and even if they never fully adjust.

I do see the apparent absurdity of making a sanctuary for Chihuahuas but, even with all their breeding, only a very few domesticated animals prefer human companionship to being with their own kind. So, why should some animals who have been trained and often bred to be in circuses or as “exotic” pets or living for generations in cramped zoos be rescued to our best approximation of their natural habitat while rescued domesticated animals are not afforded that option?

Nearly three quarters of all emerging and reemerging human diseases arise from the animal kingdom.

Humanities dominion over animals has unleashed a veritable Pandora’s ark of infectious diseases, most modern human infectious diseases were unknown before domestication led to a mass spillover of animal disease into human populations.

For example, tuberculosis appears to have been originally acquired through the domestication of goats, but now infects nearly one third of humanity. Meanwhile, measles and smallpox may have arisen from mutant cattle viruses. We domesticated pigs and got whooping cough. We domesticated chickens and got typhoid fever. We domesticated ducks and got influenza. Leprosy may have come from water buffalo and the cold virus from horses. How often did wild horses have the opportunity to sneeze into humanities face until they were broken and bridled? Before then, the common cold was presumably, common only to them. Once pathogens jump the species barrier, they can then transmit person to person. HIV, a virus thought to have originated from the butchering of primates in Africa for the bush meat trade, causes AIDS by weakening the immune system.
According to the CDC, Swine Flue killed 12,000 Americans.

From: How Not to Die
By: Michael Greger MD and Gene Stone



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