For the Christian Church of the 19th century, to love animals as did the saints St. Francis of Assisi and St. Cuthbert was a way “to establish the pure reign of charity among men,” notes French sociologist Éric Baratay. The idea was to eradicate “the taste for blood and cruelty, to improve Man for his brothers and thus to protect humanity itself.” (1)
Because mistreatment of animals became a sign of poor character and was then considered a bad example for children, it was believed that the opposite — affectionate contact with pets — would help mankind free itself from its archaic cruelty and insensitivity. According to this group evolutionary survival strategy, as evolutionary biologist Kevin MacDonald would put it, loving animals means loving human beings, and not loving animals is almost proof of inhumanity. It was Thomas Paine in The Age of Reason who said, “Everything of cruelty to animals is a violation of moral duty.” (2)
It has long since been forgotten, but humane societies like the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), which came about in the 19th century in most Western countries, were originally founded mostly to put an end to violence towards people — the link between cruelty to animals and cruelty to humans being long established. (3)
Even the famous French “Gramont” law from 1850, which condemned public mistreatment of domestic animals, had among its aims, an anthropocentric one: to improve mankind. (4) This law had equivalents in all Western countries. For example, in 1820, abuse of livestock and “blood sports” were prohibited in several American states. An 1866 New York law, which later became a model for all anti-cruelty laws in America, made it a misdemeanor to maliciously hurt or kill any domestic animal. (5)
The universal idea that affection for animals makes us more human takes on various forms across different cultures, but it is recognizably part of the founding credos of numerous societies. It has become popular wisdom, and we shouldn’t underestimate its power over us. (6)
Our appreciation of animals is not based solely on the notion that they make us better human beings; it is also that they add a little spice to our often sad and fastidious lives. We interpret this as a contribution to our physical and mental health, believing that they heal us from various threats to our well-being — inactivity, violence, anxiety, stress, solitude, boredom, depression, cancer, and mental illness, to name but a few.
This symbiotic concept, which suggests that people’s physical, moral, and psychological ills may be cured by the reassuring presence of animals, has become known as “zootherapy” or “animal-assisted-therapy” as it is now called, a term “that can refer to institutionalized therapy sessions led by health professionals or another such intermediary as well as simply having an animal at home. The word ‘zootherapy’ is thus a generic term designating the positive impact of animals on people,” (7) and to give you the full story, I will add the impact of people on animals, since it is generally agreed that this form of affection is as good for them as it is for us.
Child psychiatrist Boris Levinson, who is considered the modern-day father of this concept, summarized the importance that animals could have in people’s lives in several beacon articles published in the sixties and seventies. (8) According to Levinson, who advocated sex with animals, an emotional relationship with an animal is in itself a physiological intervention comparable to a drug. Since the publication of his writings, this line of thinking has become so mainstream that zootherapy is now a modern institution, with many such interventions being carried out as official treatments. They are “administered” by individuals and by organizations, all of whom aggressively promote the perceived benefits of companion animals.
University of Concordia psychology professor Theresa Bianco, for example, cannot say enough good things about pet therapy:
There is a substantial body of research showing that people of all ages derive a multitude of psychosocial and health benefits from their involvement with pets. […] Moreover, these benefits are not limited to pet ownership, but also extend to thera-peutic interventions involving a variety of animal species. In some instances, the mere presence of the animal is sufficient to reduce anxiety. (9)
American veterinarian Marty Becker summed up the vital role animals play in people’s lives at a symposium on animal wellness:
Most important, veterinary medicine is embracing the bond as a vital force for not just happy, healthy pets… but happy, healthy people as well. (10)
The present height of the pet phenomenon is thus closely linked to the perceived benefits of animals on people, and of people on animals. Allow me to emphasize the word “perceived,” because while public and manifest mistreatment of animals was indeed prohibited starting in the 19th century, the use of animals for ideological, recreative, therapeutic, and spiritual purposes has untold consequences, not only on animals and nature but also on humanity.
Effects on Humans
It is now widely believed that pets make us more human, enhance our health, sense of psychological well-being, and longevity. But while some researchers have reported that positive short-term effects of the placebo type accrue from interacting with animals, in 30% of the population, others have found in convincing large-scale quantitative studies, that the health and happiness of pet owners is no better, and in some cases worse, than that of non–pet owners.
The theorists and most outspoken proponents of this field of study belong mostly to the field of psychology. This raises a serious credibility issue since in general, research in this field does not follow the scientific method. (11)(12) (13)(14) According to Jacques Forget, vice-dean of research in social sciences at the University of Quebec in Montreal,
a psychology which purports to be scientific should follow the scientific method. However, in many cases, it prefers to rely strictly on authority. […] In addition, in the field of professional psychology, descriptive research (hypothesis-generating studies) is the preferred type of research […] yet, and in spite of its relevance, it can never replace quantitative research [hypothesis-testing studies] based on evidence and on numerous experimental studies. (15)
In a landmark article published in 1984 in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, American scientists Alan M. Beck and Aaron Honori Katcher warned of the poor quality of research being conducted in animal-assisted therapy. (16) They debunked the claimed benefits of pets so thoroughly that it is a wonder that the pet industry bothers to continue “research” in this field with such unrelenting intensity and with the same flaws reported 30 years ago. (17)(18)(19)(20)(21)(22) In 1997, after reviewing more than a thousand studies, epidemiologist Dr. T. Allen reported in the above publication:
Most reports describing the effects of human-canine interactions fall into categories at the bottom of the hierarchy ladder [of scientific validity]. There are no studies that compare a group of people with pets and one without. (23)
In 2006, Drs. K. A. Kruger and J. A. Serpell stated:
As demonstrated, animal-assisted interventions draw from an impressive variety of disciplines and perspectives (e.g., genetics, biology, developmental psychology, psychoanalytic theory, behaviorism). […] While impressive in their variety and scope, not a single theory [that appears in this chapter] has been adequately tested empirically, and most studies have returned equivocal or conflicting results when the necessary testing has been attempted. (24)
While positive short-term effects of the placebo type can accrue from interacting with animals, most quality hypothesis-testing studies have found that the health and happiness of pet owners is no better, and in some cases worse, than that of non–pet owners. As stated in 2011 by scientist Harold Herzog, “the existence of a generalized ‘pet effect’ on human mental and physical health is at present not a fact but an unsubstantiated hypothesis.” (25)
In spite of the evidence, however, the perceived therapeutic benefits of the human-animal relationship for both humans and animals continue to be regarded as a statement of fact, no questions asked, with a surprising and curious lack of skepticism.
Effects on Animals
It is also widely believed that animals benefit as much as we do from the human-animal bond. Yet nothing is further from the truth.
Because of the bond we impose on them, all pets by definition remain infantile never reaching any level of autonomy or emotional maturity. The maintenance of this infantile attachment feeds a permanent state of anxiety. This translates clinically to various psychosomatic diseases such as colitis, bladder inflammation, and skin problems. Psychological problems such as phobias, self-mutilation, and separation anxiety are widespread and as frequent as problems linked to domination, fear, and ambivalence. These animals will often be severely punished or abandoned by their owners who are unable to read correctly the meaning of these neuroses, which they mistake for a flaw proper to the animal itself. Curative treatments are doomed to fail since these diseases stem from the very concept of pet.
Vaccination for commercial and financial reasons is killing thousands of animals each year. Various mutilations like declawing, ear trimming, spaying and castration to make animals more appealing and easier to control (animals in the raw are less attractive and much more difficult to handle — this is the real reason for neutering) is causing untold miseries to animals.
Animal healthcare itself is a subtle form of animal abuse. It is a case of wishful thinking to imagine that a pet can understand and appreciate whatever good intentions are behind veterinary medical care. It is simply above and beyond their cognitive possibilities. An animal is no more conscious of being “repaired” than a car, with one major difference: animals are sentient beings who are perfectly conscious of the pain that’s inflicted on them for reasons beyond their comprehension. From their point of view, a veterinary hospital is indistinguishable from a pound. We cause their diseases in myriad ways on the one hand, then play dumb and profit from them on the other. This schizophrenic absurdity suggests that our concern for pet health has much more to do with trying to meet our own needs than with anything else.
Sexual exploitation of animals, a subject no longer taboo in our well-meaning liberal society, is widespread in all walks of life. The immorality of making a pet out of an animal opens the door to every conceivable type of abuse.
According to a 2005 US embassy cable released by Wikileaks, on a global scale, the trade of wildlife, of which the main markets are the oriental medical industry, the clothing industry, and the pet industry in the U.S. and Europe, is “10 billion USD to 20 billion USD a year, ranking third after arms and drugs trafficking.” For the sake of a song and a little exoticism, the habitats and natural incubators of the entire world are being pillaged.
When they are in style, breeds become the object of intense breeding by various businessmen, amateurs, backyard aficionados and show breeders that rapidly leads to their deterioration. There are more than 300 incurable and debilitating genetic diseases in pets, mostly caused by inbreeding and consumerism.
Animals are afflicted with carefully planned anatomical characteristics that make nightmares of their lives.
The physical conditions of captivity are also taking their toll. According to Dr. Karen Overall, a veterinarian specialized in animal ethology, only 1% of the population knows anything about the animals they keep in captivity. Restricted to small spaces for their entire lives, locked up while their owners go on with their lives, the majority of pets know an existence as limited and boring as that of prisoners or slaves.
The very nature of the food we give to pets is also the cause of many painful health problems.
Millions of animals are destroyed each year in pounds euphemistically called shelters. Others, that will never be adopted because of unredeemable physical or psychological flaws spend their lives cooped up in no-kill shelters at the total mercy of Good Samaritans, who are only pleasing themselves by insisting on keeping the animals alive, as a matter of principle, or for business and image reasons regardless of the animal’s best interest, sometimes for years, under miserable conditions from the animal’s point of view.
The list goes on and on… the human-pet bond is far from being the therapeutic panacea claimed by advocates of “responsible” animal stewardship. On the contrary, it is both self-destructive and destructive to the natural world. (26)(27)(28)(29)(30)(31)(32)(33)(34)
By buying into the fallacies just described, adoption and animal rights do more to nullify the wanted effect of saving animals and to amplify the dreaded effect of consumerism, with all its inseparable atrocities. (35)(36)(37)
Innovations in education providing an honest look at the nature of our relationship with the animal world would be tremendously more fruitful than the lessons learned from the exploitation of a pet. In that case, animals are not the only ones on the losing end: instead of being properly educated, children become pets themselves when they are dumbed down and indoctrinated to believe at a very early age that life without a pet is unthinkable and that love and cruelty are good mixes. (38)
To sum up, the grossly exaggerated benefits of pets and zootherapy are a direct product of neoliberal capitalism, a recent Orwellian type of “inclusive” capitalism defined by the subtly perverse exploitation of goods, people, animals, services, and capital under the mantle of good intentions and sentiments. (39)(40)(41)(42)
Pets are also used for ideological reasons to destroy the family by replacing nature’s impulse for child-bearing and to fill the void caused by the planed massive infantilization and social atomization of the population.
White couples in a good relationship should consider having babies as young as possible, as “furry babies” can contribute — along with forced race-mixing by deceitful propaganda, radical feminism, positive discrimination in favor of the most incompetent people of society, careerism in women, the denigration of housewives, pro-divorce incentives for women, contraception and abortion on demand, and the politization of justice with biased liberal judges and prosecutors — to the destruction of the traditional family, a lowering of the birth rate, and in the end, to the genocide of the White race by planed depopulation.
In the final analysis, the benefits of our interaction with animals are not what they are said to be by the social agents that aggressively promote pets. The loyalty, attachment, and love that animals show us do not have the nobility that we attribute to them out of ignorance. Finally, our relationship with pets has not helped mankind to improve; in fact, quite the opposite is true.
References and Notes
- Éric Baratay, “Respect de l’animal et respect de l’autre, l’exemple de la zoophilie catholique à l’époque contemporaine,” Des bêtes et des hommes : un jeu sur la distance, 1998, pp. 255-265; “Le Christ est-il mort pour les bêtes?” Études Rurales, pp. 27-48; Jean-Pierre ALBERT, “L’Ange et la Bête: Sur quelques motifs hagiographiques,” Des bêtes et des hommes: un jeu sur la distance, 1995, pp. 255-265; Keith Thomas, Man and the Natural World. Changing Attitudes in England (1500-1800), Penguin, 1983.
- Katherine C. Grier, Pets in America. A History, Harcourt, 2006.
- Kathleen Kete, “Animal protection in Nineteenth-Century France,” The Beast in the Boudoir. Pet keeping in Nineteenth-Century Paris, University of California Press, 1994.
- Valentin Pélosse, “Imaginaire social et protection de l’animal: Des amis des bêtes de l’an X au législateur de 1850,” L’Homme, XXI (4), 1981, pp. 3-5.
- Katherine Grier, “Hierarchy, Power, and Animals,” work cited, p. 177; Margit Livingston, “Desecrating the Ark. Animal Abuse and the Law’s role in Prevention,” Iowa Law Review, 87 (1), 2001.
- Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson, Animals Make us Human, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009; Katherine Grier, work cited; Karine-Lou Matignon, Sans les animaux, le monde ne serait pas humain, Albin Michel, 2000.
- Gaëlle Faure, “La représentation de l’animal de compagnie dans la vie psychoaffective de l’Homme adulte. Rapport de recherche bibliographique,” École nationale supérieure des sciences de l’information et des bibliothèques, 2004, p. 47.
- . Boris Levinson, “The Dog as a Co-therapist,” Mental Hygiene; 46, 1962, pp. 59-65; “Pets: A Special Technique in Psychotherapy,” Mental Hygiene; 48: 1964, pp. 242-248; “Pet Psychotherapy: Use of Household Pets in the Treatment of Behavior Disorders in Childhood,” Psychological Reports; 17, 1965, pp. 695-608; “The Veterinarian and Mental Hygiene,” Mental Hygiene; 49, 1978, pp. 320-323; “Pets and Personality Development,” Psychological Reports, 42,1976, pp. 1031-1038; “Pets, Child Development, and Mental Illness,” Journal of the American Veterinary Association, 157 (11), 1974, p. 1759; “Psychology of Pet Ownership,” Proceedings of the National Conference on the Ecology of the Surplus Dog and Cat, Chicago, IL. Conference, 1997, pp. 18-31; Pet-Oriented Child Psychotherapy, 2nd edition, Charles C. Thomas, 1997.
- Theresa Bianco, “In defense of the human-animal bond,” The Montreal Gazette, October 13, 2014.
- Marty Becker, “Celebrating the Relationship between People, Pets, and Their Veterinarians,” Journal of the American Veterinary Association (JAVMA), 1997, 210 (8).
- J. Ioannidis, M. R. Munafò, P. Fusar-Poli, B.A. Nosek, & S. P. David, “Publication and other reporting biases in cognitive sciences: Detection, prevalence, and prevention,” Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 2014, 18(5), pp. 235-241.
- D. Fanelli, “‘Positive’” results increase down the hierarchy of the sciences,” PloS One, 2010, 5(4), e10068.
- C. J. Ferguson, “An effect size primer: A guide for clinicians and researchers,” Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 2009, 40(5), p. 532.
- A. Franco, N. Malhotra, G. Simonovits, “Publication bias in the social sciences: Unlocking the file drawer,” Science, 2014, 345(6203), pp. 1502-1505.
- Jacques Forget, La psychologie est-elle une vraie science? Conference presented to the Quebec skeptics, 2009.
- A.M. Beck and A. H. Katcher, “A New Look at Pet-Facilitated Therapy,” JAVMA, 1984, 184 (4), p. 15.
- A. Chur-Hansen, C. Stern & H. Winefield, “Commentary: Gaps in the evidence about companion animals and human health: Some suggestions for progress,” International Journal of Evidence-Based Healthcare, 2010, 8(3), pp. 140-146.
- L. S. Palley, P. O’Rourke, & S. M. Niemi, “Mainstreaming Animal-Assisted Therapy,” ILAR Journal, 2010, 51(3), pp. 199-207.
- D. L. Wells, “The effects of animals on human health and Well-Being,” Journal of Social Issues, 2009a, 65(3), pp. 523-543.
- A. E. Kazdin, “Establishing the effectiveness of animal-assisted therapies: Methodological standards, issues and strategies.” In P. McCardle, S. J. McCune, J. A. Griffin & V. Maholmes (Eds.), “How animals affect us: Examining the influence of human-animal interactions on child development and human health,” American Psychological Association, 2011, pp. 35-51.
- L. Marino, “Construct validity of Animal-Assisted-therapy and activities: How important is the animal in AAT?” Anthrozoös, 2012, 25 (Supplement 1), pp. 139-151.
- H. Kamioka et al,“Effectiveness of animal-assisted therapy: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials,” Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 2014, 22(2), pp. 371-390.
- David T. Allen, “Effects of Dogs on Human Health,” JAVMA, 1997; 210 (7).
- K. A. Kruger and J. A. Serpell, “Animal-Assisted Interventions in Mental Health: Definitions and Theoretical Foundations.” In A. H. Fine (Ed.), Handbook on Animal-Assisted Therapy: Theoretical Foundations and Guidelines for Practice, 2nd Edition, New York: Academic Press, 2006, pp. 21-38.
- Harold Herzog, “The Impact of Pets on Human Health and Psychological Well-Being: Fact, Fiction, or Hypothesis?” Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2011, 20(4), pp. 236–239.
- Charles Danten, Slaves of Our Affection. The Myth of the Happy Pet, Kindle, 2015. This is an English version of the self-published second edition (2015) of the Quebec bestseller, Un vétérinaire en colère, VLB, 1999.
- Patrick West, Conspicuous Compassion: Why Sometimes It Really Is Cruel to Be Kind, Civitas, 2002.
- Stephen Budianski, The Truth About Dogs, Penguin Books, 2000.
- Yi-Fu Tuan, “Animal Pets: Cruelty and Affection,” Dominance and Affection: The Making of Pets, Yale University Press, 1984.
- Michael W. Fox, Inhumane Society. The American Way of Exploiting Animals, St Martin’s Press, 1990.
- Caroline Landry, Le scandale de l’animal business, Éditions du Rocher, 2009.
- Jean-Luc Vadakarn, Parle à mon chien ma tête est malade, Albin Michel, 1998.
- Marc Torrel Kammerer and Klaus Dieter, The Error of the Millennium in Veterinary Medicine: Malnutrition-induced Hip Dysplasia as a Non-hereditary Skeletal Disease of Dogs, 2000.
- Alan Green, Animal Underworld: Inside America’s Black Market for Rare and Exotic Species, Public Affairs, 1999.
- Gary Francione, Rain without Thunder: The Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement, Temple University Press, 1996.
- Alan Herscovici, Second Nature. The Animal-Rights Controversy, Stoddart, 1991.
- Charles Danten, “Fake News” of Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT), charles-danten.blogspot.com
- John Taylor Gatto, The Underground History of American Education, 2002; Dumbing us Down, 1998; Weapons of Mass Instruction, 2008, New Society Publishers: www.johntaylorgatto.com
- Pet Industry Market Size & Ownership Statistics. American Pet Products Association.
- Stuart Ewin, Captains of Consciousnes. Advertizing and the Social Roots of the Consumer Culture, McGraw-Hill, 1976.
- Michel Clouscard, La bête sauvage. Métamorphose de la société capitaliste et stratégie révolutionnaire, KontreKulture.
- Digby Anderson and Roger Mullen (editors), Faking it: The Sentimentalization of Modern Society, Social Affair Unit, 1998.