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Pet Ownership is Not Cute: A Reply to James Tucker

I am not a “pet liberationist.” It would be absurd to set pets free on principle, if that is what you mean by “animal Liberationist,” very few pets would be able to survive on their own. Also, this would cause insurmountable environmental problems for our own species. This is not what I am advocating. I am concerned about how pets—and just about anything we can put our hands on in our consumer society— are used to make money and fill the void. I have my own theory on the reasons why this is so (see The Democratization of Basic Instincts), but this is another matter I invite you to look into if you are intetested. To say it differently, I am only trying to improve the fate not only of our animal friends but of humans by pointing out the many discrepancies between our alleged love of animals and reality. This is what applied ethics is all about: The art of contributing to the common good by bridging the gap between reality and appearances. Through a clear understanding of the most deceptive lies people are subjected to on a daily basis in the media, in schools, and in films, I believe an individual is strengthened internally and better equipped morally and intellectually to make intelligent choices that are not harmful to all concerned.

I’m neither a communist nor a socialist for doing so. And while I am at it, allow me to correct a common misconception: Ecology and animal welfare was not originally a concern of the left, but of the conservative right. Fascists, for example, encouraged respect for nature because it is the source of all life. Germany—and the Nordic European countries in general—is the true cradle of concern for the environment and the protection of animals, both domestic and wild. In his book Le Nouvel Ordre écologique : L’Arbre, l’Animal et l’Homme (The New Ecological Order: The Tree, the Animal, and Man), philosopher Luc Ferry, the former French Minister of Education (2002-2003), shocked animal protectors by claiming that German National Socialists had the most progressive animal protection laws in the world. (1)

In fact, all the great precursors of the green movement are conservatives, enemies of progress exclusively turned to the useful and the exploitable—what I call inclusive capitalism—and “which ends up considering man himself as a guinea pig.” As Giovanni Monastra, one of the authors of the French book Piété pour le cosmos (Piety for the Cosmos), rightly points out, even the term “ecology” is an invention of the German conservative Ernst Haeckel. (2) The further south one goes, “including within Europe itself,” notes Philippe Baillet, the other author of this excellent book, “the more the ecological feeling disintegrates.” There is thus a racial facet to ecology, with Whites generally being more respectful of nature and animals than other races. Philippe Baillet also makes an important distinction between liberals and globalist leftist ecologists, the advocates of identity without borders or mix-race advocates, and right-wing ecologists, the advocates of territorial roots and race consciousness. The latter want to protect not only nature, but also racial and cultural particularities. While left-wing environmentalists are only concerned with the protection of nature, at least in theory, because ecology is just an instrument they use to satisfy their lust for power. (3)

I don’t “wrongly conflate” zootherapy with pet ownership, as Mr. Tucker claims, this is conflated by most professional psychologists involved in this field, the pet industry, and even by Dr. Levinson, the father of this concept. I never claimed either that psychology as such was a bunk science. Let’s just say that as you go down the hierarchy of science, positive results are more and more common because the criteria are less stringent. (4)(5)(6)(7) But it is far worse in the field of the human-animal bond. Research in this field is financed almost exclusively by the powerful pet industry, and with good reason: pets make up the eighth largest retail industry in the U.S., bigger than toys, hardware, and jewelry, valued at 261 billion dollars in 2023 and growing. (8) According to French ethnologist Jean-Pierre Digard:

Big Pharma and pet food companies finance the bulk of the research in this field. Top priority is given to the studies on: 1) pet food (this can lead to greater product diversification and more profits); 2) the human-pet bond; 3) the human health benefits of animals (on which depends the popularity of pets); 4) animal well-being which has a positive effect on image and profits. (9)

Of course, the financial domination of the pet industry would not be a problem if the science it produced weren’t so bad. Let there be no doubt, the claimed benefits of the human-animal bond are in the field of voodoo science as I have shown in my article. Scientists, pharmaceutical and pet food companies, the pet service industry, veterinarians, animal activists, humane societies, lawyers, philosophers, entertainers, the media, and other such True Believers who have built their lives and careers on deceiving themselves and misleading the public should admit their error and get off the bandwagon to fraud and misrepresentation.

Allow me to disagree with the following assertion: “Pet ownership is a personal choice, and the rewards are mostly of a personal, subjective nature.” I think constant promotion in the media, in the movies, etc., has a powerful impact on demand, just like the promotion of transgenderism and homosexuality has a strong impact on kids who are made to think from a very young age that they can choose their sex. This has nothing to do with a free choice. It’s more about the “fabrication of consent” as Chomsky would put it. Before liberalism came into vogue, only the rich had pets. The trend has grown starting early 18th century but it literally exploded since the seventies when the pet industry, sniffing a golden opportunity to improve business, started using the pseudoscientific observations of Boris Levinson, the instigator of pet therapy mentioned in my article, to stimulate the demand for pets and the sale of goods and services. They groomed the population into believing that pets were a solution to all their problems, “a solution that would have to be invented if it did not already exist,” insisted, Michel Pépin, the president at the time, of the Association of Quebec veterinarians.

People were basically tricked into believing that pets could advantageously replace children and healthy relationships with their own kind. This marketing campaign basically against procreation and normal human relationships like all other such campaigns was a huge success. Today, one out of two households has one or more animals and America and most Western countries have gone pet crazy. (10) Academia, pet psychologists, Animal Assisted Therapy “researchers;” animal protection activists such as PETA and a myriad of others; humane societies, pounds, and shelters; animal rights’ lawyers and jurists; animal media, film, and book industry; steel industries that produce cans for pet food, agribusiness and fisheries who find in this outlet opportunities for their byproducts, rendering plants that provide corpses, in certain states where it’s legal, for the pet food industry; makers of pet paraphernalia (collars, harnesses, brushes, toys, cages, coats, shoes, etc.), trainers, breeders, dealers, smugglers, poachers, groomers, dog walkers, five-star hotels and restaurants for pets, homeopaths, fortune tellers, cemeteries, distributors, drivers, supermarkets, super pet shops and dog shops whose sole purpose is to sell animals and animal products like one would sell furniture, jumped on the bandwagon behind pet food manufacturers, Big Pharma, veterinarians, and zootherapy promoters, the big winners of this economic bonanza. (10)

As to this claim: “The more objectionable portion of the essay begins when Danten tries to argue that pet ownership is cruel to animals.” This is a broad subject I merely skimmed in my article.  Few people make the connection between pets and cruelty because in our culture, cruelty and the will for power are generally dissociated from the world of affection and pleasureFor further details on the subject, you can read my book Slaves of Our Affection, The Myth of the Happy Pet, or you can consult the following sources:

  • Patrick West, Conspicuous Compassion: Why Sometimes It Really Is Cruel to Be Kind, Civitas, 2002.
  • Yi-Fu Tuan, Animal Pets: Cruelty and Affection,” in Dominance and Affection: The Making of Pets, Yale University Press, 1984.
  • Michael W. Fox, Inhumane Society. The American Way of Exploiting Animals, St Martins Press, 1990.

In one of my comments in Domestication of Basic Instincts I answered quite thoroughly the question that you raise on how animals were domesticated. You can look it up if you are interested.

Let me explain why I believe the human-animal relationship is unhealthy in response to your statement “The very notion that humans “force” a bond on social animals is false.” This is an extract from a chapter of my book called “The Psychological Conditions of Captivity,” p. 71:

When a pet is adopted within its imprint period, the attachment it felt to its mother is quickly transferred to the new owner, who steps in to meet the pet’s physical and emotional demands. Herein lies the reason pets become so instantly bonded to us. The process may seem harmless on the surface, even natural, but keep in mind that the normal progression of things would have the young animal soon beginning to detach from its parent. Whereas the animal’s mother would discourage continued dependence, the surrogate mother, the new owner, encourages it. In this way, the case of usurped identity is never followed by detachment. Quite the contrary: the whole dynamic of interactions between people and their pets relies on the maintenance of the bond. Because of this, pets remain infantile, never reaching any level of autonomy or emotional maturity.

The maintenance of this infantile attachment feeds a permanent state of anxiety. This can translate clinically to various psychological troubles and psychosomatic diseases, such as chronic itching, diarrhea, chronic vomiting, colitis, and bladder infections. These health problems do not exist to such an extent in wild animals living in their natural habitats.

All species are vulnerable to becoming perpetually dependent as a result of this corruption of normal development. Gregarious animals like killer whales, dogs, and certain birds like those of the parrot family (budgies, cockatiels, and large parrots) are especially prone, but that is not to say cats, reptiles, and fish are immune. Any animal that spends time in our company, that shares our bed and our meals, that we constantly touch, reward, or talk to affectionately, is unconsciously conditioned to become an affection junky.

Because dependence on his new owner is maintained rather than discouraged during the critical period for reaching autonomy, a pet becomes forevermore emotionally dependent. He relies on the owner’s attention and affection, and will do whatever it takes to get it. Some pets discover by accident that their nervous scratching or licking attracts attention, whereby the behavior can be perpetuated to such an extreme that medical intervention is necessary. (This is why the effects of seasonal allergies often last well beyond the normal time frame.) Dogs will fake a sore paw or cough to awaken sympathy and provoke an interaction. Others will constantly ask for the door, knock things over, or vocalize continually. Some will soil their homes in order to receive a punishment that paradoxically stimulates a sense of well-being. In short, not unlike children, they can take anything but being ignored.

Like a drug addict whose drug has been taken away, a pet has to “go cold turkey” when his owner leaves him home alone. The anguish that an emotionally dependent animal experiences when separated from his owner closely resembles that of a young child separated from his mother; baby animals, including human babies, have evolved to understand the absence of a primary attachment figure as a threat to survival. It should be no surprise, then, that some dogs literally go crazy when left alone, destroying and soiling their homes. Others howl or bark all day long while their owners are gone. This, in particular, is reminiscent of a young puppy attempting to signal his distress at being separated from his mother, and to call her back to his side. The emotionally dependent dog bites and scratches the doorframe out of desperation; he destroys furniture out of frustration. A cat may urinate on his owner’s clothes or bed. Some parrots start screaming and pulling out their feathers, in some cases, plucking themselves to the bone. Dogs and cats lick themselves to the point of ulceration. Some express their suffering in a less dramatic way by pacing, or by eating or drinking excessively. Still others become chronic masturbators.

These compensatory behaviors are exaggerated manifestations of otherwise normal ones – eating, drinking, grooming, moving about, and reproducing. Before long, the “perversions” become deeply engrained habits that are easily triggered in even non-threatening situations. In short, by constantly soliciting the affection of a pet with attention and rewards, we deprive him of his birthright to become autonomous, and, in so doing, destroy his emotional health.

Well-trained or well-behaved animals simply internalize their anxiety, often paying the price in the form of psychosomatic diseases. For example, anxiety in cats can cause interstitial cystitis, a chronic bladder problem often confused with a urinary infection or stones. Chronic vomiting and diarrhea, itching, and colitis are other common psychosomatic symptoms.

Moreover, I never claimed in my article “that pets are promoted by elites to lower birthrates.” Although they are certainly used in that matter, it doesn’t mean that elites are directly responsible. It’s more like an indirect result of the atomization of society and all the various anti-natality programs which have been put in place. It is not for nothing that ‘Furry Babies” is such a common expression. Pets are indeed used as baby substitutes. If women cannot give birth, they will obviously seek a substitute to channel their maternal instincts. As we say in Quebec, “Nature is a lot stronger than the police.”

I agree with you on one point, “Pet keeping is a human universal, across cultures and races,” just like homosexuality for that matter or zoophilia, prostitution, pedophilia, drugs, and murder, but the exaltation of these trends for financial or ideological reasons is not a positive group evolutionary survival strategy, as Kevin MacDonald would put it.

In the final analysis, the benefits of our interaction with animals are not what they are said to be by the social agents such as Mr. Tucker, who 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

1. Luc Ferry, Le Nouvel Ordre écologique : L’Arbre, l’Animal et l’Homme, Grasset, 1992, p. 147-168.

2. Giovanni Monastra and Philippe Baillet, Piété pour le Cosmos, Akribeia, 2019.

3. Ibid.

4. D. Fanelli, “‘Positive’” results increase down the hierarchy of the sciences,” PloS One, 2010, 5(4), e10068.

5. C. J. Ferguson, “An effect size primer: A guide for clinicians and researchers,” Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 2009, 40(5), p. 532.

6. A. Franco, N. Malhotra, G. Simonovits, “Publication bias in the social sciences: Unlocking the file drawer,” Science, 2014, 345(6203), pp. 1502-1505.

7. J. Ioannidis et al, “Publication and other reporting biases in cognitive sciences: Detection, prevalence, and prevention,” Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 18(5), 2014, pp. 235-241.

8. Dean Eby, Pet Industry Statistics 2023: Facts & Trends on the $261 Billion Pet Market, April 10 2023.

9. Jean-Pierre Digard, Les Français et leurs animaux: Ethnologie d’un phénomène de société, Paris: Hachette littératures, Pluriel: ethnologie, 2005, p. 41.

10. Jean-Luc Vadakarn, Parle à mon chien, ma tête est malade, Albin Michel, 1992.

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