The other night, seek while hanging out with friends, we got into an interesting ethical discussion about pets. Our friends were morally outraged that friend’s of theirs who recently had a baby were trying to get rid of their two cats because the pediatrician suggested the baby might be allergic to them. I think they thought the Mister & I would be just as morally outraged but we weren’t. You see, while I suspect the fact that having a three-week old child is probably overwhelming them and apparently one of the party didn’t want the cats in the first place, makes what the pediatrician said an easy excuse to get rid of them – I don’t see it as something to get morally outraged over.
Some people, like myself, know in advance that they don’t want to have to deal with having a new baby and a new (or new-ish) pet so I made the decision a while ago that even if the Mister and I moved into a place where we were actually allowed a dog I wouldn’t get one. As the years went by and the time to start a family got closer I didn’t want to have a new pet and a new baby – having a dog could wait instead of being neglected and making me feel overwhelmed and guilty.
But what it also comes down to is a matter of perspective – I recently read an article about the situation in Nigeria where the oil industry has made things worse for people – and am currently reading an article about China which opens with a young couple on their yearly visit to their child who they leave with their parents so they can go and make enough money to support their daughter – a daughter they get to see once a year (the total amount saved up for the year: $3,000). And the other night I was listening to a This American Life podcast about a teenage boy who was left to fend on his own for 5 months while his Mum was in the hospital – he would go around to the schools in the neighbourhood that served breakfast and lunch and eat there but on the weekends he often didn’t eat at all.
In North America we have the luxury of pampering our pets to an extent where some people value them over another human life. Where people choose to have pets instead of children for whatever reason but then project child-like emotions on the animals and obsess over their every action. Or spend tens of thousands of dollars on chemotherapy for their pet while people in other parts of the world make little to no money and don’t get enough to eat. I say this as someone who has always preferred the company of dogs to people but I know now, and have known for a couple years, that I would choose my child over any pet. And if I had to run into a burning building and choose between saving my beloved Hamish or some snot-nosed child I didn’t even like I would choose the child. I think that is just what we are supposed to do as human beings to protect our kind and would hope someone else would do the same. I also think there are more important things in the world to be morally outraged about than a couple who is looking for a new home for their cats (not throwing them out onto the street) because they don’t want them anymore.
I know that as a North American I am terribly spoiled. Even as a rather “poor” North American I still have enough to eat and a warm place to live. I don’t eat red meat because I don’t like it and have so many other options available to me. I don’t like pork because, well, have you seen Babe? If I was living in China right now – working for pennies a day in a coal mine and having to crawl up the giant slag heap after work to nick some useable coal because I couldn’t afford to keep warm any other way – you bet I would take those cats. And I would make sure they fed my family for a couple weeks.
Addendum: I just wanted to add that the friends I am talking about are a really nice couple with a really great dog that they treat like… a dog. A well loved dog mind you, but a dog none-the-less and not a surrogate child. I just wanted to add that in case a)they read this and think I am saying that they are crazy pet-obsessed people and b)to clarify things a bit.