Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Domestication & Euthanasia: A No-Kill Nation of Violence

Domestication creates a situation of dependence and represents systemic violence
I am a huge supporter of Nathan Winograd and his battle against PETA and the movement's drive to kill healthy companion animals. A few months ago, a reader mentioned to me that Winograd was against the extinction of domesticated species. Until now, I had seen only minimal evidence to support such a position. The following was posted on Nathan Winograd on November 16th:
PETA believes that sharing your home with dogs and cats violates the rights of those animals. They write, “This selfish desire to possess animals and receive love from them causes immeasurable suffering... They are restricted to human homes, where they must obey commands and can only eat, drink, and even urinate when humans allow them to.” They go on to say, “Let us allow the dog to disappear from our brick and concrete jungles—from our firesides, from the leather nooses and metal chains by which we enslave it.” 
One way PETA seeks to accomplish this is through mass killing. [...]
That end—the deliberate extinction of those the movement has pledged to defend—is one to which no other rights-based movement in history has ever subscribed. You will find no children’s rights groups advocating mass killing of homeless, neglected, or abused children. You will find no human rights groups advocating mass killing of refugees. You will find no rights group in any movement advocating the mass killing of the victims. Except PETA. 
Of course, we can do better for companion animals as a society. Of course, there is much work to do to reduce their exploitation. But for the cats contentedly sleeping on our laps, suggesting they don’t belong and that they are better off dead because our love is “selfish” is just muddled thinking born of evil and arrogance. Long after we have ended the killing of animals for food, long after we’ve ended the commercial trade in sentient beings, long after we’ve rearranged society in countless other ways to better meet their needs, dogs and cats will continue to share our homes. And they will do so because in the end, living with dogs and cats is not only consistent with the rights of animals, but as we evolve as a species to better address their needs, can be the purest expression of it.
No Kill Nation shared the statement on November 16 with the following comment:
I am all for the no-kill approach, but the fact remains that domestication is a form of violence. We have a responsibility to love and care for the animals we've brought into existence, but it would be a form of violence to continue to breed domesticated animals. Domestication creates genetic problems, anxieties and stress for other animals, vulnerability to violence, and most importantly: dependence. They exist as slaves for human enjoyment. They cannot consent to their condition. They have no agency in where or how they will live. They exist as resources . . . even if you really, really love your dog/cat/rabbit/etc. And I do. I love my dog and cat. I love them with all of my heart, but I also recognize they are products of structural violence. They are refugees. You don't solve the refugee problem by creating more refugees. That only perpetuates violence.

Even responsible "pet ownership" creates mental health problems for companion animals

The problem seems to be that Winograd is conflating PETA's rights-based position that domestication must be ended (a position that is, despite what he claims, relatively well accepted in Nonhuman Animal rights activism) with their welfare-based position that favors the intentional mass killing of Nonhuman Animals currently in existence. This conflation is not accurate: only PETA and other large non-profits that have prioritized bureaucratic and financial growth seek lethal options over adoption efforts. True Nonhuman Animal rights positions seek an end to violence against other animals on BOTH fronts: euthanasia and domestication.

Killing healthy dogs and cats is a form of systemic violence. Perpetuating domestication is also a form of systemic violence. A meaningful rights position cannot accommodate either. Continued domestication is a foundational principle to the welfarist approach, that is, we can continue to use other animals as long as we do it "nicely." However, in an anthroparchy/human supremacy, it will always be humans maintaining the privilege of deciding what constitutes "nice." Nonhuman Animals will not have agency in deciding what is best for themselves, such as, who they want to live with, and under what conditions.

Free-living animals with histories of domestication are an important exception

For those domesticated species that have adapted to free-living, allowing them to continue as a species should not be a moral concern. Many communities of horses and cats, for instance, have escaped domestication and have lived successfully without human intervention for generations. In these cases, Lee Hall's On Their Own Terms (2010) advocates a policy of non-interference. Will Kymlicka and Sue Donaldson in Zoopolis (2011), however, see free-living communities as distinct "nations" that may require support at times. Interfering with free-living communities could be seen as an act of cultural genocide and an assault on their basic right to exist.  In any case, applications of Nonhuman Animal rights never include the killing of healthy animals, only the cessation of violent systems of dependence and objectification.

If you are interested in learning more about domestication and the violence it entails, I recommend David Nibert's 2013 publication: Animal Oppression and Human Violence: Domesecration, Capitalism, and Global Conflict.