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Should we stop keeping pets? Why more and more ethicists say yes

Linda Rodriguez McRobbie: ‘Widespread pet-keeping is a relatively recent phenomenon. Until the 19th century, most animals owned by households were working animals that lived alongside humans and were regarded unsentimentally… In the 19th and 20th centuries, animals began to feature less in our increasingly urban environments and, as disposable income grew, pets became more desirable. Even as people began to dote on their pets, though, animal life was not attributed any intrinsic value… From the animals that become dog and cat food, and the puppy farms churning out increasingly unhealthy purebred canines, to the goldfish sold by the bag and the crickets by the box, pet ownership is problematic because it denies animals the right of self-determination. Ultimately, we bring them into our lives because we want them, then we dictate what they eat, where they live, how they behave, how they look, even whether they get to keep their sex organs… [However], research is revealing that the emotional lives of animals, even relatively “simple” animals such as goldfish, are far more complex and rich than we once thought… “The logical consequence is that the more we attribute them with these characteristics, the less right we have to control every single aspect of their lives,” says Dr Hal Herzog, a professor of psychology at Western Carolina University… If the short history of pet ownership tells us anything, it is that our attitude towards animals is prone to change… “You see these rises and falls in our relationships with pets,” says Herzog… “The more we think of pets as people, the less ethical it is to keep them”.’ SOURCE…

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