A Look At Animal Ethics

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by Jon Dunkerley

Introduction

A long time ago, before evolution turned the primate into a businessman carrying a briefcase, the topic of ethical considerations concerning animals was as talked about as an episode of Barney at a dog trainer’s convention. Why is this? I believe that this is because nobody bothered to decide to give the issue any thought. And how could they? Back in the day of the caveman, people spent their days hunting, and looking after family. Whatever animals they owned were used for hunting purposes, or food. Today we as society still use animals for hunting and food purposes, however, I am sure that we have a more animalistic view now than the caveman did back years ago.

Over the years, as we have evolved into what are today, ethical and principal considerations have evolved right along with us. What I cannot understand, is why it took so long for people to start considering the feelings of animals! In today’s society, many animals are abused, neglected, and tortured in various hideous ways. Back in the day of the caveman, I’m sure that similar behavior took place. Is it a case of evolution installing a sense of compassion towards our animals, or is it something deeper?

I do not know the answer to this, but I do know that values and ethics are passed down from generation to generation, and it is up to us today to instill our values on the next generation so that we can continue to provide the optimum environment for our animals to live in and enjoy.

In the following paper, I will analyze key ethic principles that I have, and relate to them to some of society’s most talked about animal related issues. In doing this I will discuss issues from both sides of the fence however, emphasis will be placed on my own beliefs as this is afterall a reflection paper. Some issues being discussed in this paper include: Views on service dogs, animal rights, and animal-master bond just to name a few.

Service Dogs

“Dogs that have been specially trained to assist a disabled person with certain daily tasks.” (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language)

This definition given by the above source is the best way that I could ever describe a service dog. Having the ability to further one’s independence is an amazing feeling that is not felt until one is in the position to do so; yet in a lot of cases, people have a negative outlook on th euse of dogs or other animals as providers and assistive partners for those who need them.

I myself, am a huge service dog advocate. Being able to witness first hand what a dog can do for a disabled person has made me wonder why there are people out there who disagree with the service dog concept; however, there are people out there who simply view the dog as “man’s best friend.” These people have the belief that a dog is a pet and should be pampered, and not forced to be given the responsibilities that service dogs are given. I can totally understand why these people would be against service dogs based on their own values, however what I do disagree with is the way that these people go about degrading the work put in by thousands of dedicated individuals to ensure that a successful dog/handler team isformed. Rallies against the use of dogs for service needs are held now and again, and you can not get away from people staring or yelling “slave labor” as you pass them. What these people do not understand is that service dogs live more productive, healthy and fulfilling lives than most family pets.

Because of the work that these dogs willingly and happily perform, they are subjected to very high quality care, like top of the line dog food, ample exercise and, against popular belief, a lot of normal doggie activity. The aim in a dog’s life is to please, and I wish those people against the use of service dogs could be there
every morning when I ask Luther if he is ready to go to work!

Animal Master Bond

The saying “dog is a man’s best friend” is one that I hold a lot of respect for. First of all, unconditional love from a dog to a master is incomparable to that of another human being. Second, dogs do not blab secrets that you tell them! All kidding aside, the dog has and will be one of man’s best comrades, because they have what we all want and need, this being an ability to put up with us, understand us better than we think they do, and the ability to make us feel better when we are sad. On a personal level, i love spending time with my dog, and would rather his company to the company of most people. No he can not talk to me or give me advice on problems that I tell him about, however his is always there for me with a lick and a tail wag, letting me know in his own way that he loves me and wants to be with me.

I do believe that I may have an unhealthy relationship with my dog. When spending the majority of your day in close proximity with an animals I have found it impossible not to grow used to the constance of him being there. On an ethical level, people may view this as unethical due to the fact that it may look to them that I need my dog to function as a human being. This is not the case. I need my dog to assist me in day to day activity that could be performed minus the dog, however is greatly enhanced with the assistance that he provides me.

Of course you will get the “Oh he is so well behaved in public” kind of people, however others again may view the fact that the dog is so in tune with what I am doing as a negative. I have talked with people in the past about my dog’s willingness to be with me and why he travels everywhere with me instead of lying in the corner 24 hours a day or chasing cars like normal dogs. The animal bond works two ways: them being, the dog bonding to the master and the master bonding to the dog. I never knew the feeling of a human dog relationship until I got to know my own dog, and it is a feeling that I will not trade for the world, and I would say that Luther feels the same as I do. We both respect each other, we both know what is expected of each other, we both know what buttons to press and not to press and we definitely knowhow to have fun either with each other or apart. However, going back to the unhealthy bonding issues, this is where I believe I may have gone wrong with my dog.

By spending so much time together, we have become used to each other’s company, and when we are apart, I miss him terribly and I know he feels the same way I do. Dogs wear their emotions on their paws, and I can tell when he is stressed or upset as I’m sure he can tell if I am feeling different than normal. This said, I would not trade our relationship for the world. Luther makes my life easier, and in return, I provide him with love, a stable home, and everything else that a big slab of lab needs to enjoy his life to the fullest.

Animal Rights

Being an animal lover, it is hard to understand the difficulty over the years to ensure animal rights are afforded to our animals. We as humans have the power to control a lot of external powers that may confront us, however our animals don’t, and for the longest time we have ignored this fact and focused on fedning for ourselves. This puzzles me because I am sure that over the years, we have noticed that human rights issues have become more and more prominent. People fighting for their rights is a great thing, however why is it so hard to believe that animals shouldn’t have rights also? Just becaues the common dog can not stand up and say, “I have the right to pee on any patch of grass that I want,” does not mean that that right should not be given to him does it? I am not a huge animal rights advocate, however I do believe that they do need to be prominent in society so that people know that they can be held responsible if a right to an animals is withheld, the same way that someone can be held responsible if a right to a human is denied.

Do We As Humans Have The Right To Make Decisions For Animals?

The answer to this question I believe has changed over the years. Years ago, before the cat and dog were domesticated, I share the belief that these animals had the ability to fend for themselves without any human interaction. Now that we have taken steps to domesticate the common dog and cat as well as numerous other types of mammals, reptiles, and birds, I believe that we do play and need to play a role in the decision making process that these creatures go through.

When we domesticate an animal we suppress its natural instincts that it is born with. This sounds harsh, but it is so true. Take for example the undomesticated dog. The undomesticated dog kills for its food as today’s domesticated dog is fed from a bag or a can. I would like nothing better than to delve into the mind of a dog to find out which he prefers, however that component of science is unfortunately yet to be developed.

Being able to modify such an important aspect to the dog’s life patter scares me because it shows me how much mankind can dominate basically anything living that it chooses. This said, I do believe that humans do need to play a big role in the lives of today’s pets. Suppressing an animals instincts is quite different from eliminating them. Stray dogs will still form packs and can bee cause for concern if not delt with. Your cute little guy could be all hunkie dorie in the day time, and turn into Wolf Dracula at nighttime while you are sleeping, returning to curl up by your fireplace the following morning The pray drive of the common dog is what can get him into trouble and this is why I believe that human, master bond is so important.

Speaking from experience, having a good relationship with your dog or cat helps to eliminate bad decisions that your pet can make. Sometimes, your furry pet is triggered by primitive instinct, the same instinct that mankind has tried so hard to suppress due to its unwantedness in human society. This is an excellent example of why I believe that we need to play a part in the decision making of our pets. I think ethical beliefs need to be modified when discussing domesticated or non-domesticated animals. Thanks to the effort of mankind, we need to assist our domesticated friends because they do not have the capability to fully function by themselves. I do not mean to sound derogatory by this last statement. I am 100% thankful for the work that our predecessors have put in to allow us to enjoy the company of a non-human companion. My belief is that most domesticated animals live better lives than they would’ve led in the wild so how can domesticating an animal be unethical? I’m guessing the response to this question would vary depending on the person answering it, and that is okay. People’s opinions will be different based on their ethical beliefs and I would never try to push my beliefs on to someone else, however I think I speak for the majority of the population when I say that without domesticated animals in our lives, life would not be the same.

Conclusion

I wish I could say that both non-domesticated and now domesticated animals have thrived on evolution as we humans have, however I do understand that a significant component of animal evolution is due to man’s interference. Whether we like it or not, mankind was and is responsible for a large aspect of the animals kingdom as we see it today. Clearing land, expansion and willingness to befriend, has greatly altered natural evolution and has imposed the will of mankind on to our co-habitating non-human species. In today’s world, I am grateful to have the option of walking up to a dog or a cat and petting it, an option that I would not have before domestication became prominent. In today’s society, animals play a huge role in the lives of millions of people worldwide. Whether it be by fulfillment, labor related or just company, it is very evident hat life would not be what it is today without the domesticated animal along side us. These animals provide us with friendship, love, protection, a good laugh, and stress relief and it is because of all these positive factors that make me selfish as well as very thankful that evolution has occurred to the level that it has.

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About Author

Devoted pet owner and now, devoted pet editor, Judi spent her time working in traditional offices, keeping the books and the day-to-day operations organized. Taking her dog to work every day for over a decade never seemed odd. Neither did having an office cat. She knows what it's like to train a new puppy and she's experienced the heartache of losing beloved companions.

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