For 10 years I have shared my house with a dog. I wouldn’t be without her. We don’t speak the same language or have the same toilet habits but we get along. We understand each other to a certain extent having learnt various sounds, mutterings and shouts from our respective vocabularies. We know each other’s given name. And, if we were both abandoned on a desert island and the last coconut had been eaten, I would not slaughter her and roast her on a spit. That is certain. At some fundamental level of being we are equals. When I look into her eyes, I see consciousness looking back at me, not something other called an animal, or a derivative called a dog. Three questions arise for me to dwell upon:
- How is it that we (human animals) unconsciously agreed to discriminate against selected species so that it is OK to raise and eat cow, pig, chicken etc, but not dog, cat, hamster or horse? (My field of reference here is the UK, I know other nations eat other non-human animal species).
- How do other dog, cat, hamster or horse owners stack up their dietary choices to eat other non-human animals?
- Am I harmfully exploiting a species, namely dog, by keeping it as a pet, and using it as an agent for my own pleasure, entertainment and security?
I don’t know that I will find an answer for the first other than blind social conditioning, and maybe that is the answer to the second too, for if you don’t stop and look into the eyes of your next meal then the question is unlikely to arise. Having said that, experience and recent reading confirms that making dietary choices is a luxury I should be grateful for. I can afford not to buy processed or fast food and to instead choose fresh and whole ingredients, and I have the time (mostly) and know-how to be able to cook. As for the third, I suspect I am guilty of exploitation, but hopefully not harm.