Dogs lead lives of loneliness. Grey parrots die years earlier than their natural lifespans. And it is hard to fathom the boredom of pet fish
At the end of last year, the state of New York banned pet stores from selling cats, dogs, or rabbits. The state wants to encourage pet stores to work with shelters, rather than puppy mills, to get animals adopted. With any luck, other states will follow suit.
In her story The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, Ursula Le Guin described a society where the joy of its citizens depended upon the “abominable misery” of a single child immured in a dungeon. Le Guin asked the reader if even great happiness could justify suffering. Humanity’s relationship to animals is predicated on a similar utilitarian calculus. Like the town of Omelas, we have made a silent pact to dominate pets for our benefit, despite the cost to the pets themselves, to wild and farmed animals, and to our own morality.
Troy Vettese is an environmental historian at the European University Institute and co-author of Half-Earth Socialism (Verso 2020)