Pet Ownership and Police Violence

On the LA Eastside blog, Browne Molyneux posted about the "Symbolic Gestures of Nothingness" made by a PETA volunteer who targets working class people of color in downtown LA's Fashion District for illegal animal sales. In her post, Molyneux makes two points: 1) targeting "illegal" pet sales doesn't challenge pet ownership; and 2) targeting people of color working on the street perpetuates racism and classism.

I think Molyneux is justified to call the PETA volunteer's actions a "symbolic gesture of nothingness." And I agree that pet ownership needs to be stopped, as opposed to trying to stop illegal animal sales.

Molyneux explains that like eating other animals, wearing their skin and hair, and drinking their milk, owning animals for recreational purposes is just another form of exploitation. "Pet ownership is wrong," she writes. "It's more wrong than eating steak, its more wrong than wearing a fur and it's a very popular wrong thing to do among the 'we love animals' set." I wouldn't say pet ownership is "more wrong" than these other forms of exploitation, but I do think it is at least as wrong.

Still, when she points out how keeping an animal as a pet "is the embodiment of viewing yourself as a god and you being god you have the right to laud over another living being, because you are human and godlike and this animal should be grateful to be in presence of your godlike being," I think she makes a good case for how pet ownership is rooted in, and works to perpetuate, human supremacy and speciesism.

Even "getting a pure breed like cutesy dog at the pound does nothing, but encourage the puppy mill people and encourage the idea that animals are to be disrespected," writes Molyneux. I find it hard to deny the truth in these words. While studying the vegan movement in 1980, Victoria Moran identified how vegans, in opposing the exploitation of animals as pets, were "animal respecters," in contrast to "animal lovers."

Molyneux asks, "But in regards to community building and educating a more broad reaching community of people does PETA think going in and fighting with an underground business by working class people of color is going to get more people on the side of animal rights?"

In a society built on white supremacy and capitalism, people of color, especially those who work on the street, make easy targets. Molyneux notes that if the PETA volunteer had harassed a rich white man, say one who owns a meat packing plant that exploits both workers and nonhuman animals, the volunteer might end up in jail. However, by targeting people of color working on the street the same volunteer has all the support of the institutional racism and classism, including the LAPD.

This is another example of how animal protection works to support white supremacy. Targeting these street vendors is not going to exactly help anyone, human or nonhuman. However, the attention the PETA volunteer seeks brings with it increased law enforcement harassment and violence against people of color working in the area of the Fashion District. This is the antithesis of community building.

Re: Pet Ownership and Police Violence

I agree with a lot of what you and Molyneux have stated here, but...

"Even 'getting a pure breed like cutesy dog at the pound does nothing, but encourage the puppy mill people and encourage the idea that animals are to be disrespected'"

Wow. I have to disagree with this part. Why? Because I'm pretty sure the cutesy dog from the pound appreciates his or her new, happy home. I'm pretty sure if given the choice, he or she would choose life as a pet over death.

Every individual matters. Every animal life counts. Rescue is worthwhile. Always.

Elaine, the short-term solution

Elaine, the short-term solution is sanctuaries. If pet ownership is wrong (which it is) then it's as wrong now as it's ever going to be.

People don't get off the hook for owning animals just because they're vegan or got them at a "shelter." I understand that people who already own animals have a duty of care toward those individuals (it'd probably be a case-by-case call about whether those animals would be better off in sanctuaries), but I don't see under any circumstances how individual adoptions can be promoted by animal advocates.

You label the home "happy," but that implies that there are good forms of pet ownership. Yet the point being raised by these posts is that all pet ownership must end because it's inherently wrong.

Looking at the situation with the idea that pets must exist, then the only solutions appear to be pets or death. But if we take the pet ownership option off of the table right now, then we can see that sanctuaries are the short-term option. That is where animal advocates must put their time, effort, and advocacy--not into getting the animals out of "shelters" and into homes because that is not the ultimate goal. The goal is animal freedom. That means no pets.

Re: Elaine, the short-term solution

I have really been going over this
in my head. And I'm leaning towards,
Pet ownership is not Vegan.