Are pets vegan friendly?

I was on the internet late at night and came across a vegan discussion thread where someone had commented that you cannot call yourself a vegan if you have a pet. Their whole argument was that vegans should not do anything that exploits or causes an animal to be exploited, and by having a pet you were exploiting an animal for your own personal gain – you have a pet because you want one, not because the animal wishes to be a pet.

This whole line of thought just baffled me really. Now I can understand why someone would not buy a pet from a breeder because there could be a degree of exploitation involved, but is rescuing an animal from a shelter really exploitation? By this logic, are rescue centres and animal shelters also exploitative because they rely on animals in need to stay in business?

I can understand why some vegans (myself included for the most part) do not agree with horse riding, dog racing or Crufts. I do not however believe that owning a pet means that you are exploiting an animal. Now I know I am not alone here when I say that my pets have always enjoyed the best life that I am able to give them: They have unconditional love (even when they have chewed through the third set of internet cables), a warm place to sleep, as many cuddles as they will allow me to give them, and a loving family that literally plan their whole lives around them. My partner and I make sure we stick to our routines to ensure that our bunny stays happy and calm, and I would literally cancel plans if it meant my cat was going to be home alone during the night. My pets (and any animal for that matter) have me at their beckon call and I would not have it any other way.

I have also seen arguments that emotional support animals or service animals such as guide dogs are not vegan friendly. I am sure we have all seen the recent news of an animal activist yelling at a blind man because he had a guide dog with him. Now sure it could be argued that there may be a degree of exploitation involved when it comes to training guide animals but you can not convince me otherwise that these animals – guide dogs, hearing dogs, emotional support animals – are not the most loved, adored and cherished of pets in the whole world. I have been working to educate myself more on what life is like for those who have crippling social anxiety – who can’t even go into a shop without suffering a panic attack – or for those who are blind or deaf and I have seen how much trust and love they have in their support animals. I see people who have regained some of their independence thanks to their service animals and I can see the gratitude on their faces that their service animal is willing to help them.

The entire argument as well that all animals should be free and wild is pointless at this point. The reality is, most pets would not last long out in the wild: We as a species have bred these animals to be companion animals – they are bred to have the majority of their wild instincts removed from them a little bit more with every generation. We made these animals domesticated and as such it is now our job to look after them and to protect them in ways they no longer can.

As with most things in the world it is not a simple black and white matter. It really bothers me that there are some people out there who call themselves ‘vegan’ while spouting such nonsense. There is no such thing as a perfect vegan, and in today’s society there is absolutely no way you can live your life without exploiting something along the way. But what you can do is be as kind, empathetic and considerate as you can be to every living being you come into contact with. If a newbie vegan does ask about a certain topic, encourage them to do their own research and sign post them to different opinions, while still reminding them to do what they believe to be the right thing.

What do you guys all think? Do you think owning pets is a ‘vegan’ thing to do? I would love to hear other people’s thoughts on this matter because it could be such an interesting debate.

T xxx

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