Category Archives: Humanism

Who Would You Save?

I recently ran into the old ethical question that pits the life of a pet and the life of a stranger against each-other. I’ve seen the question before, some time ago, and had forgotten all about it until I came across it again just today. Now I can’t seem to get it out of my head.

The ethical question, if you’re unfamiliar with it, takes many forms. Sometimes the set up is that your dog and a stranger are both drowning and you can only save one or the other. Other times, it’s a burning building with the same problem. I even saw one version where you’re approached by a freaking angel who tells you it will kill one or the other and you must choose which will be spared. Many times though, the question just skips the setup (as it’s irrelevant and people always try to use it to dodge the question anyway) and goes right to the dilemma at hand: If one or the other had to die, which would you save?

I’m inclined to think that anyone who would save a human stranger, be it an adult or a baby (as is the case in some versions of the scenario) really shouldn’t be allowed to have a pet. As I say this while having a pet, then you could, I’m sure, guess that I would save my dog.

Most people who choose to save a human will do so with the reasoning that a human, even a stranger, is more important than a dog. I disagree. People are more inclined to favor our own species, but we do so for emotional reasons. All values that we place on other species are entirely subjective. We tend to favor humans simply because we ARE humans. We have a bias in favor of the species that includes ourselves. If a dog could speak to you, it might very well have a contrary opinion, insisting to you that dogs are actually more valuable.

As for subjective values between species, I’ve certainly never seen dogs wage wars or commit genocide, so I find any claim that humans are better to be just a little bit flawed. And with a population of over 7 billion, humans are hardly an endangered species in need of preservation. I can’t find any objective rationale to favor the human over the dog (or cat, or what have you.) I don’t think that any life form is intrinsically more valuable than any other. All values we place, we place based on our own biases and needs. So I’ll put subjective values on species completely out of the way, ignoring that 1. I am human myself and therefore tend to favor humans, often without being conscious of it, 2. personally happen to prefer the company of dogs over that of humans anyway, and 3. acknowledge that the most horrific acts committed on this planet were (and still are) perpetrated by humans, whereas dogs are comparatively innocent as a species.

With cross-species value out of the way, I’m left with what is, to me, the real question: To whom do I owe the greater level of responsibility? If you’re not an animal lover and don’t understand what I mean, replace “your pet” with “your child” (or a child you are babysitting or is otherwise under your care.) When the scenario is your child vs. a stranger, few people would have trouble with the choice at all – they would pick their child. Sure, people would talk about subjective emotions, their bond and attachment with their child (as well as with their pet) and their personal vested interest in the child’s survival, and I don’t doubt that they mean what they say. But the real factor here is, or at least aught to be, responsibility.

This isn’t just a dog vs. a human scenario, it’s specifically my own dog vs. a human stranger. When I took my dog into my home, I was making a contract with her. She became my responsibility. It is therefore my duty to keep her safe and healthy, to love her and care for her, and to protect her and keep her happy. It doesn’t matter one bit that she’s a dog, she’s my responsibility all the same and in a way that no human being, who I do not even know, is, just as a child would be to a parent.

So I say again, anyone who does not save the pet should not have a pet at all as they do not take their responsibility seriously. Ask anyone who works at an animal shelter, and they will tell you that there is, sadly, no shortage of such irresponsible, speciesist people, who get a hold of animals that they then fail to take care of and renege on their responsibilities to.

This question isn’t just some absurd hypothetical, however. I actually have chosen my dog over other people. If you have pets that you take adequate care of, so do you, whether you’re aware of it or not. I’ve had my dog for less than a year, but I’ve spent quite a lot of money on her already. I’m not sure exactly how much money I’ve spent to her benefit, but it has to be on the order of a few thousand dollars by now. When I paid for Molly’s plane ticket, her veterinary care, her food, her toys, her training classes, my pet deposits, and so on, I was spending a great deal of money on a dog that I could have otherwise spent donating to charities that keep the world’s starving fed or could have gone to medical research and treatment or could have helped people pay their rent to stay off the streets.

Of course, I’m not thinking about any of this as I go through the checkout at the pet-store, but that’s still what I, and every other responsible pet-owner, is doing. People who spend money on their children are doing the exact same thing. How much money have you spent on your animal friends or on your kids? Do you feel guilty about it? You shouldn’t. I don’t.

Sure, I have, to a certain degree, a level of responsibility that I owe to every human being on the planet, whether I know them or not. I don’t deny this. However, it’s not the same kind of personal responsibility that I owe to my dog. I do still try to help my fellow human in any way that I can. I have done volunteer work and donate to charities that aid humans. But at the end of the day, if I had to pick between the two, I’d pick my dog over a stranger every time. Morally, it’s the only acceptable course of action that I see.

P.S., read this:  My Dog or Your Child? Ethical Dilemmas and the Hierarchy of Moral Value

Blacklist: Walk On Women Sponsors

The “Walk For Life” is anything but. This demonstration/fundraiser is an anti-choice attack on women’s rights, health, and our very lives. The money raised benefits Life Network, which is an organization that attacks reproductive justice and funds FAKE CLINICS to deceive and endanger women. They’re a sick organization with a lot of blood on their hands, with the nerve to call themselves “pro-life.”

Colorado Springs will be the site of this misogynistic spectacle on June the second. It’s 2012 and people can still get away with blatant bigotry and people act like there’s nothing wrong. Not only is this event allowed and with no notable opposition, at least to my knowledge, but local businesses are openly supporting this attack on women without care.

Well, I care, and so should you. Please share this list and don’t do business with those who would oppose reproductive healthcare, STD prevention and treatment, accurate sexual education, contraception, and abortion care – all of which are necessary for healthy men, women, and children.

Here is a list of proud, corporate sponsors of this battle in the ongoing war against women:

Andrew Wommack Ministries  Academy Women's HealthcareFocus on the Family

Also listed were:

Big Air JumpersChick-fil-A, New Geneva Theological SeminaryRoss Electric,ServiceMaster of Colorado SpringsStarbucks, Well Groomed Ground Maintenance

What About Him?

I can’t remember if I’ve written about this before, but something I’ve read recently brought this back to mind. Something like a year ago, I was on a pro-choice, feminist (there’s no such thing as an anti-choice feminist) blog. I forget why it came up, but I remember mentioning that I was planning on getting sterilized. It was then that I was reminded that not all pro-choice people actually are, but many are only pro-choice to the extent that it is still assumed that every woman will and must eventually have children at some point. For it was in a response to my comment where I received one of the weirdest bingos I’ve ever heard in my life. I have yet to be able to locate the post in question, my comment, or the comment of the bingoer. So, here I can only paraphrase what was said.

“You shouldn’t get sterilized. Maybe you don’t want kids, but what if one of your gay friends needs a surrogate?”

Even after all this time, I’m still just astounded by this particular bingo, and not because it’s sensible or convincing at all, far from it. Whereas other, more common bingos are stupid in predictable ways, this one takes a completely different, yet none-the-less ridiculous , approach to reducing me to a mere person-factory, rather than an actual person.

Well, this person first assumes that I have gay, male friends, which it just so happens that I do, not that this person would have had any way of knowing that. The following assumption is that my gay male friends would, first, want children, and, second, view their female friends as vending machine wombs for such a purpose. Not only am I expect to actually consider such a person as a friend at all, but I, as a woman, a friend to gay males, should agree that I am, indeed, a vending machine, and keep myself open for business just in case. The sexism on display is astounding, and especially so when coming from the keyboard of someone who claimed the title of “feminist” who, evidently, didn’t see the glaring problem with his/her words. That is just sad.

I am no stranger to vending-machine-type bingos. I remember that the first time I spoke with an OB/GYN about getting a tubal ligation, he made a point of asking about my partners. I write “partners” plural because he wanted to speak both about my actual boyfriend, as well as a hypothetical “Mr. Right” who could not have been my boyfriend. I was insulted that any man, real or imaginary, should even be considered at all when it came to my body. Yet, I was asked if I was married, then, when the answer was “no,” if I had a boyfriend, “yes.” “And how does he feel about this?” As it just so happened, by boyfriend doesn’t want children either, not that it matters, as it isn’t his decision what I do. Then the OB/GYN asked “What if you meet the right guy, and he wants kids?” As if someone who wanted kids could ever qualify as “the right guy” for me in the first place.

In these bingos, it’s always what he (whoever such a “he” might be) wants that matters most, and I’m a silly girl for not considering him first. The presumption was that what a man, any man, real or not, wants to do with my body is always more important to consider than what I want with my own body. Worse still, this argument is handed to me smugly, as if I really should agree with such a sexist denial and dismissal of my own autonomy. It’s bad enough when this bingo is offered with the man being a hypothetical partner of mine, but now I’m even expected by the bingo first mentioned to find even a hypothetical man who is only even a friend to have more right to my body than I have myself. As a woman, I am to view what I want for myself as less important than what any man wants to do with me, even in the case of men who aren’t even real.

What an awful, misogynistic world.

Edit: My boyfriend read and shared this post. When he and I discussed it, we talked about how to accompanied me to an appointment with another OB/GYN (not the one spoken about in this post.) He was expecting this doctor to ask him what he thought about me getting a tubal ligation. He supports my decision, but would have firmly told the doctor, had he been asked, that what I do is entirely my own business not his (my boyfriend’s.) Happily, this doctor never did asked and was the one who ultimately provided the tubal ligation procedure for me. 

Remember Pet Parents On Mother’s Day

I actually don’t call myself a “pet-parent,” nor do I call my dog my “fur-baby.” I like such terms, but I tend to avoid using them, myself. The only reason for this is because I don’t want to give ammunition to people who would accuse me of doting on my dog only to “make up” for not having children. There’s nothing more irritating than being told that I’m misdirecting my “natural maternal instincts” whenever I take care of my dog properly. 

I understand why people do call themselves “pet-parents,” and their animal companions “fur-babies.” It seems cruel, for one thing, to refer to pets as property to be owned. Animals aren’t toys, or decorations, or accessories. They’re thinking, feeling, living beings who we are fully responsible for as caretakers. It is our duty, when we take animals in, to see to their physical and mental wellbeing to the best of our ability. We are to raise our animal companions in stable, loving homes. To do any less is negligent. From the moment you bring an animal home, it is your responsibility for the rest of its life, not just until caring for it becomes inconvenient for you. If you aren’t prepared for that responsibility, get a picture of an animal instead. “Pet-parents” understand this. The specific things one is responsible for may be different, but the level of responsibility between caring for pets and caring for children is the same.

Additionally, the use of the terms “pet-parent” and “fur-baby” relate to the pet’s role within the family. It doesn’t matter if the animal isn’t a human child, the bond between someone responsible enough to take pet care seriously and that pet, is comparable to that between a mother and human child. This is especially pronounced in families without children, which are a growing segment of the population, but is a dynamic that should be present in any home with a pet anyway. My dog is certainly part of my family of three, and we take good care of her and love her dearly. Mothers don’t have the monopoly on love, on bonding, on care-taking, or on family.

In outrage that us mere non-moms would use such terminology, Susan Maushart, has written a piece for Huffington Post attacking the convention.

Because Pet Parents Are Moms Too!

I hate to be a bitch about this — but hey, female dogs are people too, right? — but when I read that subject line on an ASPCA email this week, it really gave me hairballs.

This reminds me, I really should subscribe to the ASPCA’s newsletter.

As for dogs being people, some people would argue that they could be considered such. I’m certainly more inclined to consider a dog a person than I am to consider a corporation or a human fetus to be such. 

I am a pet owner and I am a mom, and frankly, my dear, the two have about as much in common as a goldfish does to Godzilla. Rub my nose in it if you like, but it’s about time this whole “Pet Mommy” thing got some serious yanking back.

If you’re a responsible caretaker of your pet at all, then the burden that comes with that should be at least comparable to childcare. Dogs have needs beyond kibble and water. They need love and attention. They need socialization. They need positive reinforcement and encouragement. They need to be played with. They need to exercise. They need to have fun and experience new things. They need to be given rules and boundaries. They need to learn and be stimulated mentally. They need to be respected. They need to be rewarded with treats and toys and experiences they’ll enjoy. If you’re taking care of your dog right, you’re doing a lot of work.

For years now, it’s been accepted usage for pet owners — invariably child-free pet owners — to refer to their dogs and cats as their “kids,” and to do so without apparent irony. And an estimated $50 billion a year in pet-related goods and services currently fuels this delusion. Doggie daycare. Pet strollers. Halloween costumes. Veterinary insurance.

She says “invariably,” but non-childfree people often refer to themselves and others as “pet-parents” as well, especially if they work in a field that involves constant interaction with pets. There aren’t that many of us childfree folks, you know.

Animals are expensive, especially when they’re cared for right. I’ve had Molly for less than a year, and I’ve already dropped over a thousand dollars on her in 

the form of a plane ticket, a crate, food, toys, a bed, a home pet-dish, a portable pet dish, a harness, a seat-belt, a car tarp, treats, training tools, hygiene products, two leashes, a collar, tags, pet fees at home and when traveling, training classes, a backpack for hiking, and veterinary bills. And every bit of it was absolutely necessary in order to take proper care of her.

Doggy-day care is actually a great idea. Dogs have feelings too, and it’s not uncommon for them to experience separation anxiety when left home alone. Their nervousness at this situation may cause them to be more likely to be destructive than they otherwise would be. Dogs get lonely, bored, and scared just like anyone else. And if a care-taker is likely to be away for an extended period, it’s nice to know that the dog will be let out when it needs out, and that it will have adequate food and water. Additionally, dogs are social animals and being around other dogs is great for their enjoyment, and their emotional wellbeing. It’s good to socialize dogs with strange dogs and people. It’s certainly better than leaving them at home alone all day. I don’t use doggie day care myself, as someone is usually home, but I certainly see the appeal.

Pet strollers are another good idea for small breeds. Little dogs still need exercise, but they might tire on a walk long before a human does.

Halloween costumes are just a bit of fun. The author even admits to having her own dog wear one.

Veterinary insurance is a must! Medical care for pets can be expensive. I hate to see animals that could otherwise be saved and restored to good health simply because the care-taker was to cheap to actually follow through on their responsibility to their pet. I’d like to remind the class that animals aren’t toys to be discarded when broken. They’re living beings who you take responsibility for.

What? No college fund?

Actually, I’ve already spent a pretty penny on training courses for my dear Molly. When I get the time and the money, I’ll bring her to more classes still. Eventually, I’d like to have her certified as a therapy dog. It’s not exactly a four-year university, but it’s a considerable amount of training for a dog, and a considerable financial investment for myself.

There’s even an entire new literary genre riding on the back of our boundary confusion: “dogoir” — a heartwarming, first person narrative centering on the relationship dynamics between ordinary pet-owners and their spiritually gifted-and-talented woofspring.

Do you feel your ears perking up? Think about it. When’s the last time you picked up an inspirational book about child-rearing? Never. Because there is no such thing.

Actually, yeah, there is a ton of baby-worshipping, diaper-sniffing, umbilical cord-gazing drivel literature out there. It’s a flat lie to state otherwise. Hell, there are entire blog communities centered not just around the practical aspects of child-rearing, but the qualities of the relationship that are either romanticized or entirely imagined.

Real parents write bestsellers with titles like Go the F**k to Sleep and The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Real parents write survival guides. Field notes. Training manuals. Not freaking fantasy fiction with fur.

Actually, most “real parents” don’t write anything at all except facebook posts about the latest diaper blowout.

It’s become ideologically unsound to say so in public, but you and I both know that pets are stupid. Not just “slow” or “differently intelligent” — just plain stupid. (When we say a poodle is intelligent, we forget that we are speaking in purely relative terms. Compared to a pincushion, sure.) That’s not a moral failing. It’s not something we love them in spite of. It’s something we love them because of.

Pets aren’t stupid. It’s nonsense to say they are. It’s nothing but speciesist snobbery to hold the intelligence of another species to the standard as a human. Suppose I said humans were clumsy and compared them to cats to do so? Suppose I said humans were blind and compared them to hawks? Suppose I said humans were slow and compared them to antelope?

These “kids” of ours eat their own vomit, run straight into oncoming traffic and hump the furniture. Hello? Is that a reflection of their intelligence? Even more to the point, is that a reflection on our “parenting”?

Human children do the same things and worse. Both need to be taught not to. If the author’s pet does the things mentioned, then she has failed in her responsibilities to her dog.

As for dogs, most can be housebroken within weeks of birth if the human cares enough and knows what they’re doing. Cats can be litter-trained at a similarly young age, often with little involvement on the part of any human. Cats can even be taught to use toilets. Human children? You’re lucky if they’ve stopped wetting the bed by age five.

I could be wrong, but it seems to me significant that we cannot crate our children. Nor can we expect them to heel, appreciate table scraps or take well to shock-collaring. At the same time, we do not fight for Angry Birds access with our cats. Our dogs waste little time on social media, and can almost always be counted on to say ‘no’ to drugs. And if they dress provocatively, I think it’s fair to say we only have ourselves to blame.

Actually, human children do get “crated,” if you think about it. They’re called cribs and play-pens. Even older children are often “crated” in their own bedrooms. And if you’re a decent parent, you’d better be able to expect the child to heel.

Shock collars are abuse. They shouldn’t be used on any animal. Shock collars are used on dogs and not on children because of speciesism. It’s as simple and horrible as that.

As for the rest, the author has only demonstrated why pets are better than children.

This Mothers Day, let’s remember that, as much as we adore our animals — and full disclosure: I dressed my pug as a monarch butterfly last Halloween, and it was awesome — they are not our children. To pretend otherwise makes monkeys of all of us.

Until there is a nationally-recognized holiday specifically celebrating pets, I think Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are perfectly acceptable times to celebrate our animal companions. (Share!) Anyone who would call themselves “pet-parents” is completely justified in doing so.

As for myself, apart from occasionally referring to Molly as my “baby,” I don’t pretend that my dog is the same as human child. She’s better, as far as I’m concerned. I much prefer dogs. Why would I pretend that she was something less desirable to me, right?
Kidding aside, no one is affected by using the term “pet-parent,” especially as the prefix “pet” makes the term very clear in meaning and avoids any confusion. So there’s really no sense in getting pissy over it. Calm down, Maushart. 

Happy Mother’s Day, pet mamas!

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