The AbolitionistApproach, a blog by Gary Francione, Board of Governors Distinguished Professor of Law at Rutgers University School of Law, makes for fascinating reading, even though I don’t always see eye-to-eye on his posts. He takes a hardline approach, albeit a hypothetical one, on animal rights, and he avidly preaches and practices veganism. (Let me first go on record that I am not a vegan, yet. Veganism is another hardline regimen that I can’t fathom committing to, while vegetarianism and pescetarianism appeal to me both morally and sociopolitically.)
But Francione’s approach to animal rights calls for the end to the domestication of dogs, which he wrote about here. Francione calls domesticated animals “neither a real nor full part of our world or of the nonhuman world. They exist forever in a netherworld of vulnerability, dependent on us for everything and at risk of harm from an environment that they do not really understand. We have bred them to be compliant and servile . . . We may make them happy in one sense, but the relationship can never be “natural” or “normal.”
He also notes he has five rescue dogs himself and encourages others to adopt dogs who are in dire need of homes. Even so, Francione states: “We regard the dogs who live with us as refugees of sorts, and although we enjoy caring for them, it is clear that humans have no business continuing to bring these creatures into a world in which they simply do not fit.”
My issue with Francione’s opinion on animal domestication is particularly with respect to dogs. I don’t feel that dogs have been “acted upon” by humans; rather I believe that dogs and humans have “interacted” over centuries. I think there was, and is, a two-way communication and understanding between humans and dogs that makes them our oldest and most cherished domesticated animals. They are no more trained to be compliant and servile than are our children. They are, however, trained how to behave within a social group that includes humans. They hold a place there, the same as the rest of us, and they derive benefits from it. Like humans, they understand pack (family) membership and they trust it. I won’t go as far as to say loyalty, which is an abstraction. But certainly they feel attachment.
And that is why you will see families sentimentally including photos of their dogs in their portraits. Why they are written about in literature, sung about in songs, and featured in art—including some of the oldest cave paintings known to man.
Again, I understand that Francione is talking hypothetically, and I agree on many counts. I think abusive breeders should be stopped; I don’t believe in using dogs for cosmetics testing either. But I do see the benefit in training dogs for scent testing, however, given their highly-developed sense of smell, or as guide dogs to help the blind.
If we can move beyond the hypothetical for a moment, I’ve seen packs of feral dogs in Indonesia where I spent one summer. Likely, these were abandoned dogs that formed packs and now breed and live on their own. Many of them live in and around towns and cities and roam the streets in groups, picking through garbage, killing rats, carrying mites and mange, licking their open sores. They move about through humanity but they do not trust humans, and they steer clear and keep to themselves. Un-domesticating dogs might sound righteous to some, but practically speaking, what would urban wild dogs look like?
And if not urban, where would undomesticated dogs reside? How long would it take them to regain their full natural instincts that derive from their wolf ancestors?
One thing is for sure: Francione ends by sharing with us that his five dogs are vegan just like him. Talk about domestication …
Look anywhere in the wild: you won’t likely find wolves eating vegetables.
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