Cats, Dogs, and Political Economy

Humans have a long history of animal exploitation — most often we use animals as food sources, but there are a select few species who have been exploited for other, non-foodstuff uses. Within that select few, there are an elite pair, dogs and cats, that have in differing degrees not only tolerated their exploitation, but made it a partnership of sorts; in the case of the cat, it is a partnership with the cat seemingly nearly on equal footing with the human.

I’ve wondered where pet ownership — and exploitation of animals in general — fits in with various theories of political economy. I haven’t found much sustained discussion of this subject (here is a typical example of what I could find), so I thought this would be as good a spot as any to try and start one.

For instance: If my dog or cat gives me emotional nurturance, and in return I feed and care for the animal, is that an equal exchange? Or is one of us exploiting the other? Is the very fact that I must (by law or other force of necessity) keep the animal close to home, if not permanently in the home, an unfair and immoral sort of slavery imposed on the animal? What if the animal in essence chooses its status as a semi-captive ally of humans — as the first domestic cats did when they started hunting mice that gathered around the first primitive granaries 13,000 years ago, and the humans that gathered that grain noticed they had more grain saved as a result?

In any event, even discounting the effects of our affection for these species, both dogs and cats have been so marked by their association with humans that they need our assistance to thrive, particularly in ways that do not harm the ecosystem. So we will out of a moral necessity continue to be connected to them well into the future.

(The puppy pic is that of a doggie belonging to the parents of a friend of mine.)

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