More and more reports from more and more animal shelters reveal that humans are forsaking their animal companions, mostly dogs, after many have adopted ones in the beginning of covid-19 breakout.
This course has started earlier this year when lockdowns all over the world were canceled and dogs where less needed to serve as humans’ companions or even as their formal excuses to go outside during lockdowns.
In the past year, many humans have decided that adopting animals is not really a lifelong commitment but a temporary setup, and so at some point, they decided to put them in a shelter in the best case, and in the worse one they simply throw them to the streets.
Lately things have gotten even worse due to the increase in the cost of living all over the world. Many humans cut their expenses by forsaking the dogs they have adopted, many of which when they were lonely and frustrated during lockdowns. Once lockdowns are down and cost of living is up, many humans ungratefully forsake their dogs. They used dogs for emotional support during the pandemic and now many of them are abandoning them.
After an adoption boom in the beginning of the pandemic about two years ago, nowadays more than 3.4 million human households have forsaken their companion animals in the UK alone. Similar worrying reports are coming from the U.S. and other places as well.
Another price the animals are paying due to humans’ decision for that matter, is that these animals, mostly dogs, have gotten used to having company all day long and spend very little time alone during the lockdowns. But as soon as these were off, many of these dogs have been left home alone for hours every day. This situation plays as a trigger for dogs who are anyway naturally very prone to suffer from separation anxiety.
For this extremely unfortunate occurrence to be disappointing one needs to have expectations of humans, something that activists should have lost long ago. However, some activists insist that there is something categorically different about humans’ treatment of dogs specifically and companion animals in general, that they try to use it as leverage to convince humans to change their view and treatment of other animals, claiming that their treatment of dogs reveals humans’ true nature which is of compassion and caring. But as argued before, even if dogs were suitable candidates to reveal humans’ true nature, humans’ relations with dogs have a history, as well as conditions. Even the history of humans’ relations with dogs, their most beloved animal, is violent and oppressive. Love is very far from being an authentic description of the relations between humans and dogs. There are plenty of other aspects of this relationship. Thousands of dogs are experimented on every year. Who knows how many are tied to one place, which is also where they eat, shit and sleep, because humans force them to protect their property. Millions are still forced to serve humans in the military, the police, various rescue units, guiding for blind humans and so on. Thousands of dogs are forced to fight each other for humans’ entertainment and gambling, and hundreds of thousands are forced to race each other for humans’ entertainment and gambling. And of course, in south East Asia dogs are also eaten, just like pigs and cows.
The utilization and emphasis of the supposed inconsistency in humanity’s relations with different species, by many animal rights activists, is understandable and rather intuitive, but nevertheless it misses something very fundamental about humans and about humans’ relationships with other animals, and that is that that relationship is first and foremost functional.
Different animals are classified differently, mostly according to the function they serve for humans. That includes dogs who along history and among different cultures were and still are considered as food, labor force, experimental subjects, hunting animals, guarding animals, and even as pests. In fact dogs were on the ‘exploited list’ all around the world for a much longer time than they are on the ‘loved list’. And in most of the world they are not objects of love but of labor, guarding, filth, or flesh.
The fact that currently millions of animals are being abandoned by humans, as well as the fact that tens of millions of dogs are killed or doomed to live in crummy cages every year because humans don’t adopt them, while puppy mills are so common, is also a strong indication of more complex relations than simply loving.
So it is a little naïve and romantic to present dogs as those who humans simply love. Far more often than not, dogs are affection providers in an emotionally alienated world, in which humans can find comfort in someone who loves them without judgment, envy, competition, ego and the rest of the complexities bound with humans’ relations with other humans.
So humans’ relation with dogs is actually one of the evidences for humans’ functional relation with other animals. And given that humans’ relation with other animals is functional, pointing at humanity’s inconsistent relation with different species, doesn’t function the way many animal rights activists hope it would on the practical level. Even for most of the humans who don’t explicitly and directly exploit dogs, dogs still function as animals for affection; and for most humans in general, cows function as animals for consumption. Most humans don’t connect the dots because they see neither dogs nor cows as different kinds of animals, but as different functions for humans. That’s why being confronted with the similarity between dogs and cows in the most relevant aspect – both kinds of animals have feelings, preferences, and the ability to suffer – doesn’t do the trick. That is because when it comes to the vast majority, humans’ view of nonhumans is humane, not animalistic.
Humans don’t view nonhumans for what they are, but for what they are for humans. And for the vast majority, dogs are in the better case amusement vessels, and cows are simply living hamburger vessels.