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Discussing rights and responsibilities with the family dogPosted Tuesday, April 27, 2010, at 3:55 PM
So I said to my dog the other day, "Flash, there are some people who think you and all the other animals in the world need to have rights."
She looked at me with that cocked-head look that conveys its message to a person better than any spoken sentence ever could.
In other words, I knew what she was thinking... "What are you talkin' about crazy lady?"
"Yes, Flash there is a group of people that want to give you the same rights we have. One of those is the right to sue if you don't like something we do. Like if I walk by you twice in the morning and forget to fill your dish, well, normally you just stand in front of me until I trip head first in to your dog food container. But now, instead you can just call a lawyer and have me sued."
"Of course, I guess that means we'll have the right to sue you too," I continued.
"Come to think about it, that place on the deck where you chewed the wood up -- I'll be needing you to pay soon. Well, as soon as you get a job that is," I said, as she cocked her head again.
"Yes, as it is with children as they grow up, with rights comes responsibility.
"Oh and since we're talking about 'animal rights,' that means the cows would be able to sue too. So I guess you should definitely stop biting them when you are trying to bring them in to the lot. After all you could be held liable."
"Oh, and about this job you'll get, it can't really be here. We can't afford any more workers. You are, of course, a member of our family so you can stay here. But since in human years you are actually 35, I guess that means you'll pay rent. After all you're a grown adul... ooops, I mean dog -- with rights. You can't expect to sponge off us for the rest of your life.
"And of course, with your new rights you'll have to pay taxes, follow the laws and for gosh sakes, take a bath every once in awhile.
"Come to think of it, quit rolling in dead things ... after all, it doesn't help your smell any and now that you have the same rights as humans, you need to ignore that whole survival of the fittest thing and those survival instincts. As for eating that fresh cow manure -- no more, that is disgusting. We've put up with because we knew it was something in your instinct. But if you are going to have rights, you're going to have to ignore those instincts.
"Of course, come to think about it, it means you can't harass the cats anymore, after all they have rights too. And they have the right to live here free of harassment ...Well, as long as they pay rent, that is. I don't think they are going to be happy about the whole working eight hours a day thing, or having to give up eating mice," I babbled on.
"Oh yeah, and let's not tell anybody about the rabbit, opossum and raccoons you've killed in the last few years. After all, they are animals, too. They have rights. So I suppose the laws of survival no longer apply when you get 'rights.'
"And we don't want any 35-year-old from our house in jail. How embarrassing would that be?
"So after you get a job (at least you have skills, what will the cats be able to get in this economy.) We'll have to get you in touch with the accountant. You'll need to plan for your retirement. Again, you can't just sponge off us, you have rights you know."
I rattled on like that for quite awhile, while the dog continued to cock her head from side to side. Well, at least until she got bored with the sound of my voice and went out to the yard.
While I watched her, I thought about the animal rights versus animal welfare debate. As farmers I think it is our duty to provide the proper "welfare" to our animals. We have to care for them, feed them and protect them with the best available methods and technology.
But "animal rights" advocates do not distinguish between human beings and animals. Some of the most famous quotes from those activists include: "A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy. They're all mammals." and "The life of an ant and the life of my child should be accorded equal respect."
The most extreme "animal rightists" believe even owning an animal as a pet is "exploiting" that animal.
I consider it all as I watch Flash search our yard, intently looking for something.
I was lost in thought when I felt her nudge my leg as she stood in front of me with one of her many balls in her mouth. I knew the signal. She wanted to play.
As I tossed the ball and watched her run as fast as she could towards it, I was still thinking about the animal rights versus animal welfare debate.
As a farmer, I love my dog and love my cows. But in caring for them day after day, I realize they are not the same as humans. They are driven by a God-given instinct to survive. They live by the laws of nature, the food chain and the laws of survival. If as humans, we ever lived by instincts, we have long since lost that ability -- probably to our detriment.
My dog is not the same as a rat, nor is she the same as a boy.
As smart as my dog is, she still is driven by her God-given instincts to hunt, to protect and as a border collie, to bring in the herd.
As I saw her heading back towards me, hopeful I'd play for a little while more, I realized what I already knew. In looking out for her welfare, I protect her right to live by those instincts.
Then I have another thought. Is pet ownership really an exploitation of that animal?
As I toss the ball for the 80th time, it finally becomes clear.
Someone in this relationship may be exploited, but it sure isn't Flash.
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