By questioning the legitimacy of domestication of animals and finding it irrational as a means to a just and peaceful world, we are responsible for developing a viable alternative way of living.
The new culture without domestication is underway. Daily, ongoing abolitionist vegans and newly turned abolitionist vegans reject the use of animals as justifiable and each of them who is able takes care of animals who are refugees of domestication.
In the previous essay (Recognizing a Blind Spot) I mentioned fear of apocalyptic conditions and worse case scenarios for animals as domestication ends (But what will happen to all the animals if everyone goes vegan?), as well as the desired and habitual companionships between animals and humans that many people do not want taken from them. Both fears may cause reluctance in supporting the end of domestication.
If we are to take ending domestication seriously, we do have to answer the question of the potential extinction of certain species. This may be distasteful and feel Machiavellian to some, but let us not forget that many of the domesticated breeds came at the price of extinction of their wild predecessors. I would argue that the entrenched practice of domestication preceded Machiavelli in its manner of “dishonesty and killing of innocents” as the means to its power.1
If we hang on to domestication as a supposed virtuous means to avoid extinction of some species – ones who absolutely depend on our compensatory care at huge expense to so much more – we risk the extinction of other species who are at least equipped to live independently if we return them access to untold acres of land and water. Not to mention that these free living species are vital for biodiversity and ecosystemic well being.
Keep in mind that as domestication dies out we would regain the ability to grow more plants for human consumption, which requires less acreage and water to sufficiently feed everyone to good health. We would reinstate forests and other public lands that have been co-opted or destructively usurped for unsupportable numbers of domesticated grazing species. We would allow the return of large predators who for generations have been persecuted and driven to destitution, toward extinction, if not forced extinct entirely.
Undoing the disaster of animal domestication may push our emotional buttons, but it is a selfish anthropocentric reaction to lament life without dogs, cats and others whose lives are valued conditionally according to our arbitrary criteria. If we agree that animals have the right not to be property we agree there is no choice but to stop forcing existence of some while denying the valid existence of others.
Having animal lovers among us who are comfortable and knowledgeable about caring for refugees of domestication is key to a healthy transition away from domestication. For any person reading this at the time of publishing who can’t imagine living without certain animals, it can almost be guaranteed that in your life time you’d have plenty of needy animals to adopt or foster through this transition. If we were to end breeding of all domesticated animals today it would be at least one human generation (25 -35 years) for the youngest of some of them to reach their potential natural lifespan (longer for certain species like some birds and elephants.)
This timeline would most probably be extended by the fact that all breeding would not end at once, and some may not be reasonably or easily controlled at first. Feral, stray and unwanted animals represent a desperate population already, in the midst of domestication. As it ends support for the teams of caregivers will be developed. New or expanded professions of caregivers and educators related to humans and animals sharing territory under the right of none being property will emerge.
Educating ourselves on the ways to have relationships with animals without expectation of them serving us to fulfill their reason for being alive not only goes to meeting our obligations to them for forcing their existence, but presents an opportunity to reconcile with nature and begins our revised outlook toward the roles of human- animal relationships in the new culture. By ending animal use we are able to spend time building relationships without dominance or superiority, not only between us and the animals for whom we care, but with our fellow humans.
Through non-violent education teaching people to see animals as beings deserving of living in freedom alongside us and enjoying the right not to be human property is the gateway to letting go of our fears of not having animal relationships. Most people already agree that it is wrong to unnecessarily cause harm to animals, so guiding them to develop mutual relationships with those in their care without expectations and baggage of traditional human-animal relationship concepts is an early phase of our transition out of domestication.
Many people I know, myself included, are turning their homes and properties of acreage into sanctuaries that support this work. By removing the methods of coercive training and forced behavioral compliance we learn to communicate with animals in a way that acknowledges their sentience and intelligence, that does not require dominance or punishment and begets a cooperative relationship that respects the boundaries of etiquette and safety.
Taking this approach with animals for whom we do care develops our understanding of meeting the other human and non-human beings of the world with whom we may think we have no relation as exactly the same as those we already hold dear. With unconditional love, where no one is “other”, there is freedom and justice.
1. Niccolo Machiavelli, Wikipedia