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Slaves of Our Affection: The Myth of the Happy Pet Paperback – February 7, 2015
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About the Author
A graduate of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Charles Danten practiced veterinary medicine for eighteen years, ten of which were spent in his own veterinary clinic near Montreal, Quebec. At different times during his career, Dr. Danten cared for companion, farm, and zoo animals. A growing awareness of the undesirable aspects of human-animal relationships led him to sell his clinic and leave the profession altogether.
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Nearly all prosecutable cases of cruelty to animals are perpetrated against pets. Anticruelty laws exempt mass atrocities such as factory farming, fishing, fur ranching, and experiments on nonhuman animals. The long eugenics project carried out on dogs and cats, and the caging of hamsters, birds, and other popular pets makes those animals especially vulnerable to human beings’ rage, frustration, whims, descent into poverty leading to neglect or abandonment, and other factors in cruelty to such easy victims that is prohibited by law. But because humans do not perceive other animals as persons or establish their basic rights in the Constitution, there is little prosecution of cruelty to animals.
Nor do pets lead fulfilling lives. As Charles Danten’s subtitle The Myth of the Happy Pet emphasizes, one easily sees sadness and confusion in dogs if one closely observes them on their leashes, with owners jerking them by their necks when they try to greet other humans out of their natural sociality and their constant loneliness and isolation. The famed excitement with which dogs greet their owners when the latter return home, widely interpreted as happiness, is really relief. Finally the master in the master-slave relationship has returned – finally the dog is no longer alone.
The book also highlights the terror cats in particular experience when taken to the vet, the poor quality of pet food, how many diseases dogs suffer from due to selective breeding, and other crucial factors that we all as citizens should seriously consider as we endeavor to reduce animal abuse and suffering. A big part of eliminating civilization’s millennia-long animal-abuse policy and practice is striking at the root by halting humans’ breeding of other animals.
David Cantor is founder and director of Responsible Policies for Animals in Glenside, Pennsylvania, USA.
Danten’s withdrawal from the veterinary profession (and his persistent criticisms of the companion animal industry) demonstrates the perpetual balance, or imbalance, between compassion, medicine and business.
‘Slaves of our Affection’ is a unique, engaging, thought-provoking commentary that provides the reader with a post-consumer perspective on animal companion welfare; almost a rebuttal to the advertisements, indoctrination and dogma that illustrates that the North American household requires a dog to be ‘whole’.
There is an unsettling challenge for the reader once finishing the book, which Danten does briefly address; being ‘what now’? One has to first contemplate where these arguments fit into their values, morals, lifestyle and career, if at all. And ask themselves, what now?
Should we feel contempt for our “well-intentioned” exploitation of animal companions? Should our perspectives of animal ownership change? Or should we simply live contently via the adage “ignorance is bliss”?