Meet Jason. He’s a good looking dog with a nice coat, a kind demeanor, a wonderful smile, oh and he’s neutered. Jason is in solid health and loves human attention, it seems like a real shame that he doesn’t have any owners. Because friends, this fine dog is up for adoption, but there is one very special thing about this dog; he’s from Phuket, Thailand.
Some reasonable people may ask the question, “Why would you spend hundreds of dollars adopting a dog from Thailand when, for the same amount of money, you could easily care for 3 local stray dogs?” This is a great question but it apparently hasn’t had much impact. People appear to be clamoring to adopt international dogs rather than their boring, dull, domestic twins**.
A charity which imports street dogs from Greece (Tails from Greece) to Canada alone shipped over 292 dogs* between 2013 and 2001. With a price tag of $1,200 for a crate with 2 dogs*, I think the efficacy question with regard to charity here has to be asked. If you could spend $1 and save a single animal from location X, or spend $1 and save ten animals from location Y, how can you possibly justify choosing from X?
This case is too easy to make for an interesting post, so for that reason I only want touch the issue briefly and instead highlight this ever evolving sub culture of charitable giving within the Western world. I have played this tune before but this is just one glaring gem, charitable giving is an orthodoxy which is supported by being given a ‘bi-partisan’ political stamp (to the point where people will even argue with me that to give charity ISNT political, which is outrageous). It is through this guise that we discuss the charity issue and how it relates to adoption.
But let’s talk about dogs for a second.
From India to Thailand, Iran and Russia, it seems no corner of this savage world can live up to our ethical expectations for the treatment these blessed animals. Despite the unprofessional web pages, even a country like Greece apparently has stray dog problems needing international attention. No surprises are had when we find that people have no problem paying thousands for it.
But this issue goes deeper than wasting money to ship abused animals overseas, how this fixes the actual problem of stray animals (rather than addressing the Greek’s careless attitude toward dogs); it’s also a question of which animals we are even saving and why. The fact that humanity has genetically engineered the modern dog to be our dependent slaves shouldn’t now ensure them a place forever as #1 most important animal on the ethics pyramid. At times like these I like to think of the stray, starving rat. Far more numerous, and far more vulnerable to the machinations of human evil. The rat is intelligent and able to experience suffering like our K-9 comrades but they are cursed with a fast reproductive cycle, so no one ever cares about the violence and sickness which stricken the rats of this world.
We are told the justification for favoring one mammal over another by our co-workers via the most effective argument of all, a complete refusal to even address the subject. Dogs are more important than rats are because… (they aren’t ‘vermin’). For all the starvation and famine the dog may suffer on the streets of India, they still find a way to survive and reproduce; much like the rat. Which opens the question as to why we care more about the suffering of X and ignore the suffering of Y.
The Price of Ego
A dog from India is no different than a dog from the streets of New York. A dog birthed from the vagina of a genetically tested, well cared for animal is no more or less capable of suffering than a stray. The only difference is that the dog from India, much like your boring USA stray, now has a great backstory which you can now use to show everyone else how morally superior you’ve become. Like a caterpillar who has evolved into a glimmering, ethically pure butterfly, you watch as the mere mortals below you squirm beneath your all powerful gaze. With each swath of your verbal assaults you crush the immoral and purge the unclean. You say with extreme self-importance
“I can’t believe that people buy from breeders rather than adopt a stray from a shelter. There are just so many deserving dogs out there already!”
To which I hope this individual is pregnant so that you can reply,
“I can’t believe people give birth rather than adopt a child from social services. There are just so many needy children out there already!”
The sword of moral judgement, once wielded, is double sided. The answer to this supposed moral conundrum is simple, you are not moral and you are simply selfish. You adopt because its cheaper, or it’s easier, or because you feel some kinship with it (maybe you yourself were adopted). To birth a child is reasonable, although still selfish, you want immortality. But simultaneously you want to feel good about yourself and make others feel bad so you adopt the dog rather than support the live birth of an animal.
Adopting dogs does not fix the problem of stray dogs on the streets of India. No more than buying dogs from a breeder (unless your intention is to outlaw ALL dog ownership, something I would respect). On the same token, adopting children doesn’t fix the problem of a homeless child. The only difference is that you actually care a lot about the suffering of children and really only pretend to care about the suffering of other mammals (as epitomized by our refusal to adopt ‘vermin’).
Adoption vs Purchase
Adoption is a temporary solution to a terrible, systemic problem. I can respect charitable organizations who want to adopt the existing animals while simultaneously engaging in rigorous, invasive spade/neutering procedures, this seems logically consistent to me. But some charities do not. I cannot, however, justify or find respect for those who find it necessary to spend their charity money (assuming this charity money actually fixes what you want to fix, a point I’d argue) for the novelty of an ‘international’ prize.
It is merely commodification of an animal, justified by the supposed purity of charity. Like the dog that I genetically manipulate and purchase, merely so that it can match my purse; the dog that I ‘save’ from Thailand is commodified in a more grotesque way. The saved dog is now used as a subversive political statement, “I am doing my part to fix our broken, immoral world” without actually doing anything. To me, this is a greater crime than the former because it’s a complete lie, at least the former is honest selfishness. I enjoy the simplicity in that. You are purchasing an animal to own and play with. This is selfish. You have not fixed anything by adopting an animal, or adopting an international one, you’ve merely pruned the leaves from the tree of corruption that you must admit your actions are helping to grow (unless of course you are an animal rights activist).
So yes, by adopting an animal you have reduced some measure of suffering (if said dog was never to be bought), but so is purchasing a dog from other means. What of the dogs produced by puppy mills all over the USA? Those animals are still born and can still suffer. What of the dogs produced by responsible breeding? The only difference in the argument for these three is that for the latter two it’s claimed you’re economically supporting the practice when your dollar is best spent elsewhere. They tell us to stop perpetuating this evil. Really?
If you actually want to fix stray animals and stop the need for animal shelters, your dollars should be spent entirely on sterilization. Then you cruise around the USA and put all the puppy mill owners in a prison for animal abuse. Then you spend the rest of your time lobbying the government, closing down city streets, and getting in the face of every immoral asshole you can run across. both poor and rich, to try and get them to respect the suffering of animals other than humans. You want to make people stop abandoning dogs (creating strays), because it is completely immoral, akin to abandoning a child. Because this isn’t an issue you just put into a sock drawer at night time or pull out once at your dinner party. If we’re going to engage in this ethics argument and pretend to care about it then suit up because it’s going to get messy.
But most don’t do these things because the beef isn’t actually with purchase vs non-purchase, it’s about putting other people down and ingratiating yourself with the pride of this fake ‘political activism’. Adopting isn’t activism. Charity isn’t activism, it’s compliance.
A dog is a dog, its ability to experience hardship has not ceased just because it comes pre-packaged with a ‘dog training’ for dummies book. But we are told that one action is more ethical than another. To adopt is pure and to purchase is wrong in contrast. Responsibly bred dogs are ‘wasteful’ because there is this mass influx of stray dogs from cruel people who need to be enlightened.
By this token, is a healthy female birthing her own child now immoral because she did not adopt from social services? I think you’d have to admit this point and say yes; if you are going to wield the sword of moral superiority you better be wearing armor.
Unless you are an animal rights activist in India who happens to live in the USA, your decision to adopt an Indian stray dog is as ethically significant as someone’s decision to birth a genetically similar child.
It’s a neutral action.
New Trends in Society
A new trend in liberal politics is to one up each other to find out who is more socially consciousness. This ritual has gone to such an extreme that people no longer care about the logical reasons for participating in it (because it is indefensible, as shown above), nor the cost of their outrageous actions. As if to make the ritual so blatantly abusive and authoritarian, it’s no longer about buying a dog who matches your wife’s new purse; or genetically manipulating a breed so deformed that it lives half the normal age (toy breeds). No, liberalism has reached a new level of masochism, it seems only the most deformed or broken dog will do in order for you to prove your compassionate merit to the world at large.
If there is one thing we’ve learned from this most recent trend of liberalism it is that we are all born with the original sin of privilege, every action and behavior we exhibit in our broken and decadent life is to atone for this crime of existence. Forgive me father, for I was not born poor, black, in rural Mississippi, with a deformed leg or a gender identity issue. I must spend every moment of my day recognizing my inert advantages, and thus, some how work to level the playing field. Leveling the playing field is a reasonable request, the problem comes when you start suggesting policy provisions to do it. If you are checking your privilege you better be a European socialist, because we are told that anything else makes you a social-Darwinian Nazi.
To make matters worse, the majority of these individuals aren’t actively trying to fix society by attacking the root of the problem (WHY people are poor, rather than just basic charity). If they were, I’d be seeing daily protests through the streets of Detroit over the conditions of the abused. The issues are terrible, terrible enough for you to rant to your friends about the need for more welfare, but apparently not terrible enough to get arrested for it.
It seems society exists as a lash which you can ritually beat yourself with via this willful hardship. It seems we don’t want to fix society, by proposing alternatives or finding solutions (as uncomfortable as this may be); how much better it feels to continuously pluck the leaves off the very oppression tree we grow and then turn to our friends and decry their inaction
“Look at all these leaves!” they’ll cry out at the top of their lungs “Don’t you care?”
When looking at the vast tree of our societal issues I’ll be honest, I’d rather use a chainsaw.
A Brief Rant
We have reached a level of politically correct decadence that has metastasized into masturbation. But not the healthy kind, it’s the abusive, addictive form of masturbation that keeps you from having healthy relationships or engaging productively in society. The game is, who can support the most destitute from the most obscure circumstance. The dog is beyond a companion, it is now a piece of modern art, where we sing the songs of its oppression as though it were a child. Thousands of pages of backstory fill the dusty tomes of lore as we regale our dinner guests about our supposed moral superiority because we did our part. An outrage by anyone who even spends a moment considering the issue.
No one cares about the political result of the action, or the reasons for doing them. Merely that when people start deciding to measure up on who is the most socially conscious, who is the most politically correct, or who can use the most gender neutral words in their phrasings; that our messiah has come.
Pet adoption doesn’t fix the issues of stray dogs roaming around. Mass sterilization measures do that.
Forcing poor people to purchase what YOU think they should purchase (by allocating their resources for them because they are too stupid to do it themselves, food stamps, federal housing, etc.), apparently doesn’t solve poverty either since society has been doing this for hundreds of years. If the poor merely need money, then support a universal, minimum income. If that’s really the problem then there is your solution. But no one wants it because we secretly think the poor are lazy and stupid.
The price of pride in our society is to hide all these problems, perpetually, by spending money adopting rather than sterilizing, by allocating money so that the poor are forced to spend $100 a month on food-stamp approved grocery items rather than better housing for their families. This is so that you can continuously feel like you are fixing our broken capitalist system. But we know the reality, you are purposely propagating a fake ‘solution’ so that you can continuously ‘solve’ the issue by doing nothing. As you continuously spin the wheel of oppression you yourself created, the result is an overwhelming rush of “I’m doing good work here.”
Solutions are solutions, if you can save 5 dogs from suffering by sterilizing a wild stray, or save 1 dog from suffering by adopting; how is this a question of what to pick? Sterilize. You can’t have it both ways, either you choose to say people must be the most effective with their charity, dollar for dollar, or discount the entire system. And this logic goes further, if you can save 5 human lives from Africa for the cost of 1 dog adoption, how do you justify this selfishness? Are you still wearing that armor I suggested?
Given that someone will choose a dog to join their family, adoption is no more or less ethical. A silver spoon puppy can suffer and be abandoned just as well as an existing stray, it’s just less likely. Your beef isn’t with breeders, it’s with cruel people who abandon domesticated dogs.
And if you decide to adopt internationally, then unless this was your long lost companion from a past life, you might as well just void yourself from the argument altogether because it fails every metric of efficacy and common sense.
The price of pride, it seems, is simply more suffering.