Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Canine Antinatalism: Is it wrong to let your dog breed?

I'm getting a dog soon. So I was wondering whether, just for funsies again, it would ever be moral for a person to allow their dog to breed. At first I started with ye..then n..then settled on just, I don't know. I ran into a rather serious roadblock at this point - being that I just don't know whether the issue of consent can apply to a dog. It is wrong for people to have children - this is quite simple, you are doing a harm to whoever you create, since they will inevitably suffer in their life, and you do not have the power to choose for non-existent people bla bla bla read the blogs in my blogroll. I think I have tackled a little with this before, but more in a consequentialist way - that is to say I believed that one must necessarily eliminate the kingdoms of life to prevent the extreme amounts of suffering that will continue after humans die. Now I'm not so sure. The problem is, again, consent is something an animal cannot give. Either they are not intelligent enough to understand the idea, or humans simply cannot express the idea to them (though since some higher apes may speak in sign language, I don't know whether this is actually possible or not). But you say, surely we don't need to have the consent of animals? They're just animals. Except so are we. And if it is wrong to forcefully sterilise a human being, then, provided you believe that the animal can't consent, it's probably wrong to do the same for dogs etc. Except I just don't know if I'm right about that. We do so much these days that animals cannot consent to, but is in their best interests. Isn't this the same sort of thing as making decisions for the mentally retarded, or for children? So if a dog can live longer, suffer less instances of cancer, and will avoid creating new lives with new suffering (though with doggy blankets and little clothes as well), then surely, if we take what is done with the mentally unfit as right, then it must be right to prevent animals from breeding, especially if it benefits them like it does with dogs. I'm still, almost characteristically, unsure about this though. Personally I think it's true that I should neuter my eventual dog just because of the benefits to him/her. But on a grand scale, it's still a little weird to say that it is in the best interests of all life that all life is sterilised - despite how not committing immoral acts probably is in their best interests. But if you do that, then why not prevent them from doing other (from a human point of view) immoral acts? You would have to muzzle and put on a nutrient drip every predator out there. But the thing is, if we are going to apply human values on how we treat animals (not killing them, not eating them etc.) we are going to have to apply human values on how animals treat other animals - especially if from my favourite negative utilitarian view that it would decrease suffering. This is going to be a lot of hard work and bother. But only for future generations, haha.


  1. That is a rather complicated issue you raise. Bear in mind that nearly every breed of domestic canine was customized by human intervention. We're talking hundreds if not thousands of years of genetic manipulation. Throughout the terms of genetic manipulation, many animals develop unseen anomalies such as hip displasia (German Shepherds) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hip_dysplasia_(canine), airway restriction, (Pugs) http://pugman.com/Pug%20Information/Breathing%20Difficulty.htm , an a host of other maladies that are simply too long to list.

    Those of us who are conscientious do recognize that human beings tend to desire the perpetuation of beings which they find to be superficially attractive. They rarely give much thought to the unseen consequences of their actions, i.e. what problems lie beneath the surface.

  2. As I mentioned in Jim's blog, I have a background in animal welfare. I spent time in South Africa as a game ranger. I also did a short stint as a tiger trainer's apprentice. I can attest to the fact that animal husbandry is not pretty. Ligers (genetic cross between a male lion and a female tiger) will inevitably develop issues with their joints and require glucosamine supplements just to maintain themselves without constant pain. You know those white tigers that Sigfried and Roy popularized? In order to ensure that future generations of cubs are born with the desired traits, they are typically inbred, resulting in things like this: http://www.pbh2.com/wtf/meet-kenny-an-inbred-white-tiger/ I admit that I have a personal bias toward big cats. That is what made me take a figurative step back and objectively observe my own tendencies. Lions and tigers are very affectionate and capable of forming personal bonds with each other and their human handlers. This doesn't mean that they have offspring that are waiting in limbo and begging to be born into the fray that is this cannibalistic planet. Likewise, if they do become actual, how many cows, chickens, pigs, etc... will we have to slaughter on their behalf? For what purpose? Is it fair or kind to favor one type of DNA combination over another? Would it not be more compassionate to simply care for those cats and dogs who are already here so that we might leave those imaginary beings in peace?

    No, we should not harm our animal companions by keeping them from consuming the food that they need to survive. We do, however, owe them a comfortable life while they are here by ensuring that they do not breed. Besides, the more animals they create, they more they will impose on one another. That is not necessary and it most certainly is not kind. Please, neuter your pets. It creates less stress for them and it prevents the needless suffering of unborn generations.

  3. Great comment Garrett, you've really affirmed my own beliefs on this. Nature is too cruel for us to assume that we could in anyway deprive an animal by sterilising it. You have some interesting arguments for your viewpoints - I'm wondering if you ever go on Jim's chatroom? I've never seen you around there myself.

  4. Jeff McMahan, a very prominent philosopher, has argued that predators should be made extinct (if it becomes possible). Of course, later on he also stated that the extinction of humans would be the worst thing that could possibly occur, so it's not like his reasoning is sound every time, but I do believe it's very sound in The Meat Eaters.

    As far as sterilizing humans and the issue of consent: there are plenty of things that we regard as acceptable to do to people without their consent. Now, I don't know about how much you value consent, but if you believe that it's okay to use force to prevent people from murdering others, then the same reasoning should apply to using force to prevent births (because birth entails death, plus a whole lot of other shit, so in most cases it's actually worse than murdering someone from a consequentialist perspective).

  5. Oh, and yes, neuter your dog, please! I bought my pets from a breeder because I was a selfish moron, and feel guilty to this day. You never know where your dog's potential offspring might end up.

  6. 'but if you believe that it's okay to use force to prevent people from murdering others, then the same reasoning should apply to using force to prevent births'
    Wow. That rocked my world. I'm going to have to let that sit for a while. Make a blog CM! Also, don't worry with regards to breeders, the dog I'm getting is a rescue dog. Hopefully he/she'll be neutered/spayed already.

  7. A few random and incoherent thoughts:

    1) Animals don't consciously desire to procreate. It could therefore be argued that by neutering them you are not depriving them of anything whose loss they can feel.

    2) The sterlisation of all animals prevents future suffering on a massive scale. This is what antinatalism is about, after all.

    3) Let's avoid sentimentalising animals and nature. There is very little to get sentimental about. As Woody Allen said "Nature is just one big restaurant". Nature itself is a concept that in the wider world really needs taking down several pegs, most particularly the idea of "Mother Nature". The reality is that Nature is an abstraction, an anthropomorphisation of an interlocking chaotic inferno where all end as victims, so don't get gooey over it. It certainly doesn't give a crap about you. I heartily recommend Shadow's piece on this topic:


    And yes, CM's consequentialist observation about birth being worse than murder is certainly one to ponder on.

  8. I agree with all people here - that defend the position that we should not intentionally breed dogs (or animals).

    I take a more easy going approach on this. I don´t think people should neuter their dogs, unless they are going to be around other dogs. Of course, given the premises of antinatalism, that is better that new dogs don´t come to existence.

    And thanks Karl, for linking my blog there. This was quite a good post, I remember it.

    And great point out, CM, about murder and birth.


  9. But still, we do not really have the same feelings about parents that we have about murderers. At least I don't.

    That we don't act the same way towards them probably has mostly practical/social reason, though.

    All the best,

  10. Estnihil: I've never participated in the chat. I'll keep it in mind though :) Yeah, non-human animals are unwitting slaves to nature, just like most humans. I can only reason from my human mind, so I'm not comfortable making this next statement as a fact. However, I highly doubt that non-humans have an irrational, emotional drive to make more of their species. All evidence points to ingrained programming. I'm so glad to hear that you're getting a rescue dog. Thank you, thank you, thank you :D

    CM: We should never single out and demonize the apex predators. They are the most accurate representation of the reality in which we currently exist. Remember, every living thing has predatory tendencies. Now, if they simply die out for lack of habitat and breeding grounds, OK fine, but they should not be victimized by human aggression. That's emotionally driven favoritism. Hypothetically, let's say I had the option of opening Pandora's box and sterilizing all living things. Yes, I would do it. It's not right for any living thing to have such a powerful weapon (procreative ability) over others. By removing that reproductive capability, I would simply be removing their undeserved power. An ability that should never be possessed in the first place. I would never use like minded individuals or drones (a.k.a. soldiers, police, etc...) to impose sterilization. Government is a disgusting force that should, in itself, be eliminated. Clandestine means of sterilization is the only right implementation. If anyone ever comes up with a plan, by all means... carry it out! :) For the love of all that is good and decent, please don't tell anyone!

    Karl: #3... damn straight, dude.

    Shadow: I agree! We should not subject them to any additional trauma (sterilization procedures) unless absolutely necessary. If you live out in the middle of nowhere, and your pet cannot do the deed anyway... why put them through the anxiety? Very good point.

    Rob: I dunno... The lines are pretty blurry. I'd say some degree of Stockholm Syndrome is involved in parental relationships.