Nothing like a heartfelt chat about puppies to derail more frivolous dialogue about say ... people. Violence against women? Bah! International Human Rights? Who cares! But touch on the furry purry creatures who adorn our couches and laps and we're talking massive, bloody bones to pick...
So it came to pass that Feministing's Jessica Valenti, who began posting snips of her adorable newly acquired puppy -- just shipped in from Florida -- made a crucial error in judgment. Not by buying the animal -- we'll get to that later. But by naively stepping into this bottomless petroversy, as if she could just leap, like one of our four-legged friends from a freshly dug dirt pit, right back out. You see, getting an animal shipped to you probably means buying it from a breeder and buying from a breeder in some reader's estimation is "morally repugnant."
Actually I'm no defender of breeders -- I would never buy a dog from a breeder, and the fervent animal-rights folks have done a great job in educating a good portion of the public that breeding specialty cats and dogs is rarely the right choice ethically speaking. However, there's something truly bizarre about how the conversation proceeded.
Instead of returning to raging, theorizing and snarking against the patriarchy, threads not only on Feministing but numerous other feminist blogs as well have literally gone to the dogs -- with the animal rights feminists squaring off against the humanely hegemonic and everyone in between speaking out for the cute little creatures, the mis-metaphored slaves, the lab rats, the blind and the cucumber slugs...
For a while, it seemed Valenti was trying to ignore the matter while continuing to post weekly puppy clips, but the conversation only barked on and on. Eventually, she responded -- yes she bought the puppy from a breeder, yes she struggled with the decision, but no she didn't have to defend herself and wouldn't be commenting further. Of course, the conversation continued without her.
Here are a few highlights just in case you don't have an extra six or eight hours to follow the threads in their entirety.
On human reproduction as metaphor for animal breeding:
Ninapendamaishi: Do you think women who choose to have their own children instead of choosing to adopt one of the millions of needy, neglected children out there are making horribly immoral decisions?
SarahMC: Humans have a biological urge to reproduce. Adopting is good; I think more people should do it. Especially when the choice is between IVF & adoption. But I understand the desire to have bio children. Humans DO NOT have a biological urge to buy purebred dogs. Breeding dogs is not necessary for perpetuation of the human species. It's not necessary for anything other than creating service dogs. It's just not the same.
On animal genocide:
Pamela V: ....And I disagree with the fact that everyone who is against breeding dogs while 3-4 MILLION animals are killed each year in shelters has to be vegan. I am vegan, but it doesn't mean that I am the only one allowed to stand up for animal rights and welfare. Jessica legally has the right to buy from a breeder, and I (and others)have the right to point out why it's incredibly selfish and wrong, in my opinion, especially when every week it's "look how adorable my puppy is" ... while others like MY adorable dog are getting drugs pumped into their bodies and then incinerated ... because people are buying from breeders (amongst other reasons).
On slavery, animal and otherwise:
Elaine Vigneault: My assumption: animals are not the property of humans to be bought and sold like slaves for our pleasure. They are other nations, to be respected and treated with dignity. Humans are responsible for cat and dog overpopulation, therefor we are responsible for caring for those animals that need care, the ones in shelters. There is absolutely no need to breed animals for profit, be them for pets or meat. It's slavery and it's wrong.
Moxie Hart: ... Ok, Elaine, I hope you never use medicine. Many have animal products in them. And I have to second Zuzu, I'm sure people with slave ancestors really appreciate you comparing their suffering with buying a puppy from a breeder.
Elaine Vigneault: Only people who think their lives are more important than non-human animals' lives can be offended by the comparison of human slavery to animal slavery. The definition of slavery is to treat another as property. Property is the essential concept of slavery. Property. The only way you can be offended is if you think it's OK to treat non-human animals as property.
Jill at Feministe took up the cause of defending Valenti while pouring forth a philosophical exegesis about the differences between animal rights and human rights, personhood and, uh, creatureness. What struck me about this conversation was how raw and personal it got -- because people were confronting a difference at the very core of their morals and the great lengths people went to show how deeply irrational the other side was being. And as much as I might disagree with the vitriolic nut cases that would throw my daughter overboard to save their darling pit-mutt, or compare a Pet Co. to a 19th century slave market, I can't help admiring their ability to make a bunch of smart women go ballistic.