Original photo of Freddy the Amur Leopard: [link]
I have always lived close to animals, no matter which part of the world I've come to consider home. They were my friends as a child, when, growing up, we moved around so much that keeping human friends was difficult for me. I learned that animals could provide excellent companionship and support, so I spent most of my time either communing with our family pets, or off in the woods, watching and learning from the wildlife.
As I grew older, I began to learn more and more about the human-animal bond, and I developed a personal philosophy based around the idea that no living creature was above or below another: As creatures of the earth, we are all entitled to certain rights which no one but fate can take from us.
ANIMALS IN CAPTIVITY:
To begin with, I have always believed that freedom is the most important part of living. Humans put other humans behind bars only with good cause, but we put animals behind bars as well, and it's not always because they've broken the law.
According to my personal code of ethics, no animal should be kept in captivity unless it can contribute to conservation efforts for the survival of the entire species, while still maintaining excellent mental, emotional, and physical health. I have written extensively on the topic of zoos, since this is often viewed as a 'gray area' in the world of animal rights. You can read more on that here: [link]
Other forms of captivity, such as the keeping of domestic animals, is acceptable to me ONLY because the animals are domestic. However, the same rule applies here that I apply to zoos: The animals must be kept in excellent mental, emotional, and physical health. This means that I am opposed to domestic animals such as lab rats being utilized for testing, and also applies to animals reared for meat and fur products in less-than-pristine conditions.
ANIMALS FOR FOOD, CLOTHING, AND OTHER HUMAN USES:
I am often asked if I am a vegetarian. The short answer is a blatant "No". I am a human, and humans are, by nature, omnivores; this is why we have pointed canine teeth as well as rounded molars. It's a part of our genetic build to eat meat, and so I choose to live by that.
So yes, I eat meat, though I avidly avoid fast food restaurants, and like to support only locally-owned free-range organic farms and wild-caught game (more on this later).
In this way, I am not supporting the massive corporate meat industry, which raises animals in captive conditions that do not take into account the animals' emotional, mental, and physical health. In fact, many large-scale meat farms treat their animals worse than you think. This why I actually prefer meat from non-domestic animals like deer and elk to begin with: [link]
The same logic I apply to the consumption of meat also applies to dairy products and eggs, as well, though it is often harder to regulate where dairy or egg ingredients come from.
Of course, people also raise animals for their hides as well as their meat and milk. Most people own at least one article of clothing which features some form of leather into the design, whether they know it or not. And because leather can be dyed, polished, and treated in so many different ways, it's sometimes hard to remember that it was once part of a living, breathing creature.
I wear leather because it's a byproduct of the meat industry and supports the use of all parts of the animal, but I don't buy my leather clothes directly from leather suppliers because it's hard to tell where it originated from when the tag reads "made in China". Most of my clothes are from second-hand stores anyhow because I'm a starving artist and can't afford the fancy stuff to begin with.
But leather and fur are both natural, biodegradable, renewable resource which humans have been wearing for thousands of years. They contain no plastic elements, no palm oils, and have a low environmental impact to produce.
The same applies to fur.
If you can wear leather, you can wear fur. The only difference between the two is that fur still has the hair follicles attached to the tanned hide. People who say, "Fur is murder" while sporting a pair of leather sneakers ought to take a step back and think a little more logically before spewing PETA-crap.
Likewise, people who use make-up products like lip stick and certain eyeliners which contain mink oils from ranch-raised mink, ought to do the same.
This is not to say that I support fur farming, or hunting strictly for fur. I DON'T support either. I only wear fur and use pelts from animals that come to me from second-hand sources or are salvaged from antique shops, vintage resale stores, and the Fish and Wildlife Department's various auctions.
That said, fur farms are not the horrible torture chambers PETA wants you to think they are. In the United States and Canada, there are regulations regarding the humane dispatch of all fur-bearing animals living on ranches. The part I have an issue with is that these are wild animals, not domestic, and since they are not contributing to conservation, their right to freedom is taken without just cause.
Hunting is also something I disapprove of unless it is done for a fair reason such as population control, or removing a problem individual from the gene-pool. I also appreciate the type of hunters who take game for the meat, not just the hide and horns, so long as they make use of all parts of the animal taken. If you think about it, the animal lived a much better life than any cow at any farm!
PETS AND ANIMALS FOR ENTERTAINMENT:
There is a HUGE difference between domestic and wild animals. I'm fine with people who keep domestic pets like cats, dogs, horses and non-wild variations of rats, ferret, and fish. I'm not okay with people who keep wild animals like macaws, reptiles, and exotic mammals as pets. I'm also not okay with people who keep hybrid domestic-wild animals in their homes.
Wild animals belong in the wild unless they can contribute to conservation by be being held in captivity. And private owners cannot breed animals for survival programs, regardless of what they may claim.
Even wild animals which are born in captivity and specifically bred for use as house pets are never truly "domestic", since it takes thousands of years of evolution, side-by-side with humans, in order to accomplish full domestication. Exotic pets also fuel a dark underground trade in wildlife which currently rakes in more money on an annual basis than human trafficking and illegal weapons smuggling combined.
You can read more on the topic of illegal wildlife trade and the exotic pet industry (with a specific focus on America's tiger problem) here: [link]
My logic regarding hybrid animals is similar to that regarding wild ones: They are NOT domestic creatures, and were never meant to live in captivity despite the fact that they may show various traits of domestic breeds. In fact, because of the cross-breeding, many hybrids are actually more dangerous and unpredictable than people expect, which is why they cause such a problem. Many American cities outlaw wolf-dog hybrids and so-called "Bengal cats" for this very reason.
More on the issue of hybrids (with specific focus on wolfdogs) here: [link]
Then there are animals used not for companionship, but for entertainment...
I HATE circuses, sideshows, and even films which portray wild animals as trainable, friendly, and eager to please for the sake of a treat or two. Not only does it encourage a lack of respect for the animals, it also makes people think that they have power over them instead of thinking of them as a fellow living being. It's not natural behavior, it's not educational, and it often leads to unwanted 'retired' animals which are usually either neglected or sold into private hands.
On the same note, many animals trained for entertainment are treated rather poorly and training methods used on them are often brutal and abusive. Though this may not be true of every animal used in the entertainment industry, the issue still stands: The animal is captive without just cause.
Never is this case more true than it is with cetaceans. Though accredited establishments have been trying to raise dolphins and whales in captivity for years, making them perform for crowds of tourists, the resulting offspring are unable to be released back into the wild because we cannot simulate their natural environments in captivity. Therefore, they are not being bred for conservation, and their needs are not being met. More on this topic can be found here: [link]
In conclusion, it is important to remember that this is my personal stance on human and animal co-existence. I do not believe that everyone should live by these standards, as everyone has their own beliefs regarding the topic of ethics.
THIS IMAGE IS LISCENED UNDER A CREATIVE COMMONS COPYRIGHT.
Feel free to use for anything you like, so long as it's not for monetary gain.
Do NOT edit this image in any way; it is NOT stock.
It is a completed work made for animal advocacy.