Pets: parasites, employees or family members?

Discussion in 'Breeding, Raising, Feeding and Caring for Animals' started by aikidesigns, Aug 23, 2010.

  1. aikidesigns

    aikidesigns Junior Member

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    Bill Mollison was fond of saying people should eat their pets.
    Is it frivolous or unsustainable to have a relationship with an animal which is not based on its utilitarian value to us (i.e. as stock, a source of food and other resources)? What sort of benefits do pets provide which justify (at least to the owners) the expenditure of feeding and housing them? And what are the real social (and ecological) costs and payoffs of these allegedly non-productive members of our households?
    (discuss this on Facebook)
     
  2. sun burn

    sun burn Junior Member

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    I"d rather discuss this here. Facebook is for my friends. PRI is for PRI issues.

    When bill mollison said that what did he actually mean? He could have meant any number of things. Did he mean people should get rid of their cats and dogs? Did he mean that people should start having wallabies as pets? Or did he mean we should all be bringing up chickens and ducks?

    I think of pets - as in my cat and dog - as akin to art. Art has no utliitarian value and doesn't need it to justify itself in human life. Neither do pets. Both of them provide goodness for the heart and soul and sometimes also the mind.

    I"ve also got ducks which i don't plan to eat. I love to see them in the garden and its nice that they do poo for my compost. I am not yet convinced that they are doing anything else of value for my garden since they like to chew on the plants i would rather see grow and i haven't noticed yet a diminishement of weeds due to their good services. My ducks make me feel happier.

    I haven't observed any ecological cost of my ducks yet. As to the cat and dog, no doubt there'd be more birds around without them. I think they are frightened off by the cat though one of them tries to steal his food every single day and probably gets a decent feed. And i maintain the cat does not kill the birds here. The cat is getting too old now for that sort of caper. The dog occasionally kills something but not for a while now. She also is aging. I have seen a large dead rat in the kitchen which would have been the dog's doing.

    But neither the cat, nor the dog, nor even the ducks have stopped the scrub hens from visiting. I saw them just the other day trotting through out garden.

    In the roof and around the garden there are snakes. I guess they are keeping the mice under control. Hopefully they will leave my chickens alone.

    In summary, my pets are family members but we all do our bit for the greater good of the family. My dog occasionally takes my father out for a walk. My cat warms me up in bed on cold nights. The ducks get me out of bed in the mornings.
     
  3. permup

    permup Junior Member

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    I agree with you Sun Burn. Without animals in life, it just wouldn't be worth living; and to have an animal as a pet is a huge responsibility and privelege indeed. Bill is a contentious old
    sod at times, and if life were just about feeding ourselves, then I would agree with him, but we have the luxury to have more. Yes, I feel guilty at times with the amount of meat I feed my cat, but I guess we can't all be perfect all the time.
     
  4. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    I guess if pets are a no no then we can't have flowers in the garden either unless they fulfill at least 15 separate functions not related to human pleasure ;-)

    Anyway, pets obviously fit well into a permaculture system that includes humans, and provide multiple, useful functions.
     
  5. aikidesigns

    aikidesigns Junior Member

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    Great replies all =)
    yes I agree that Bill is a contentious old sod - don't you love his ability to challenge peoples preconceptions? I imagine old Socrates was just like this too...
     
  6. grassroots

    grassroots Junior Member

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    I actually think that Bill has a point, why not have animals that do more than one job. Like ducks and chooks etc, they are great entertainment, give eggs, help with composting, fertilise the ground and at the end of their lives if they are pets can be buried and help the cycle of life go on.
     
  7. aikidesigns

    aikidesigns Junior Member

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    I agree grassroots - to me Bill's statement confronts us with a number of things about our attitude to living things in particular and the universe in general. There are a number of ways to look at the world, utilitarianism is merely one of them. A hardline utilitarian might argue that Art is actually useful when it expands our minds, creates new perspectives and challenges orthodoxies. And they would be right!
    Why shouldn't the less tangible benefits of pets - companionship, fulfillment, happiness etc - be accounted for by economic theory? Why are some "goods" completely ignored by orthodox economists, just because measuring or accounting for them is problematic?
     
  8. sun burn

    sun burn Junior Member

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    Alki my point about art was that pets and arts do similar things for us, abeit similar but different and I hope you understand what i mean. In recent times in academic circles sport has been placed along side art as doing something similar for the spirit. Art is for the spirit, so is sport and so are pets. (note that by sport i don't mean playing it but watching it.).

    As to Ducks, my ducks are eating all my plants so now i am questioning the wisdom of having them though are a nice to have around otherwise. Still not getting any eggs from them so as far as having for utiliarian purpose, this is looking very doubtful. I just the hope the chickens when they come will do than uplift my spirit.
     
  9. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    Why assume that 'pets' only do one job ;-)

    I can't see why you can't design pets into a permaculture system.
     
  10. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    You could train a dog to dig planting holes for you maybe. Or guard your livestock. My cat does his business on the compost heap. And spends his days watching the chickens intently....
     
  11. aikidesigns

    aikidesigns Junior Member

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    @sunburn - and it was a good point too, which is why I used it.
    My point about utilitarianism still stands:
    Less tangible utility does not mean non-existent utility.
    A related but different point is that just because something is not of utilitarian value to us does not mean it does not have inherent value - to paraphrase Bill (in the "Permaculture Ethics" section of "A Designer's Manual)
    Loving this discussion...
     
  12. aikidesigns

    aikidesigns Junior Member

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    I had a dog who was really good at turning coarse mulch (sticks) into fine mulch (splinters)...
    =)
     
  13. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    Pets reduce rates of depression in humans. I'd be interested to know if that's true of people who eat their pets.
     
  14. pippimac

    pippimac Junior Member

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    Although I have none, I think pets perform many valuable functions. Gotta admit though, when I did my PDC I had to design a (hypothetical) ferret into my system. That was a challenge. In my experience, mustalids have one funtion only: supremely efficient mass slaughter
     

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