The case against having pets

Whoever came up with the idea of domesticating animals and turning them into pets had one of the worst ideas ever!

My rant 😀

Ok, with that out of the way here are some thoughts around why keeping pets is not a good idea. They start out fairly personal and mostly opinion and progress to more general / less opinion.

Note: Most of my direct experience on this subject comes from the last ~5 years of living with multiple dogs.


In the same way that “We did not domesticate wheat. It domesticated us.” as Yuval Noah Harari put it in his book “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind”, the domestication of animals and turning them into pets has also come at a price. This price can be considered in terms of loss of freedom (or autonomy), loss of money, loss of sleep, and other costs. These costs ostensibly come with equivalent gains, however such gains are not as straightforward as they may seem which I’ll get to later.

For now, consider the extra difficulty in going places, either being restricted to places that accept and accomodate your pet, or having to organise alternative arrangements for them. This creates an extra hurdle to your freedom or autonomy.

Consider that, almost by definition, a pet is, to a greater or lesser degree, dependent on you for various aspects of it’s life & health. This dependence translates, at various times in the relationship, into a lack of sleep, or other incursions on your time and energy.

And, for living with dogs inside at least, it involves an inordinate amount of clutter and dirt in your house.

The there’s the matter of the loss of money.


Consider all that you spend on your pet. Food, housing/bedding, toys, minding, vet, and more. All that adds up to a lot of money that could be used in other, arguably better, ways. Especially when you consider the amount you spend on your pet(s) multiplied by all the pet owners the world over.

According to Business Insider Australia on 4/10/2019 the pet industry in Australia was worth more than $12.2 billion. The 2019 figure for the U.S. was $95.7 billion. A 2020 forecast predicts a $358.62 billion industry globally by 2027. That’s a lot of money that could be put to use for the good of the planet, climate change mitigation, health care, homeless, etc.

This industry, including money, energy & resources, that has grown to satisfy human’s questionable motivations (I’m getting to that) could be freed and redirected to more pressing uses for the future of humankind.

Especially when part of the money spent on your pet is only going towards things that make our situation on this planet worse…


Go into a pet store, especially a large one, and take note of all the packaging and plastic there. Look at everything that has been processed – toys, food, enclosures, and think about the energy used to produce them. Now multiply that by all the other pet stores in the world.
There are two issues here – the amount of waste, in particular plastic and unnecessary energy expenditure.

We are already drowning in packaging. It’s rare for anything we buy – even at the supermarket – to not involve some packaging. And keeping pets compounds this waste issue. Especially when it comes to plastic waste. Look at how much of what you spend on your pet involves plastic, bags of food, toys, bowls and so on. As if our own use of plastic wasn’t a big enough issue, now it’s compounded by all the plastic the pet industry is producing. Plastic that is not going away any time soon, and, when it does break down a bit, turns into microplastics that permeate the seas and water supplies and gets ingested by wildlife.

Consider now the energy use of this huge industry. An industry whose energy needs are, like most other industries, rooted in a non-renewable resource. Surely it would be prudent to take measures to reduce the consumption of this finite resource?

How can it make sense to compound an already significant human problem by keeping pets. Apparently because it’s “normal”…


It seems that, like the fish asking “what is water?”, the notion of keeping a pet is so “normal” as to not be consciously questioned or considered. Well I have considered it and it occurs to me this desire does not necessarily come from a psychologically healthy place.

If you search “reasons for getting a pet” you’ll find endless pages of varying sized lists of reasons. Even has one! Looking through these reasons it seems like oftentimes the pet is acting as a surrogate (or an avoidance) for having a healthy relationship with our own species, or to avoid learning how to deal with the knocks of life and become more resilient for it.

Maybe it’s my own cynicism and cognitive biases which cause me to wonder whether these “reasons” are more excuses for keeping this industry alive. I wonder what unexamined psychological factors might contribute to acting on a desire to have a pet? Some things that come to mind:

I propose that these things should be considered very carefully before (or instead of) getting a pet because it’s “the thing to do”, and perhaps even consider if it’s the right thing to do…


Looking at the moral aspect of this subject from the perspective of (Kohlberg’s) stages of development, I see a similar shift occurring to the one where humanity, for the most part, shifted away from slavery as development along the collective moral line caused the ownership, domination and trade in other human lives to become morally unacceptable. As moral development continues to move along this arc of an ever-widening circle of care, I image a future where the ownership, domination and trade of other species is also morally unacceptable.

Just as the industry surrounding the slave trade dissolved as collective morality developed so too, I fervently hope, can the industry surrounding pet ownership.

Another perspective is looking at the Kantian definition of morality – namely treating an other as an end in themselves, not only as a means to an end for oneself.
(For a more detailed look at this topic in general see
If you search “reasons for getting a pet”, you’ll find that everything listed is about what the pet does for you, in other words that a pet is entirely a means for an end for the owner. This, in Kantian terms, is simply immoral.


I hope this provides some food for contemplation and conversation, and is more than just the ranting of some grumpy person. I also hope that for the aspects looked at here, and in particular the moral aspect, there is at least the beginnings of some resonance.
I know that when looking at this topic numerous questions arise, perhaps mostly surrounding the central question of “what does a post-pet world look like now that we have domesticated so many species, and how would that be achieved?”, and they are hard questions which should be faced and discussed and considered rather than be used as an excuse for avoiding the topic or making no attempt to move in this direction. I have some ideas but they are not part of the scope of this article.

Finally, to lighten the mood a bit (perhaps), check out this video.

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