Are Pets Slaves?

Continuing the discussion from Post your Pet or animal Pics:

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The common and dictionary definitions of “slave” define them as “persons” or “humans.” So, no.

a person legally owned by another and having no
freedom of action or right to property. 2. a person who is forced to
work for another against his will. 3. a person under the domination of
another person or some habit or influence: a slave to television.

Aside from that, I think the slave needs to have the intellectual capability to understand their slavery and to desire not to be one. So again, no.


Also, one of the defining features of slavery is the extraction of labour under the threat of force. Pets don’t fit the bill there. Working animals might be closer, but that has other problems- apart from the whole debates about personhood or the capability of animals to be moral actors, it would appear to be impossible for animals to be free wage labourers, rendering the whole point absurd (as if it wasn’t already).


Mine are definitely not. I let the cats out when they want to go out, and let them in when they want to come in. If they wanted to take off for greener pastures, they are free to do so. Those pastures go on for miles and are full of mice and birds, and yet they stay. I figure they want to be here.

Also, yes:


Agreed. I was hoping to hear from those on the “pro” side of this debate, as its a head scratcher for sure, and it is what prompted me to snarkily reply to @popobawa4u in that thread (sorry, you).


A vegan friend once likened beekeeping to bee slavery, but they are also free to leave, so I was all


And then she was all like:


I doubt if most people (or pets) consider it slavery in daily life. But my functional definition of slavery is extremely bare-bones, that is, the keeping of living things as property. So when I say that ownership of animals is slavery, I am not necessarily suggesting the cruel exploitation which many think of with human slavery.

Imagine for example, if in daily conversation, somebody casually referred to their spouse as “the sex partner I own”. Or their progeny as “the children I own”. How much hand-waving does it take for that to not sound creepy? Imagine dropping that gaffe in social conversation and qualifying it with: “…but not own them in an abusive way! It’s truly a very loving relationship.” People will look at you funny and say “Suuure…” while the back away. That’s precisely how I feel when I hear somebody say “dog owners” or some such thing. It makes my skin crawl.

Needless to say, I do not buy into human exceptionism or speciesism generally.

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God damn! This is the dope jam!

The bacteria in my gut?

Mold on my bread in the fridge?


Why would you start with that definition, though? It doesn’t fit what people usually mean when they refer to slaves, and between a poorly fitting definition and reality, it seems like reality should win.


That’s an… uncommon definition. Can you provide any other examples of such a usage?

Did you arrange a contract with your mitochondria and skin mites, or are you resigned to your ideals exceeding your practicum?


I define it thus in accordance with my ethics. That tends to be the basis of defining both property and slavery.

I think that definitions which posit that some ownership of animals is slavery, while some other ownership of animals isn’t are unworkably inconsistent. So yes, common definitions can be a worse fit, depending upon how they are evaluated.

Is human exceptionism based upon any reality deeper than human convenience?

Also, as I have mentioned elsewhere at length, I don’t believe in property or territory generally.

/ NO: then your “ownership” is your own delusion
Does your property know that you own it? _
\ YES: then it is not “property”, it is slavery

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Some pet owners may be slaves. It’s a good thing most domesticated animals’ ambitions are limited in scope.


A human slave could had pet ants that kept aphids as slaves, that’d be three levels of slavery. Surely there’s a way to increase that to four.


Interesting considerations, but I never encounter anybody referring to a person as a bacteria, mold, mitochondria, or mite owner.

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Remind me again of why I should be concerned about owning animals.

The only gray area I see is great apes and some other primates who have a self awareness and consciousness approaching our own.


To paraphrase Churchill, we’ve already determined what you are, now we’re just quibbling over the price.

Edited to add (as that was a bit too snarky even for me), you’ve already stated that you consider pets worthy of the same level of respect, and “agency” as people, so now folks are just trying to determine where you draw that line. Are worms worthy of that same respect?


At least in English, use of the possessive is actually widely accepted both for things that are unambiguously property(“This is my computer”), things that have some degree of agency but are usually treated as permanently dependent(“This is my dog”) and as a shorthand for relational statuses that are held by almost nobody to include ownership(“This is my friend”).

Saying “This is my wife” or “These are my children” would similarly mostly fail to raise eyebrows.

Now, for whatever reason, the use of the possessive only works if you phrase it in certain ways: “This is my computer” and “This is the computer I own” are more or less equivalent, though one is slightly stilted. “This is my wife” and “This is the wife that I own” would not be treated as equivalent, and the latter would raise substantially more eyebrows than the former.

I am unsure why exactly it is the case that you can use possessives to describe relationships; but only if phrased correctly; but it is so.


Why do you keep moldy bread?