Did you know that people who live with dogs are more likely to be vegetarian than the average person? No? Well, truth be told, I made that up. But the reason I made it up is because it seems to me a very plausible thesis, and one I would like to research. How would one go about it? If we asked 10,000 vegetarians whether they lived with dogs, and found that the vast majority of them did, well, would that not be suggestive? Of what, you might ask?
Here is my thesis: When you live with a dog, you become sensitive to certain characteristics of all animals. You realize that dogs have strong feelings, mostly positive ones. They love. They smile. They find joy in everyday life. They have friends. They want to see you happy. You get the picture. They are like better versions of ourselves, or rather, they represent what we would like to be. I often think: I wish I could be more like Benjy. Benjy is my golden lab, about whom I have written a book: The Dog Who Couldn’t Stop Loving. That’s him all right. So when those of us who live with dogs notice how deep their love for us is, and their love for their own lives, we look with horror at anything bad happening to these dogs. The thought of their suffering is unbearable to us. Most of us who love dogs would do just about anything to see to it that they do not suffer. The thought that somebody would deliberately harm them, or, god forbid, kill them is beyond our ability to think. That people eat dogs fills us with horror.
If dogs knew about it, it would fill them with horror too. Just notice how horrified your dog is when you mistakenly step on her tail. She howls, and looks up at you with a strange expression. I think she is wondering: Has he suddenly become predator, with me as prey? Or the dog is trying to determine whether you could possibly have meant it. The relief they experience when you make it clear by abject apologies that you certainly did not intend to harm them is wonderful to behold. They apologize to you for ever having doubted you! But the lesson I take from this is how much it matters to a dog that their physical integrity be honored. Just as we cannot bear for them to suffer they too cannot bear to suffer (and by the way, they hate to see us suffer as well – yet another reason we love them so much).
How, then, do we distinguish between our dog and any “ordinary” chicken, or pig, or cow, or sheep, or duck, who is going to be killed and eaten? If we eat these animals, what do we tell ourselves to make ourselves believe that there is some crucial distinction between all these animals and dogs? Try the exercise. I don’t think you will find much success. And that is why I think people who live with dogs have a greater tendency to become vegetarians than the general population. We recognize that dogs treasure their lives. So why would this not be true of other animals? All animals have a sense of physical integrity and wish to retain theirs. All animals have a horror of being hurt, let alone killed. Somebody could as easily love that chicken, or that cow, or that pig, as much as you love your dog. That chicken, that cow, and that pig, deserve to live a life free from terror as much as does your dog. Driven bys these thoughts, I believe, many people with the experience of doglove in their lives, stop eating meat. Am I right? I welcome your views.