Libby: An Argument For Rescuing Animals Over Breeding Them
In September of last year, I was united with Libby. A ten pound rabbit with a love for lounging on the couch, she was in desperate need of a new home after having escaped a meat farm. It didn’t take long for me to fill out the application, clear my spare bedroom, and get myself ready for my new roommate. Since then, I have grown inseparable from my girl, as most people do with their pets. As my friends and family came to meet her, one by one, they asked why I didn’t get a smaller rabbit, a white rabbit, or a floppy-ear rabbit. They wanted to know why her, and my answer was always clear and simple; because she needed a good home and I had one to offer. A hot button topic for many vegans and non vegans, I truly believe in the value of rescuing animals. When we consider the lives of our pets as companionship and not ownership, it’s easy to move away from the pet store and breeding models, and towards adoption.
In North America, there is a serious overpopulation of animals. With breeders, puppy mills, and pet stores profiting from the availability of trendy pets, the amount being sent to kennels, shelters, and to their death is staggering. If we look just to dogs, we see that 5,500 are killed in shelters across the US each day. 5,500! That number is overwhelming to say the least. To consider all dogs, cats, and small domestic animals combined…suddenly all the Sarah McLaughlin commercials in the world don’t begin to scratch the surface. In breaking down myths involving breeds, pet stores, and animal emotional stability, I hope to inspire you to make the difference in the life of an animal in need instead of contributing to the production of new ones.
Animals are bred in different ways to suit different purposes. In Libby’s case, she is half flemish giant – the largest breed of rabbit. An obvious choice in the meat and fur industries, they don’t typically make first choice pets. It’s usually around Easter that the small, dainty, and docile rabbits are bred to be marketed to children. Similarly, you don’t have to walk far before encountering a french bulldog, arguably one of the most designer dog breeds currently. Like Pugs, they’re prone to a slew of problems from having been bred to have progressively flatter faces. This trait doesn’t serve the animal, but it does appeal to humans. The trendiness of an animal can mean that many dogs that don’t fit the mould are going to lose by comparison. Image if we all accepted that we would only keep the children that turned out looking a certain way. Or worse, if we engineered ways to alter our children’s appearances, no matter the cost to their health. Shortening the lifespan, or complicating the functions of an animal’s life to suit our aesthetics is an often unseen flip side to our breed and species obsessions.
Another common deception is the pet store. As we pass by store windows, we can get that feeling of needing to rescue the creature behind the glass. The thing is, for each animal “rescued” from a pet store, another will fill its place. When breeders and mills have a market for their animals, they continue to fill the demand. So how do they help drive that demand? By perpetuating the myth that pure bred animals are best, or that puppies are cutest. This casts another long shadow on shelters. They’re portrayed, by comparison, as dark and dingy homes full of middle aged and elderly animals, too sick to afford. If we are able to see past the marketing that breeders must do to keep their business’ afloat, we’ll be able to recognize that it’s the animals that need adoption most that we should be after.
Often, people rule out rescuing altogether in favour of having more information about an animal’s upbringing. Libby showed some signs of aggression, fearing people when she was backed into corners. Much like a frightened human being, patience and love are the recipe for animals that have had a rough start. Rather than just focusing on the traits or habits that need extra attention, rescues should be celebrated for having established personalities, quirks, and for commonly being already spayed or neutered and waste trained. Again, animals are just like humans in this way. What if we cast people out for having had an emotional breakdown? For not listening to us? For making mistakes? When people look at animals as companions, and not as property, they can learn to accept and work with who they are.
Somedays, I sit back and watch Libby as she energetically bounds from one corner of the room to the other, and I find it impossible to imagine her in the back of a small cage. Amazingly, her spirit has already helped many people in my life make the connection between their dinner and the incredible animal it could have been (she’s a vegan advocate, obviously). When we focus on picking and choosing our animals from people who design and sell them to us, we can lose sight of what sharing our homes with animals really offers. If we open ourselves up to caring for the mass amounts of animals already on this planet, we end up finding the love, companionship, and mutual growth we desire from animal ownership in the first place. If you’re ready to bring a pet into your home, consider Libby, and find a sanctuary, shelter, or rescue in your area.