Sphynx Cat’s Property Status Reaffirmed Through Use As An Art Canvas
It remains to be seen whether the tattooing of a sphinx cat in Russia constitutes a “necessary” or “profitable” use of animal property, in the same way that the branding of other animals by farmers is considered a “necessary” or “routine” practice of agriculture. Whatever the case, the outcries of “advocates” in response to this poor cat do not change the fact the cat, as far as the law is concerned, is a piece of property with no moral value. The law may deem the action acceptable in light of how other animal property owners “brand” their animals, or the law may deem it unacceptable on account of the branding serving no legitimate purpose. It doesn’t really matter. Either way, the property status of Demon the cat is strengthened – it is not Demon who is being protected. As a piece of property, he can’t be.
I’m approaching the story from this angle because it’s important to understand that when cases like this occur, any prosecution that the owners may face is never in recognition of the animal’s inherent value. It’s basically a slap on the wrist to tell animal owners not to use their animal property in inefficient or unproductive ways. And indeed, Aleksandr (the man responsible for Demon’s tattoos) and his wife will most likely not be proscecuted if the tattoos are considered nothing more than property ‘branding.’
“Advocates” can scream and cry all they like, but the reality is the property status of animals makes any form of treatment or suffering fair game so long as there is a supposed “legitimate” purpose for the use. As far as the law is concerned, this could be social, economic, or based on tradition.
It was unjustifiable and morally wrong for Aleksandr and his wife to use Demon in such a way – not least because of the dangerous anaesthesia he was put under and the assumption that Demon’s body was a suitable place for Russian gangster tattoos. But there is no difference between this unnecessary use of Demon the cat and our use of animals for food, clothing, entertainment and all other ways we treat animals as things. Aleksandr enjoyed using his cat as a canvas for his art, the rest of us enjoy using animals’ bodies and secretions in our kitchens for reasons no less frivolous and trivial than Aleksandr.
If you are upset by the Aleksandr’s use of Demon the cat, then it is clear that you are opposed to unnecessary suffering and death. But the only way to make sense of that objection is to be vegan – when we are not vegan we are inflicting that very same unnecessary suffering and death on trillions of other animals no different to Demon.
The property status of animals means that we can deny their most fundamental interests for the trivial and unnecessary interests of their human owners. We may attribute higher value to those we call ‘pets’ but the reality is that these animals are considered ‘things’ too. The law sees such relationships as being analogous to the sentimental value one may have towards a household relic or work of art. But if animals have moral value, if they are not ‘things,’ then they cannot be treated as property any more than humans can be treated as property. Period. Doing right by animals means abolishing their property status – veganism applies that principle on the individual level through rejection of the institutions that assume animals to be here for the purpose of human exploitation.
Photo from The Sun