By Pierre B. Bland, DVM
We all have different views on how we interact in and with the world. How often do we self-evaluate these views? Do we even think of them in deference to the creatures we share this earth with?
Our relationship and how we treat our fellow inhabitants of this planet comes down to the concepts of dominion vs guardianship. Dominion is defined as rule or control. Guardianship is defined as taking care, responsibility, and charge. Very much different and opposite actions that have major affects on those we exercise the concepts towards. Having seen both in action, I honestly consider there to be little to no middle ground between them.
Dominion is straight forward and unwavering. We apply the concept with the same malicious intent towards animals as we have to our own species over the ages, an action which we still see the effects to this day. Towards animals as with people, it is most often manifested as ownership or exploitation. Such actions demonstrates little to no emotional attachments. Living beings are reduced to property, nothing more. Think of the activities of people who fight dogs for sport or poachers who wantonly kill elephants and rhinos for the value of their tusk and horns. It does not matter if creatures are exploited to an individual’s death or to the point of impending species extinction. Any value they may have is based on physical feats they can or cannot perform or the market value of body parts, not as an entity. When an animal is not valued, it unfortunately leads to exploitation and abuse.
Abuse is not always defined in terms of a physical manifestation. The most insidious form of abuse is neglect. We typically view neglect as deprivation of food, shelter, or care of a reasonable minimal standard. There are other just as damaging forms of neglect. Taking a social animal such as a dog and depriving it of social contact and interaction is tantamount to solitary confinement. Having an animal for the sake of owning animals also qualifies. When we just “own” animals, they are not a part of us. They are just objectified as possessions. Possessions can be and often are replaced, at a whim.
Guardianship is an action that by nature includes positive change and growth. The concept of guardianship is grounded in respect and caring. Although those concepts vary in their depth and extent, kindness, if not love is the basis. As familiarity grows, in most cases so does love. Sometimes the growth is limited and stalls, but who has ever fallen completely out of love? The goal is doing the best one can while treating an animal with respect and dignity: humane intent. Sometimes doing one’s best is taken to the extreme with lavish actions while in other cases it involves doing what one can, while aspiring to do better when one is able or the opportunity arises. Guardianship inherently incorporates the concept of how we as individuals and civilization as a whole are judged on how we treat the least of us.
As our society’s conscience matures and evolves, so do our views and actions. At times it seems we are more progressive in our humane treatment towards other species than our own, then at times not. As with most issues of civil rights and ethical treatment, the older concepts still manage to maintain a grasp within our society. Though they still exist, they are slowly but surely being relegated to the Minden heap of irrelevance.
Paraphrasing Elvis Costello and the Attractions, “What’s so difficult about peace, love, and understanding?”
Dr. Pierre Bland is the owner of Dr. Bland’s Vet House Calls. He can be reached at 954-673-8579 or at doctorblandvet.com.