A Little Bit of Everything

Posts tagged ‘pet’

‘Domestic?”Wild?”Tame?”What?’

Okay guys, a while ago I made a post about my thoughts on the misuse of the words ‘wild’ and ‘tame’.  I decided to redo that and here you go;

 

‘Domestic’, ‘Wild’, ‘Tame’? – What do these words mean?

Every time an animal rights activist makes a statement attacking exotic animal owners, you often hear the same words being mentioned over and over again; ‘Tame’, ‘Domestic’, ‘Wild’.  This is because the general public tends not to know the exact definition of these words and so AR groups capitalise on this and lead people to believe the simplistic meanings they have attached to the words.  They then use them as inflammatory words, evoking emotion, rather than logic, in their listeners.  As a biologist, I will start by explaining the word ‘Domestic’ as that is the one word that has a scientific basis.

The word ‘Domestic’ describes animals that have been domesticated.  The process of domestication is fairly simple and straightforward; it does not take thousands of years as some people would have you believe.  The process simply involves breeding several animals of the desired species, picking the offspring that are most friendly to humans, breeding them, and repeating this until you get the desired results.  It’s human-influenced selection as opposed to natural selection.  Granted, this process can last for a couple decades but the domestication of Russian foxes[i] shows us that the process need not take more than 50 years.

Now, what is often done in the media and by AR groups is that, the words ‘domestic’ and ‘tame’ are used interchangeably.  This is a problem due to the fact that, as I have just said, ‘domestic’ has a scientific, quantifiable meaning.  In comparison, ‘Tame’ does not have an exact meaning and therefore can be thrown around subjectively.  Generally, the term ‘Tame’ is used to mean ‘not wild’, which brings us to the last term, and the one that I think is the most grossly misused; ‘Wild’.  This term can be used as both a noun and an adjective and both uses are wielded as swords by the AR groups, media, and other misinformed individuals.  I will first tackle its use as a noun.

Probably the most common sentence spoken by people who oppose exotic animal ownership is “These animals belong in ‘the Wild’!!” Well, what is ‘the Wild’, anyways?  I will choose to interpret it as land untouched by humans.  Unfortunately, there is less and less of that available.  Of course, we should be acting to stop that but there’s only so much we can do.  Personally, I think ‘the Wild’ is becoming somewhat of a myth. In addition to that, It is strange how people are convinced that ‘the Wild’ is this magical, happy place.  It is most definitely not.  The average animal will spend its short life constantly looking over its shoulder for predators or rivals, constantly worrying about getting enough food and water, and finally dying a most likely, very painful death due to disease, starvation, or being ripped apart by a predator or rival.  There is no chance to enjoy the freedom that AR activists tout as being vital to an animal’s happiness.

Used as an adjective, ‘Wild’ is applied like a stamp, marking certain types of animals as being impossible for a human to have a relationship with.  Well, that would suggest that these same animals are also impossible to domesticate which is disproven by the aforementioned Russian fox breeding project.  The only difference between animals that are domesticated, and animals that are not, is the inherent friendliness towards humans that is shown by the domesticated animals.  This does not mean that it is impossible to form a good relationship with a non-domesticated animal, but simply that it is more challenging.

In conclusion, the three words that are the subject of this article are words that unfortunately, have been badly misused for a long time and are really at the root of the misconceptions about exotic animal ownership.  If the public’s knowledge of these words and their definitions can be corrected, then it should be fairly easy to convince them that exotic ownership is just as valid as ownership of domestic dogs and cats.


[i] In 1959, Dmitri Belyaev started a breeding project at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics at Novosibirsk.  It continues today.  The project was to selectively breed foxes in the hopes of getting a fur animal that was easier to handle.  Unfortunately, the objectives had to change as the domestication process caused the majority of the foxes to lose their solid colour and show spots, which is not desired in the fur industry.

 

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Ontario man killed by pet tiger; let the ignorance fest commence

Okay, I know I haven’t posted in forever but I haven’t been sure what to post.  As you can probably tell, I prefer to post about topics and my opinions on those topics rather than what’s going on in my everyday life.  Well, I suppose this post is a combination so I don’t feel like I’m just prattling on about something nobody cares about.

Last week, a man in southern Ontario was killed by his pet tiger.  Coincidentally, this man was the leader of the Canadian organisation for exotic animal owners.  Of course, AR activists jumped on this immediately, as well as various neighbours who have been pushing to get rid of the exotic cats, with no success.  The AR activists have even gone so far as to push premier Dalton Mguinty to ‘regulate’ (read, ban) ownership of exotic animals.  Luckily, he seems reluctant to do so and would rather leave it to individual municipalities.  Hopefully, he will maintain this mindset.

In an attempt to exert some damage control, I have written this article.

‘No reason to ban exotic cats

Throughout North America, there have been many local governments coerced into passing exotic animal bans by both extreme animal rights activists and private citizens who allow fear to consume them and block out logic.  The pressure is usually doubled right after an incident because people believe that what has just been portrayed in the news, can happen anywhere.  In fact, this is the idea that AR groups are constantly pushing.

Recently, a man in southern Ontario was killed by his pet tiger.  Nobody can say how or why because nobody saw it happen but they all assume that the reason it happened was simply because tigers should not be kept as pets.  First of all, there’s a logical error in assuming what happened.  There are a variety of scenarios that could have led to the man’s death and I’m sure if you asked a seasoned exotic cat owner, they could tell you.  Second of all, if you think about the handful of incidents that have taken place in the last two decades in the situation of private ownership of big cats, you’ll realise that almost all the injured parties are the owners themselves.  There is very little danger to the public and in the case of responsible exotic ownership, there is no danger to the public.  The possible dangers of big cat ownership are something that the majority of people know going into it, therefore making it just like any hobby-related danger.  There have been many deaths due to hobbies such as freefalling and bungee jumping yet you don’t see people calling for those activities to be banned.  Therefore, there is no logical reason for exotic ownership to be banned while people are still able to take part in the above-mentioned activities.

To see details on incidents involving exotic cats, go to the statistics page on the website for REXANO, which stands for Responsible Exotic Animal Owners.  Under United States statistics, there is a list of those deaths related to captive big cats versus other causes of death, as well as a list of the big cat related deaths and some information on who was involved.  Of the twenty big cat related deaths between 1994 and 2008, only two were due to pets and those were due to bad choices made by the owner.  It is important to note that those people do not reflect the entirety of the exotic ownership community.  In fact, while the number of deaths related to big cats over eighteen years equalled twenty, thousands of other big cats were being kept with no problem.  It is estimated by officials that there are more tigers being kept in captivity in North America than there are left in the wild.  This would suggest that for every incident involving a captive tiger, there are possibly tens of thousands of captive tigers that have never hurt anybody.  Really, when you think about that, exotic cat ownership doesn’t seem so scary anymore.’

I sent this off to a newspaper in Ottawa and when they din’t reply to me (it’s the second time they haven’t even bothered to reply, grrr) I sent it off to a Toronto newspaper.  It is late but hopefully, they will see the importance of running it.  I could probably rant and rave about this issue a little more but I think I’m just going to sit back and see what happens with the toronto newspaper.

– Daine