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Home arrow Environment arrow Pets and People: The Ethics of Our Relationships with Companion Animals


I am grateful to the late Jean Harvey for motivating and inspiring me to think and write about this topic. I also thank Josh Milburn and Tina Rulli for their insightful and careful feedback on an earlier draft of this chapter. Any remaining problems are, of course, my own responsibility.


  • 1. As Krister Bykvist puts it, “[S]ince cows and many animals can care about the parts that make up their future lives, we need not deny that their futures are overall good for them” (2014, 320).
  • 2. This is not to say that companion animals’ experiences are “disconnected,” as Christopher Belshaw believes (2009, 117). I do not see why a companion animal’s experiences would not be a smooth continuum—interrupted, of course, by sleep, but nonetheless still appearing (and how else can our experiences exist for us?) to be continuous.
  • 3. For this criterion would imply that infants are more harmed by death than older human beings are, a view that is “highly implausible,” according to DeGrazia (2007, 67).
  • 4. Along with those of any age who are severely cognitively disabled.
  • 5. The judgments of those who are not “normal human beings” would likely not accept DeGrazia’s “considered judgment.” I imagine if a puppy were to be thrown overboard, and her canine mother witnessed the act, she would oppose it. Also, I am not sure that children would favor discarding the dog, or a younger child.
  • 6. In an article tellingly titled, “The Love That Dare Not Bark Its Name,” Mikita Brottman describes her dog Grisby as one of the most important beings in her life: “Since I disliked being apart from him, I stopped taking plane trips and attending conferences... . If I couldn’t bring him with me to a social function, I’d leave early or skip it altogether. . People like to make fun of those who love their dogs

‘excessively,’ but who decides how much love is too much? Why can't we let ourselves take dog love too seriously?” (Brottman 2014, B20).

  • 7. Bruijnis, Meijboom, and Stassen refer to the “normally intended productive life” of cows, and argue for increasing it to 8 years—this, despite the fact that “a dairy cow can reach the age of 20 or more” (2013, 193).
  • 8. Thus, either animals do have categorical desires (if defined as desires for activities that give them a reason to go on living), or having categorical desires (if defined as desires to realize long-term projects and goals) is not necessary to making an animal's death bad, because such desires are simply irrelevant to their lives (even though an absence of categorical desires might make some human beings' deaths not bad).
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