Pets Are Gifts, Not Presents

How people domesticated animals.

Charles Darwin was the first scientist who introduced the connection between domestication, selection and evolution. He described how routine human interactions with animals result in adaptation of the latter to human presence and use.

Domestication is tied to agricultural development and hunting. It is believed that the first attempt to domesticate animals was made during the Mesolithic Period. Around 9000 BC the hunting tribes started to domesticate dogs, goats, and possibly sheep. However, the great majority of domesticated animals that still serve humans were selected and developed during the Neolithic Period.

Dogs: The dog was the first domesticated animal dating 18,000-32,000 years ago. Domesticated dogs first started hanging around hunter-gatherer hunting sites, long before agriculture. Wild wolves were likely attracted to the meat that humans hunted and, eventually people found them useful either to give alarm or to help in hunting.

Cats: Cats have a relatively recent history of domestication compared with dogsю Recent archaeological evidence indicates domestication of a cat by 9500 BC. “Humans most likely welcomed cats because they controlled rodents that consumed their grain harvests,” Wesley Warren of Washington University says. “We hypothesized that humans would offer cats food as a reward to stick around.”

Bunnies: The rabbits were not domesticated until the Middle Ages, and were used as sources of food, and fur, as research subjects, and as pets. Catholic monks, living in the Champagne, France in 5 century, were believed to be the first people to truly domesticate rabbits, which they raised within their monastery walls. By keeping rabbits in a controlled environment they were successful at selective breeding, changing the size, shape and fur colour.

How animals rights were developed?

Although humans have long used animals for a variety of purposes, the concept that animals have rights is relatively new. The first legal code to protect domestic animals in was passed in Ireland in 1635. It prohibited pulling wool off sheep, and the attaching of ploughs to horses’ tails, referring to “the cruelty used to beasts.” 6 years later, in 1641 the Massachusetts Bay Colony has developed the first animal protection legislation in North America. This law made it illegal to “exercise any Tirranny or Crueltie towards any bruite Creature which are usually kept for man’s use.”

In 1789, the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham became the first to say that animals have rights. According to Bentham, animals suffer pain just as humans and thus deserve the same freedom from pain. From 1800 onwards, there were several attempts in Europe to introduce animal protection legislation. In England, in 1835 Cruelty to Animals Act, outlawed cockfighting, baiting, and dog fighting.

In addition, since World War II, a number of animal-rights laws have been adopted all around the world. These laws regulate animal experimentation and the treatment of animals by medical research facilities, slaughterhouses, and circuses, as well as people such as animal dealers who use animals as a source of livelihood.

On international level, the number of legal instruments were developed in order to ensure animal protection. Some of them are:

  • Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), that aims to protect wildlife against over-exploitation, and to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
  • Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare (UDAW), inter-governmental agreement, according to which animals are sentient. UDAW also aims to prevent cruelty and reduce suffering, and to promote standards on the welfare of animals such as farm animals, companion animals, animals in scientific research, draught animals, wildlife and animals in recreation.
  • Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), that covers conservation of biological diversity (or biodiversity), sustainable use of its components; and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources

How to Deal with Pets Abusers?

Despite our long relationships with pets and quite lengthy set of rules governing animal rights, animal abuse is unfortunately a very common thing. Yet there are organizations, dedicated to combat animal cruelty. My favourite is a New York based animal welfare organization Rescue Ink. The group is made up of heavily tattooed motorcycle riders who work to combat animal cruelty and rescue animals in need. The organization states they use aggressive and “in-your-face” tactics, to put to shame and report abusive animal owners. Rescue Ink takes action to remove distressed animals from their environments, taking them to no-kill shelters or rehabilitation facilities.

To learn more about their methods check http://www.rescueink.org/

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