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The Contender
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Owning and Caring For a Pet is Unethical

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/1/2014 Category: Society
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,121 times Debate No: 53782
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (6)
Votes (2)




Owning and caring for a pet(s) is unethical. The first round is for acceptance only. I look forward to an interesting debate.


Thank you for the early morning topic. I accept
Debate Round No. 1


I affirm that owning and caring for a pet(s) is unethical. Ethical is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "in accordance with the principles of ethics; morally correct, honourable", and so we can define unethical as anything that is not morally correct or honourable.

When we consider questions of an ethical nature, we must clearly state our values to defend our decisions. The key value that pertains to this debate today (and must always be considered in ethical dilemmas) is the value of human life. The sanctity of human life must be valued and preserved before one considers luxuries such as comfort and entertainment, or even personal security. To deny this would be unjust. To place emphasis on this fact, I introduce the criterion of equality. Equality is "the condition of having equal rank, power, excellence, etc., with others" (OED). When we have gained equality, the value of human life will have been upheld (in whatever propensity that may be).

Americans Alone Spend $61,000,000,000 On Pets Annually

This statistic is stunning. It is undeniable that the average American pet has a higher quality of life than many people living in the impoverished nations of the world. This cannot be defended with justice or equality- it is a travesty against them. Pet ownership thus disvalues human life, making it unethical. (


I want to thank my opponent for instigating this debate.

The source my opponent cite is well worth the read. And fully supports what I have said for some time. People are treating their pets better than their kids. Or that many people are not treating their animals in a manner socially healthy for themselves or the pet in question. It's not doubt that some pet owners see pet's almost as toys or as a wagging tale to see when they come home. Some pet owners use their pets as place holders for a child. There is an over population because people are obsessed with owning a cute puppy to love and cherish like a child, instead of the reality.[1][2]

But the Resolution is if "Owning and Caring for a Pet is Unethical". My opponent is making the case that any money spent on any pet is better spent on human life. This all or nothing premise I have strong contentions with.

If we take an applied ethical stance on the resolution we can assert that there is a situation in which the ownership and care of a pet s ethical maybe even morally required. My arguments proceed as such from a variety of different moral grounds.

Religious Grounds

Because we are talking about Ethics and religion is one driving force in the systematic application of moral rules, some reader will find find religious ground pertinent to the resolution. Though I cite from the Judeo-Christian Bible there are equivalent verses in many other holy scripture to justify the same conclusion. I merely cite the Bible now as it is a source I am familiar with.

Genesis 1:26 "Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness, so they may rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move on the earth."

Mankind has a responsibility to take care of the animals of the earth.

Luke 14:5 Jesus says, "If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out"

Jesus is stating that it is permissible to work on the Sabbath if it is to save life. He equates the life of an animal to that of a child.

Proverbs 12:10 says, "Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel."

Clearly against animal cruelty and for the care and well fare of beasts employed by man.

Luke 12:6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God

No Creature big or smalls suffering or death is forgotten by God.

Morally based on religion we would have an obligation to care for the animals, to care for the environment, and to care for pets we employ.

Symbiotic Relationship

Animals do not have an ethical system. They react and think in natural terms. I think the stance of a symbiotic relationship is the healthiest perspective to have on the care of animals. I'll use a personal example of this but I want the reader to know that is common among my neighbors and friends to see animals in this same light.

I have a cat. I don't even like cats. I would say I am apathetic to cats. But I have a cat named Sassy. I should call her Athena because I can not express how bad arse this cat is. She is an outside cat, who is neutered and gets regular shots. She is friendly and non-feral to people she gets introduced to by me. She knows where her home is and what her job is. I feed her one small cup of food a day. She protects the house from rats and snakes. Both which are health hazards to people and hazards to my property. I am not imbuing human characteristics on to my cat. I can read her body language and I know she sees me as dominate. She does not bring me dead stuff because she sees me as an adult. A bag of cat food for 2 months is around 12 dollars.

To protect against rats I could buy poison. Which is harmful to people, can reside in the soil and parts of the house for years with out degrading it's hazard to human health. A rat can become immune to poison and require harsher chemicals to repel and kill them. Harm to other natural animal life, like mountain lions, deer, water supplies, and more have all been attributed directly to rat poison usage. Cost of rat poison anywhere between 30 to 100 dollars for a 1 month supply. I could purchase traps and fill the land fills with carcasses of dead rats. These techniques are only for the rats and not for the snakes. Those are a whole new set of problems.

My cat Sassy, pound for pound, and buck for buck is the most effective, human safe, natural killing machine and disposal processing plant for such pests.

This is only cat but I know many people that accomplish their jobs with the aid of animals know what I am talking about. It is not even that different then you waking up in the morning and having to go to work. Most people have a boss they listen to. Some bosses are good some bad. The pet gets their needs met, are happy and satisfied with working. It is a mutually beneficial arrangement.

Debate Round No. 2


Thank you for the interesting and compelling rebuttal, Con.

I.Religious Grounds

A.Religion is not a system of universally applicable ethics. Not only is each religion's general view of diverse ethical situations vastly different, but also each individual's interpretation of what their god deems correct varies. This sliding scale of morality cannot be considered authoritative when considering a universal ethical question. This is why we have law that supersedes preference.

B.Dominion Vs. Benevolence
In your citation of Genesis 1:26 you fail to make the distinction between man having dominion over animals (man's hierarchical place in the world) and man showing undue benevolence to animals. This passage is more often cited by anti-vegans then pet advocates for its meaning. No ethical system could defend unwarranted cruelty and abuse of animals, but that does not place any burden on man to proactively care for them (especially above their own kind).

C.Luke 12
Granted, Luke 12:6 says that God values the life of a sparrow. However, the very next verse states that human life is worth more than that of any sparrow (or animal for that matter). If anything, this verse justifies my claim above yours.

II.Symbiotic Relationships

Ultimately, there is a definitive difference between a functional animal and a pet. A functional animal may be used as food (the meat industry, the eggs of chickens), your cat (in its propensity as an exterminator), or a seeing-eye dog (to guide the blind). These are not pets any more than employees are children. They are simply functional. I suggest that it is unethical to have pets because they serve no purpose, and it is immoral to seek entertainment with our money while other humans suffer and die needlessly.

Overall, my assertion still stands. My values prevail, as my opponent has yet to produce evidence to justify the ownership of a pet for recreational purposes as having some value to supersede the preservation of human life.


I. Religious Grounds

A. I remarked that many other religious have similar verse I can not in the short space quote from every holy text. Laws are not universally accepted either. They are vastly different from many countries so this is neither a solid answer on ethics.

B. The difference is being a good leader or boss. The responsibility of Dominion is not void of mercy and caring, and is not indicative of being harsh. It is the proper weighing of all situations. Some of which may be detrimental to a subordinate or to oneself.

C. The value of human life over that of a sparrow is not an excuse for abusive dominion of animals. And I already agreed the money spent and energy spent on pets that results in over population, more animal abuse, and more human abuse is unethical

II. You didn't make this distinction before in your first or second round. And it is not evident in your resolution. I feel my arguments still stand as refuting your statement. Certainly the line for a functional animal like livestock is more black and white than my cat. My cat is a pet. I enjoy her company and she enjoys mine. She will on occasion yelp and scratch at the door just to see me for a few minutes and play with a turf of grass or my hat. This line is not as cut and dry as employee and employer. So no they are not simply functional. It's a healthy symbiotic relationship. Emotional as well as functional. Animals have personalities and I have to be aware of her personal needs just as much as her physical needs. It's those bonding moments that reinforce her confidence, and social standing in the home.

How would you classify pets for terminally ill children or dogs for PTSD veterans? pets in the very sense of the word.

Your assertion, " it is immoral to seek entertainment with our money while other humans suffer and die needlessly". Is such a subjective measure. You are paying for entertainment and Internet. This money could go to helping impoverished humans.

Where is the rightful percentage of how much to spend on others, and how much of the money you work for can ethically be spent on yourself. You have given no argument to where this line is.

Let's say it is 10% to charity. Then once that 10% is met, a person is ethically allowed to spend the money on a pet or a movie. I would argue that people are selfish and many more people would be impoverished if a society made such rules. Who would work hard to make more money for any luxury if it was outlawed as being a needless expense. Not to mention that a society like that would quickly lobby for me to switch to rat poison instead of having my "functional pet."

Debate Round No. 3


I.Religious Grounds, Rebuttal

A.Yes, religion and law are subjective to some extent. Law is less subjective than religion, however, because it is equally applicable to all persons in a society regardless of personal conviction or interpretation. Additionally, this is a question of ethics. Ethics supersede religious or national preference and are universal truths. Morality is what is truly, ultimately right. I merely state all this to conclude that religious text is not a reliable source, even if it did place higher value in pet ownership than human life.

B.You are correct that dominion does not justify harsh treatment of animals. However, this does not esteem animals above man in value.

C.I do not justify animal abuse (as I think very few would), but you present a false dichotomy. Our choice is not a.) animal abuse or b.) pampered pets. We bear no responsibility to care for animals. Animals are equipped to survive in nature, and to go out of the way to treat them with similar care and dignity to humans while others from our species suffer like animals is immoral. We must take care of our own kind first.

II.Symbiotic Relationships

-Animals strictly for medical or functional purposes are not pets by definition. For instance, seeing-eye dogs maintain a certain degree of a professional relationship with their owners and to some extent cannot interact with strangers. Their purpose is functional and aids a human.

- Moral claim: Yes, if we ultimately follow the logic of this argument to its conclusion, we find that not only is pet ownership unethical in the face of human struggle, but so are most things that we do on a daily basis (internet use). However, I do not claim to be some holy ethical man. Technically speaking, it would not affect this argument if I was a deranged rapist. This argument concerns an ethical question, not how we allow it to impact our choices.

-No BOP: I do not hold any responsibility to recommend a plan for what percentage of income should be spent on pets (especially since my premise explicitly states that we should not have them in the first place). This debate covers only the scope of pet ownership, which is clearly not a necessity.

In conclusion, my opponent has failed to show any situation in which owning a pet for purely recreational enjoyment supersedes the value of human life. It is remarkable to think how laughable it is to imagine ridding ourselves of all our unnecessary possessions for the betterment of man- but what should our resolution be? That this seemingly innate greed feels so natural and pleasurable to us that we should deem it moral? That since we don"t suffer, we shouldn"t care? We must accept that our daily lives revolve to a certain extent around a powerful egocentricity and a.) accept that we are unethical and continue with the status quo or b.) reconsider our lifestyles.

Thanks Con, it has been a fun debate. Best of luck.


A debate worth reading I would say. Thank you for allowing me to challenge you one this issue.

I. Religious Grounds

A. Law does not supersede preference. In many countries in many laws, there are stipulations and rights conferred onto one group or another. In the U.S. laws are written to establish greater wages for congressmen, to exclude diplomats from judicial proceedings, to require business to preferentially treat departments of government. So Law is more subjective than Religion. Ethics one of the most subjective philosophical studies. Aesthetics is a study under ethics, because ethics is a system of thought to assign value through rational means. Being of a philosophical nature and one pertaining to value, I would not deem it as a study in universal truths.

B. non sequitur. It implies that life has an intrinsic value and animal life has it's place as well as human. I don;t think my opponent has made a case to assume human life is more valuable than animal life. intuitively many of us would agree but if such a value judgement is made with out legal or religious grounds then where is my opponents ethical argument for stating human life is more valuable? It is merely a moral subjective value most would agree with, making my opponent's case an appeal to Argumentum ad populum.

C. I have contention with my opponent's statement, "We bear no responsibility to care for animals" I have been making this very case from religious grounds, legally pets are seen as property and being such you do have a responsibility to take care of your property. I can not buy a house and burn it down, justifying my actions as "It's mine I can do anything destructive I want," one would surely be in trouble with the rest of society. Many pets ethically have been through unnatural breeding been forced to lose some of their instinctual drives and are incapable of fending for themselves in a natural environment. Making it our responsibility to care for what we have grown.

The false dichotomy is my opponents making. Again in the resolution and the first round where Pro could have made such distinctions, my opponent has not done. Meaning any exception to the caring of pet that can be found to be ethical, as it is our responsibility to do so, would negate the resolution Pro has presented.

II. Symbiotic Relationship

- Animal pets: In many counties Police Work dogs go home with their "human partners" They work side by side and when work is done the animal agent is a part of the family. My opponent wishes to state that such pets are only around for the jobs they facilitate. These animals do not work 24-7. They are some ones pets, some one cares for them not out of functionality but out of compassion. Which is what makes them different from livestock like chicken.

- Moral Claim: My opponent admits that his reasoning for this debate would lead to a logical conclusion that most things are unethical (like watching TV). Simply put caring for pets as my opponent has quoted to be a substantial amount of money each year, is a business that drives economic growth. Many of our luxuries, the variety and choices we have in open market, All these choices allow for more jobs to be created. To ultimately deem all these businesses unethical and outlawed would leave millions more hurting to provide for the basic living needs of themselves and human family.

In 2012 Animal care and services had 200,000 plus jobs with a 15% estimated growth (faster than normal economic growth) []. This is just the actual animal handling services. It is not inclusive of people who work and run factories to produce pet and animal related products. This is just for the U.S.

In conclusion: There are religious responsibilities to care for pets, legal responsibility to maintain property, ethical responsibility to care for what we as a society have made. My opponent has offered no ethical grounds to why humans should be treated better than animals, though I may agree. The industry of supporting pets and pet owners is a growth potential of immense value to better the lives and sustain the well being of millions of humans. Clearly the resolution, "Owning and Caring For a Pet is Unethical" has been found to be lacking substantial credence.

Thank you.
Debate Round No. 4
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by MJS 1 year ago
Not a debater myself but I do enjoy reading this type of debate. My argument on pet ownership being unethical would have to be evolution. I would say its unethical to own pets because it unnaturally affects their evolution. Ironically most of our pets exist today because of selective breeding which is genetic manipulation. What would all these pets be today "s if we had never domesticated them? However I would draw the distinction between animal husbandry and recreational pet ownership.
Posted by Mhykiel 2 years ago
My cat Sassy was strong. The poison did not kill the rat. It killed the cat that killed the rat. Again I think it is stupid to use such hazardous material in a suburban environment. but thank you for the debate.
Posted by aburk903 2 years ago
Shame. I obviously don't have a personal belief in such strict equality, I'm more of a Nietzsche/Darwinian in that the strong survive, the weak perish. It's not a moral opinion of benevolence but it is much more correct when applied to our typical lives.
Posted by Mhykiel 2 years ago
My cat died. Happened mid debate. Some body was using rat poison. And she was on the side of my house puking and near a dead rat she killed. Yeah for poison. It didn't kill the rat, but killed the cat that killed the rat. It will be so hard to raise another cat like Sassy.

I went to the shelter and got a kitten. Calling her monkey. She a little itty bitty thing. But I think it will work out. She is already playing good with a toy mouse and follows me around. bitter sweet.
Posted by aburk903 2 years ago
Looking forward to your rebuttal. Cheers!
Posted by Mhykiel 2 years ago
Good start I love it. As usual this will be an interesting debate. Thank you
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Ragnar 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: First of all, next time include definitions in R1, otherwise the contender will not be bound by them... However I have too much pre-existing bias on this topic to fairly grade it. Null vote.
Vote Placed by Sagey 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Con's symbiotic relationship argument won this one for me, as symbiosis is evident in that humans that cannot have children find a deep symbiotic relationship with a pet as helpful, children develop their nurturing skills with pets, and pets have so been domesticated that their survival has become linked to humans. Many pets would likely be extinct if it was not for their ability to strike up a symbiotic relationship with humans. So I don't think owning and caring for a pet is unethical, though I do agree with Pro in that many overdo their relationship with pets and take them to extremely irrational levels. Though most of my experience is that very few people I have ever met, pamper their pets excessively and they usually feed them leftovers. So in SOME cases they are used as a garbage disposal unit, thus functional, but this does not prove Pro's case.