Thursday, October 15, 2009

Are helper animals exploited animals?

I was shopping at Whole Foods the other day when the cashier at the checkout, a very friendly and cheerful young girl, asked if I’d be willing to donate to the Dog Guides, a program created by the Lion’s Club to train dogs and dog handlers, to help physically challenged Canadians “in the areas of mobility, safety, and independence.”

According to their website,, the lives of over 1200 men, women and children across Canada have been enriched by the program, including people who are blind or visually impaired, and those with hearing and other medically and physically limiting disabilities, at absolutely no charge.

“Dedicated trainers spend six to eight rigorous months training the dog for its ultimate role as a working companion.”

Sounds like a noble cause, right? But is it animal exploitation?

A lot of veganism is focused on what we eat, and not what we do. But can vegans, who oppose animal exploitation of any kind, in good conscience support such programs?

Or is it going a bit too far to call the employment of dogs to assist the disabled (or helper monkeys, horse-assisted therapy, and the like) exploitation?

What are your thoughts?


Lore said...

I don't know... this is a tough one that I personally struggle with.

Although I do understand that a specially trained animal can help a human's life (and in the case of a blind person, how could we deny that?), this concept exists ultimately on the premise that human life is superior to other life forms, and thus goes against the animal rights theory.

I'd have to do some more thinking/reading about it, and will check what Francione or Yates (Roger) have to say about the subject.

What's your opinion?

Thanks for posting!

Daniel K. Vegan said...

Hi Lore! I appreciate your comments and although I'm not going to make it my mission to outlaw helper animals, here's my two cents.

I've seen people "training" dogs by using choke chains and other violent methods, including police officers (it's how I got into animal rights in the first place) and other "animal lovers".

If the blind or hearing impaired can get along without using dogs, then I said they should (a lot of blind people don't have guide dogs and they manage just fine).

A lot of other people and organizations justify using animals too (drug-sniffing dogs, helper monkeys, horse-assisted therapy, dolphin-assisted therapy, worker-elephants, worker-oxen, guard dogs, circus animals, the list goes on and on). Where do we draw the line?

As a vegan and animal rights advocate, I'm against exploiting animals, even lovingly, unless they give their permission. With humans, we call it slavery and slave labour; why is it different with animals (That's a rhetorical question)?

Needless to say, I didn't donate to the Guide Dog program at Whole Foods.

Lore said...

Thanks Daniel, good points. And I agree with you...

Lore said...

This article on the same subject was posted on a few days ago: