Dave Thomas and Buzz Lightyear, reunited: An object lesson in animal personhood

This viral photo is the sad document of the moment when Dave realized he was going to lose Buzz. Click here for the heartwarming story of how these two friends were reunited with the help of a photographer named Maria Sanchez.

caged dog and crying man at animal shelter
Dave Thomas and Buzz Lightyear, photo by Maria Sanchez

There’s even a local news video. Basically, this guy ran into legal trouble, had his dog impounded while he was in jail, and then couldn’t afford to pay to get the dog back out of the pound. One of those places that kills animals that aren’t adopted in time. If it weren’t for Maria Sanchez and Facebook, there would be no happy reunion.

Animals are considered property rather than persons, and property can’t give consent – or rather, persons own property, so they don’t care if the property consents or not. (See: human slavery.) So in this situation, rather than viewing Buzz as one of the people whose interests had to be considered, we threatened him with death because the human he’s owned by was being punished by our legal and economic systems for traffic violations and his lack of money. If the human doesn’t pay up, we kill the dog and we call it “euthanasia” (which, last I checked, was supposed to be “to relieve pain and suffering”).

This whole situation doesn’t make any logical or moral sense to me. Does it make sense to you? Would you feel comfortable explaining this policy to a child? If not, why not?

How can we morally justify our  legal system viewing sentient beings, who apparently value their autonomy, as property? (Note that this includes sentient beings used for entertainment and companionship, education and research, clothing, food, labor, personal service, hunting, and any other purpose.) If we don’t agree with this system, how can we best help to change it? What can we do right now, today, to help reduce suffering immediately? My easy answer is go (intersectionally) vegan! But tell me what you think – please leave a comment (or like / share). Thanks!

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