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Why Loving Our Animals Is Not Enough

In general, companion animals – the ones we keep around the house – are treated far better than factory-farmed pigs, cows, and chickens. Nevertheless, despite the more positive attitudes people have toward dogs and cats, many of them lead miserable lives.

PRINCETON – There are about 184 million dogs and cats in the United States; two-thirds of all US households include an animal, popularly known as “pets.” But animal advocates regard that term as demeaning, and prefer “companion animal.” In fact, in many homes, dogs or cats are regarded as members of the family. They are provided with everything they might need or enjoy, and much else besides, including fancy treats and clothing.

Spending on companion animals in the US alone has been growing rapidly over the past decade, rising from an already very substantial $43 billion in 2008 to an estimated $72 billion this year. And similar trends are evident elsewhere. Ownership of dogs and cats in China, for example, was estimated at 100 million in 2015, and rising.

Large as these numbers may seem, they are insignificant compared to the 65 billion animals worldwide raised for food each year. In general, companion animals are treated far better than factory-farmed pigs, cows, and chickens. In most affluent countries, if you were to confine dogs for months in cages like the stalls in which pigs on factory farms are often kept, you would be liable to prosecution.

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