No Pets at Zim Zam: A Discourse


Some people have reacted very strongly toward this statement on animal ownership and in particular our desire to have a pet free community. Not everyone who lives here shares the same feelings about animal ownership and pets. As a community however, we have made the choice to have no animal ownership within the community. It seems to us that there is a place for a community which does not have any animal ownership. Those who want to be involved in animal husbandry have many communities where they go. Those who want to own pets have many communities where they can go. Those who wish to live in a community with no animal ownership and no pets have few choices. Zim Zam will be one of those places.

The following statement was written by Cicada and primarily conveys his position with regards to animal ownership. It is not saying that people should get of their pets. There are so many dependent animals. They need care. This statement is a statement which is challenging to many people's way of thinking about human/non-human relationships. When people first began to make statements against human slavery, such statements would sound crazy to most people in the culture because they were outside of the normal way of thinking about human relationships that involved slaves. Slavery was accepted as a part of society and to challenge its validity was considered by many to be crazy. This is a statement challenging the accepted paradigms of human/non-human animal relationships. I believe that while in today's context it may sound crazy, in the future, the current paradigms of animal husbandry and pet ownership will be viewed as immoral and as destructive to our potential for all beings to grow as an interconnected network of living souls.

This doesn't mean that if you own a non-human animal that I think you should get rid of it. Each one of us has our own way of relating to other beings in our environment. It is for each one of us to determine whether the relationships we are creating in our lives are ones which are healthy for us and our fellow beings

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Right to Free Agency

No animal ownership is a philosophy which recognizes the right of all animals to exist for their own purposes and to lead their own lives. Animal ownership is the enslavement of non-human animals in order to serve the desires of humans. Many people react strongly when the word "enslavement" is used to describe human/animal relationships. Many of the arguments animal owners use in response bear an incredible resemblance to those used by defenders of human slavery. For example: The animals' dependency on their human owners is such that "liberating" them is actually a disservice because they would not be able to survive in the wild. Many slave owners had a similar feeling about human slaves. But it is not our right to make such decisions for other animals.

This said, I recognize that the world is far from ideal. Not only are many "liberated" animals not able to survive on their own in the wild, there may not be a "wild" into which they can be set free. Domesticated animals no longer have any natural ecosystem to which they properly belong. These are issues which have no easy answers. I respect and honor those individuals who choose to care for animals which have no place to be free (this includes most "pets"), those who attempt to rehabilitate wild animals and those who give animals sanctuary.

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A friend to me wrote:

"But why no pets? :-) Pets can mean companionship rather than ownership."

There are many reasons why we as a community have made this choice.

We desire to have a community which is in as close to a direct relationship with the "wild" world as possible. We do not want to discourage the presence of wildlife on the land. We would desire to have much of the land of any future rural component to be maintained as a wilderness preserve. For the community to be a wilderness preserve forbids the presence of pets whose interactions would tend to diminish the presence of wildlife on the community land. Specifically, dogs chase away many animals and their presence discourages the presence of wild canine species such as fox, coyote and wolf. Cats diminish the presence and diversity of animals such as birds, lizards and rodents. In our urban space, having as much wildlife as possible within the limits accorded by our situation is desired as well. Our land is certified by the World Wildlife Federation as a Backyard Wildlife Habitat.

The fact of dependency by the pet upon the "owner" is fundamental to many pet relationships. This keeps the animal from being a free agent. The statements by animal owners that they don't actually own their animals does not recognize the degree to which they are required by our society to take responsibility for the whereabouts and actions of the animal. In most situations, the human pet owner controls when and where their pet has access to the outdoors and the pet's freedom to go where it wants when it wants is limited.
Even if your pet is allowed to run "free" society says you are repsonsible for the actions of your pet. If a dog is living on my land and it goes over to a neighbor's land and digs up their garden, I am considered responsible. If a fox is living on my land and does the same thing, the fox is responsible.
If an animal cannot provide food for itself, but is dependent upon a human to provide its sustainance, it is not truely free to go where it wishes. The animal does not know how to provide for itself, so it returns to the human because it knows that is where it can get food. It knows no other way to exist. This is not freedom, it is slavery.

Companionship is an honorable relationship to share with another being of whatever species. It is unfortunate that because of the number of humans and domesticated animals who exist that these types of relationships result in human ownership of the non-human. Ideally there could be companionship relationships which would not be rooted in ownership and dependency. Certainly there are people who have companionship relationships with non-humans which are as healthy as such relationships can be within the context of our current culture. This does not change the fact that the non-human in the relationship does not have free agency. Ultimately, humans will need to free their animal companions in order for all beings on the planet, including ourselves, to have the freedom to develop our full potential as an interconnected network of living beings.

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Being Vegan

Zim Zam is a vegan community. While it is possible to formulate vegan foods for dogs and cats, these animals are physiologically carnivorous animals. Cats are not vegan. They will catch and eat other animals. Dogs are not vegan. Many dogs may not have the ability to actually catch other animals, but they will try. Animal owners make choices about what to feed their animals and so can impose veganism on a pet. But this is not a choice being made by the animal for itself. The humans who live at Zim Zam are choosing to live in a vegan community. A pet would not be freely making that choice for itself.

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Lola has an allergy to animal hair and dander which forbids the presence of pets within the buildings of the community. Other people with similar allergies will be able to come and participate in Zim Zam without their allergies being set off.