Skyler Simpkins ’23
It has always been hard to explain to others why it is crucial to spay and neuter your pets. When prompted, people usually reply with the “don’t you love animals” tactic, which in return I always say, “Why yes, I do love animals. I rescue and socialize kittens from harmful environments, and I’ve been vegan for some time. I have made the care for and advocation of animals who cannot care and advocate for themselves a central part of my life.” So if I love animals, why do I advocate for the limit of their reproductive freedom?
To put it bluntly, mating between animal species is often non-consensual and violent. When I took in five kittens living under a barn, their mother was in the process of healing from the attack her reproductive partner had subjected her to. Her skin from the backside of her posterior was torn off and hanging. Her body was left open to innumerable infections and diseases while she had to take on the duty of rearing and nurturing five babies. Further, mothers are susceptible to increased predation risk when they go into labor and shortly after when they must protect these new, precious lives. The reality is bleak not only for mothers but fathers too face similar dangers in the pursuit of mates. Fathers must compete for their mates and, in so doing, are wrought with wounds, broken limbs, and disease. I do admit that taking an animal to be spayed or neutered is also non-consensual, but the incredible violence done to these animals in the search of a mate, in the process of mating, or in the time shortly before and after birth are horrific.
Damage done to the mother has been a ubiquitous phenomenon seen in all my rescues. I have seen mothers thrown out by their owners, missing eyes, and most recently a mother who lost her life protecting her still nursing children in a colony of unspayed and unneutered cats. Heat, or when female animals become sexually receptive, is a hellish experience for all involved. Their biological mechanisms support this constant reproduction because without human assistance many of these animals’ babies will die.
I have not spoken much on the negative implications of unfettered reproduction on newborn animals, but it exists in equal intensity and increased frequency to that of their parents. Disease-ridden parents will transmit their amalgamation of ailments to their offspring. An immunocompromised baby will be at a much greater risk of dying from these diseases. In addition, animals in their early stages of life have limited methods to protect and care for themselves, and are thus at the mercy of their mother for protection and sustenance. Being born outside in filthy, dilapidated conditions–as most are–is an awful start to life, but is, unfortunately, the only life many of these animals will know whether they remain in the colony unfixed or die from the conditions inherited from their surroundings.
As humans, we must accept our ability to make moral and ethical decisions that could affect the lives of other species. We are an incredibly powerful species, and we must wield this power to improve the lives of the less fortunate. While I would love to have the ability to communicate with animals and ask for their consent to sterilization, we do not have the capacity for this intra-species communication, either due to a lack of technological innovation or because the animals lack the requisite evolutionarily-derived methods of communication. We must, then, assess two conditions: spay and neuter our animals or risk unfettered reproduction. The former is the only condition in which we can improve the lives of animals by securing their safety and ending the natural infanticide of their offspring. Whether spay or neuter is followed with socialization and adoption or a return to the community/colony they know, sterilization is a principal way we humans can take the burden off helpless, deprived animals.