Pets – Not Children – Are Now “Family”

I don’t watch much TV, but when I do, I am often frustrated by how many major network programs are pushing pets – HGTV, Hallmark, Food Network, etc. This is even from networks that have nothing to do with pets. Recently, I was watching a documentary program on electrical engineering, but the commercials mostly showed images of people with pets – no children. Indeed, everywhere we look – TV commercials, billboards, social media, movies, etc., we are bombarded with images of the “new family” – singles and couples, young and old raising “fur-babies.”

I am also amazed at how many times I am forced to watch an SPCA commercial, showing images of abused animals. Recently the actor Joaquin Phoenix made news when he visited a subway station in Toronto, which is plastered floor-to-ceiling with advertisements urging people to embrace veganism. Phoenix himself is a vegan. The ads feature photos of animals, alongside slogans like: “Imagine losing every one of your babies. This is the price of dairy,” or “Imagine being born to be destroyed.” The campaign’s catch-phrase is “different but equal.” This ad campaign must have cost the pro-vegan organization supporting it hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Obviously, I do not favor abusing animals or seeing any animal mistreated; however, it is galling that such vast sums of money and effort are being expended to save baby chickens, while we are aborting 55 million unborn human children every year, and this is held to be “okay.” Kill an unborn baby up to the ninth month of pregnancy and Hollywood celebrities will celebrate your “bravery” and champion your “rights,” but God forbid you eat eggs, or leave an animal out in the snow.

It would be easy to laugh at the absurdity of a campaign equating drinking milk with genocide, but the fact is there is a truly sinister side to this way of thinking.

An immense amount of energy is currently being allocated toward verbal engineering and other propaganda to alter the way we as a people think about marriage, family, and children. How we define the traditional family, marriage, and parenthood are being rewritten by anti-life and anti-family activists who are promoting a self-centered culture fixated with materialism, individualism, and one particular version of environmentalism that includes a strong misanthropic (i.e. anti-human) bent, and thus advocates against human reproduction.

This kind of verbal engineering precedes social engineering, which we are already experiencing on federal and state levels, especially in the legislative and judicial branches. We already see this in colleges and universities, where the majority of the problem originates. We see this in the sex perversion programs (so-called “comprehensive sex-ed” programs) in school systems, pushing homosexuality, transgenderism, same-sex unions, “polyamory” (i.e. polygamy) etc. The legislative branch of government is legislating what is moral and what we as a people are to accept. We see this in the court system that is endorsing behaviors and lifestyles that radically disagree with centuries of held beliefs.

Where Have All the Children Gone?

This endless onslaught of propaganda promoting a “diverse” understanding of the family and an environmental extremism that views human beings as not much more than a parasitic species spoiling the pristine beauty of the earth is having very real consequences on ordinary people and family.

Statistics show that the number of couples having children is falling dramatically (and I mean dramatically), while the number of couples with pets is rising. More importantly, the attitude towards those pets is changing. Unlike in the past, where a pet was something fun for the children to play with, or to keep the family safe, many adults are coming to view their pets as members of the family, even as children, as one study featured in Psychology Today noted.

A recent study published by the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) found that in 2018 the number of births in the United States fell to their lowest level in 35 years, for a total of 3,788,235 births. Even more revealing is the total fertility rate, that is, the number of children born per woman during her lifetime. For the past several years, that number has dropped by about 2% each year, reaching a historic low of just 1.72 children per woman – way below the replacement level.

These numbers represent a tragedy in a number of ways. I’ve written before about the fact that the actual numbers don’t represent the number of children that women would like to have, if they could. Indeed, there is quite the sizable gap between what women say would be the ideal family size, and the number of children that they actually have (as this article helpfully explains)! But if women do want more children, why don’t they just have them?

Naturally, that’s an extremely complicated question. Some couples are infertile, which is a hard cross to bear. However, I am addressing these words rather at those many couples not having children out of fear – fear of the so-called environmental impact, of economic factors, cultural pressure, of their own perceived unfitness to be a parent, of what they might have to give up if they have children, and so forth.

This fear-based avoidance of children is summarized perfectly by one couple featured in this recent BBC article. The man, Cameron, a high school teacher, explains that when he was in college, he began to learn about climate change. “I kind of took the perspective that I don’t think it’s responsible for me to bring a child into this world,” he stated. While Cameron’s explanation neatly encapsulates the so-called “selfless” case for not having children, his “partner,” Lisa, puts into words the selfish perspective that so often lurks behind this allegedly selfless eco-consciousness. “I feel like I would be giving up a lot of my life to be a parent,” she says. “That would cost money, that would cost time, that would cost things that you want to do.”

Lisa O’Hare of HLI Ireland has a large family of eight, one child with Down’s Syndrome. Yet Northern Ireland just legalized abortion. Picture courtesy of Regina Magazine.

Naturally, there is nothing wrong with owning a pet, though the extreme “fur-baby” phenomenon is something that many people rightly roll their eyes at. But I do believe that this societal fascination encapsulates one more part of the war against the family that has been waged this past century.

There are plenty of purely practical consequences of the plummet in childbearing, which we are only just beginning to feel. As the Wall Street Journal reported recently: “Below-replacement birth rates mean more strain on entitlement programs like Social Security and less ingenuity from human capital. Labor and investment drive economic growth, and if there are fewer people, capital will have to power more of the U.S. economy.”

But there are also vast social, cultural, and spiritual ramifications as well. As hard as progressives are trying to paint voluntary childlessness as the “selfless” thing to do, in reality one typically need only scratch the surface of this new selflessness, to find a particularly modern, Western, affluent self-protectiveness. Younger couples simply don’t want to give up their freedom, their financial security, their emotional independence, and their vacations, coffee shops, and varied sex lives. If they can spin an effort to cling to a perpetual adolescence as an act of selfless generosity towards the entire human race, then so much the better!

Parents of young children, on the other hand, quickly realize that having children challenges them in ways that they never expected. In order to be successful as parents, they simply must learn to love with a kind of love that they never before had the opportunity to practice – to love with an utterly selfless love, a love that puts the needs of another first. Those who voluntarily forego children may have the satisfaction of thinking of themselves as benevolently sacrificing for the human race, but their sacrifice ultimately costs them nothing. It is those who take the risk, and welcome children into the world despite the personal cost, who are given the opportunity to grow into mature, other-centered human beings, and who are the bedrock on which the future of our society depends.

My fear is that a generation of childless adults will turn out to be a generation of adults who have never themselves stopped being children. Rather than singing the praises of “fur-babies,” we ought rather to be challenging our young adults to aspire towards the time when they might be able to take that crucial next step into adulthood and responsibility – that is, when they might be able to get married, and then have children…in that order.

About Fr. Shenan J. Boquet

Fr. Shenan J. Boquet has served as president of Human Life International since 2011. He was ordained in 1993 as a priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana. As HLI’s president, Fr. Boquet collaborates with fellow laborers in the pro-life and family movement in over 80 countries, offering the Sacraments, giving seminars and trainings, appearing on numerous media outlets, and encouraging people of all walks of life to live as faithful advocates for a Culture of Life and Love. He is available for interviews and bookings on behalf of HLI by emailing


  1. Jeanmarie on October 28, 2019 at 3:35 PM

    Thank you, Father Shannon, for such an honest, insightful and wise piece.
    We must pray very much against this tidal wave of evil comprised by so many lies and deceptions and, as you say, so much “verbal engineering”, which is really psychological and emotional engineering. It is truly frightening. But I trust God, and I know that we all must prayerfully and materially stand against this mental destruction of human life which subsequently becomes actual destruction of human life.
    I thank God for you and your honesty and all your efforts, Fr, Shannon. I will keep praying for you and will send a monetary donation.
    God be with you,
    In the Two Hearts of Jesus & Mary,

    • HLI Staff on October 29, 2019 at 9:22 AM

      Thank you for your lovely feedback, Jeanmarie! May God be praised for your financial sacrifices and prayers for our mission, and bless you abundantly.

  2. Ann Trudo on October 28, 2019 at 10:38 PM

    So true Father and so sad

  3. Stephen Oribdhogu on October 29, 2019 at 2:41 AM

    If only all the world can open up to embrace and appreciate the value of every human being, born and unborn, am sure that we can change the definitions these groups are attaching to life. God have mercy

  4. Dzintars Svenne on October 29, 2019 at 12:15 PM

    Dear Fr. Boquet, thank you for your many wonderful articles – I feel I’m indebted to you and others at HLI for helping me steer a steady course through the insanity of this world. I give thanks to God for you and your dedicated team always fighting for God against the encroachment of evil. Yet after reading this article, which raises a lot of good points, I humbly beg to add a few comments.

    As you say, a pet is not the same as a human being. Yet, I’m sure you will appreciate that for many struggling with the turmoil of the world, for example with the propaganda of the media, or people all around constantly bombarding you with craziness, an animal can be a huge source of comfort. What is more, it is all to God’s glory that he has endowed animals with feelings such as love and affection, and these in turn have helped many human beings get through life’s difficulties. Therefore if we have pets I’m sure that it is pleasing to God that we should love them and not regard them as only playthings or purely practical aids to our life. Of course you don’t say that we should treat pets in such a cold manner in your article, merely that pets should not be viewed as replacements for human beings, and in this you are right.

    I can also understand your annoyance at the commercial representation of pets in the media. Mammon and selfish interests constantly distort everything, including the portrayal of animals and human interactions with animals. In this regard I have to say that in my experience the world is a minefield – things which advertise themselves as being kind to animals often really aren’t and vice-versa, so we have to be careful and pray for God’s guidance. It is not beyond Satan’s cunning to use animals as a kind of metaphorical stick with which to hit us with or to try to lay a snare for us by using our natural love for them coupled with misinformation to direct us along the wrong path. We have to hold onto the sense God has given us – as you say, we must oppose any mistreatment of animals, remembering Proverbs 12:10, which may be translated as: “the virtuous man looks after the lives of his beasts, but the wicked man’s heart is ruthless”. Indeed, I recall the now beatified Pope John Paul II raising this issue and condemning the mistreatment of animals by big business. While fighting against evil done to humans we must always, of course, do our best to be kind to animals as well – I believe that Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:48, which you quoted recently, covers this: “be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect”.

    To sum up, thank you, Fr. Boquet and the HLI team, for your great fight for the human soul, always fighting evil where it is vitally important to fight it. I hope you will take these humble points concerning animals as well intentioned contributions to your article, and not an attempt to arrogantly correct your direction, for I have the greatest regard for all the good you are doing.

    Dzintars Eriks Svenne

  5. Carol Avian on November 6, 2019 at 8:09 PM

    Dear Fr. Boquet,
    Thanks for being a priest, and for your article. A few years back, I thought I read something about France taking on this issue, recognizing at least to some degree that marriage is about the continuation of the nation and humanity, by requiring some type of automatic increase in income tax for couples who don’t start producing children after some years of marriage. I would guess there is some provision for couples having difficulty. However, I don’t know the current status on this practice. Thanks for your consideration.
    in caritate Christi,
    Mrs. Richard Avian (Carol Avian)

  6. Susan Nemetz on November 6, 2019 at 11:33 PM

    It’s true that when I became a parent I really learned to love. I have also been mildly offended by all the ads for the poor animals, when no one talks about all the babies slaughtered in abortion.

  7. Margaret Erickson on November 11, 2019 at 12:18 PM

    My comment is not central to the main point of the piece but it struck me as significant and points to the illogic of the “fur-baby vagan” tribe. While there are already pet foods on the market that purport to be be vegan, most often used pet foods contain animal products as cats are carnivores and dogs are omnivores. I’ve seen chicken eggs in cartons labeled “From free-range chickens. Never fed animal products.” Anyone with an ounce of observation ability knows that chickens eat worms and insects by the thousands. Even fish food contains animal products. These people are either deluded or just plain stupid.

  8. HLI Staff on November 12, 2019 at 1:19 PM

    Dear Dzintars, thank you so much for your input. We wholly support you – in fact this editor owns three cats and yes, Father in no way is suggesting that animals are bad. In fact, this author used to work with Fr. Benedict Groeschel. He used to say that in Heaven, he wanted to be put in charge of the “lost pets department,” to unite people who had lost pets with their owners, because a pet’s loss is so much felt. Remember, originally animals were in Eden, and part of God’s plan – they do not replace man, but are a great blessing and comfort. We must pray that those who see God in their pets will accord human life in all its forms, from conception to natural death, dignity and honor. God bless!

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