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When I saw the sugar glider, it was curled in the corner of its cage sleeping, doing its best to ignore the harsh and unnatural fluorescent light above and the sounds of dozens people milling about between tables all around. The seller saw me taking interest, and tapped the side of the cage with his fingers repeatedly until it woke up. "This is normally their sleeping time," he offered with a smile, but the sugar glider, partially uncurled, had begun screeching.

The problem with owning exotic - or domesticated - animals isn't in being in the position of caring for them; it's that unless they're being adopted, like a dog from the shelter, or taken in by an accredited sanctuary, they exist in the market as a result of breeding. Some are still caught in the wild, often unsustainably, and shipped - like a new pair of shoes - around the world, others are bred from these wild-caught individuals for generations. Regardless, they are treated not as non-human animals with their own rights and bodily autonomy, but as products and commodities to be used for human pleasure and entertainment. Whether the majority of them are treated well by their owners doesn't matter, because there will always be those that are abused and neglected, purposefully or unintentionally. Even if all were treated well and lived long, healthy lives - and the pythons of disinterested owners weren't "released into the wild" to wreak havoc in an ecosystem they don't belong - the nature of owning another living being for human interests is exploitative, and the sentiment behind a system where the animals' interests come second.

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