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A vegan world is the end of cows? Good.

December 2, 2016

If we stopped eating meant and dairy, all the agricultural animals would go extinct. They only exist because of us, you know, because they’re selectively bred.”

– Many tedious people

It’s funny how, in the minds of omnivores, the fact that humans have purposefully constructed beings that cannot live without their intervention counts as a valid moral point against veganism. For me, the way we continue to make animals into Frankensteinan commodities is far more unpalatable than the death of a generation of farm animals stripped of their human guard.

Vegans are perfectly aware that, without the animal agriculture industry, the cows and sheep you see on farms would cease to be. The difference is only that we are at peace with that fact. Ironically, it is the people responsible for the death of cattle and sheep in astronomical numbers who are most concerned about the prospect of never seeing one alive again.

For those who recognise the truth of animal agriculture, fighting for the continued existence of captive beings makes little sense. It is not their fault that they are how they are, and we have great fondness for them, but in effect they are severely disabled.

The definition of a “low functioning” human is someone who cannot take care of themselves and need constant help. They may not be human and therefore not subject to the same terminology, but this is the level that farm animals are at. Their wild versions were self-reliant. These mutated descendants are not.

Most people do not argue for the continued, purposeful reproduction of humans with profound conditions that make them unable to take care of themselves. Apply this logic to non-human animals, and you will see that it would never make sense to a vegan to continue breeding domestic cattle and sheep.

To use another human example, imagine that our society contained humans who were specifically bred to be slaves or lab rats. Would anyone make the argument that such people should continue to be bred, because not doing so would amount to eugenics?

Suppose that we accept that it is insensible to continue to breed human-constructed animals under this justification. We also have to examine the rights of those animals currently living.

Omnivores are fond of saying that if the whole world went vegan tomorrow, many animals would die. Well, perhaps not. If the whole world went vegan, the miraculous incidence would not be the switch to veganism itself, but rather the universal agreement of the whole of humanity on one issue.

That never happens. Think what could be accomplished with it; everyone would agree that animals should be supported until their time came to die of natural causes. Huge resources would be put forward to make it so. The reason such resources are not put into other causes is because such high levels of agreement are unprecedented.

Nor will veganism be the exception to that rule. There won’t be a sudden mass-conversion to veganism, causing chaos. Like every idea, it will permeate slowly and the effect will be slow enough to be manageable. In the meantime, an increase in smaller organisations whose job it is to rescue or retire captive farm animals will mean that there won’t be a sort of animal genocide-by-negligence.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that there was such a consequence. Could it be called genocide? Arguably, negligence that one knows will lead to death of an entire race or species, which one can prevent but does not, can be a sort of genocide. However, context matters.

Consider the old question about whether it is morally right to sacrifice one life to save many. Some say yes, others say no. I’m in the no camp, because in this scenario you’re talking about the decision to act in such a way as to sacrifice a life – a life about which you have no right to make decisions.

If it is your own life, you can give it up, but not someone else’s. That is their right, and theirs alone. If you make this choice for them, you are a megalomaniac who thinks they have the authority to decide who lives and dies, simply because they technically have the power.

To avoid being a megalomaniac – and they are dangerous people who make a plethora of harmful decisions “for the greater good” – you must instead think that the death of that majority is regrettably inevitable and beyond your control.

Your lack of action is not a result of complacency, but a matter of possibility. It was impossible for you to help, because the only way of doing so was to make a sacrifice that was not yours to make. Humans, who always want to control their environment, have trouble accepting that.

To bring this back to animal agriculture, avoiding the death of the many agricultural animals in existence is no justification for eating animal products. The decision to eat meat is an active choice, equivalent to the intentional sacrifice of one life to (supposedly) save the lives of many. That is not our choice to make.

If animals die as a result of a vegan world, it will be testament to the amount of harm we have done in allowing animal agriculture to go too far; we have shown no restraint, formed no backup plan, and ignored the potential consequences of our so-called advances in technology and production.

Once this has been recognised, there can be no better time to choose to make a change – before things get even worse, and even harder to reverse. No one dislikes the idea of collateral damage among innocent non-human animals more than me; but it is a fact of life, with its many wars and unrest, and thus never a good reason not to attempt to end ongoing injustices.

Recall that the principle argument of the heading was, basically: “If we don’t kill animals, things will go even more wrong. Things might even die.” Firstly, if you’re so worried about death, don’t actively encourage it along. Secondly, I can’t be the only one who thinks that the correct response to an oncoming problem is never: “Just kill them all and eat them.” Whatever issues may occur as a result of a vegan world, we can find subtler ways of tackling them.

The idea that your average omnivore is eating animals for the good of the animals is so obviously ludicrous. Any moral point which is informed, principally, by a desire to continue doing what one likes, is built on shaky foundations.


From → Animal Rights

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