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“It’s OK to eat animals that have been treated well—I only eat certified humane, pasture-raised, cage-free, free-range products.”“it’s ok to eat animals that have been treated well—i only eat certified humane, pasture-raised, cage-free, free-range products.”“it’s ok to eat animals that have been treated well—i only eat certified humane, pasture-raised, cage-free, free-range products.”all-objections ethics-objections objections [toc label="talking points"]people are becoming increasingly concerned about the welfare of animals used for food. this concern is spawned by undercover videos, social-media postings, documentary movies, and reporting by the press.some people hope to act on that concern by buying products that bear one of the humane-certification labels or that brandish some other designation, such as cage free, free-range, grass fed, or organic, thinking that such purchases cause little or no harm to the individuals whose flesh and secretions have been packaged for sale.first, we explain why—even if specific humane claims are true—using animals for food is still not humane. because using animals for food is still not humane, it's not necessary to show that the humane-sounding labels and certifications are misleading. but we do so anyway just so there can be no doubt. we also reveal that cruel practices are systemic to the process of using animals for food.after the evidence is presented, it's easy to conclude that these labels have little to do with the well-being of the animals but are designed to at once assuage our guilt and compel us to spend more.
animals are harmed by depriving them of their lives.research by cognitive ethologists and neurobiologists has confirmed that the animals we exploit for food, including fish, have desires, preferences, and emotions. they have a sense of themselves, a sense of the future, and a will to live. they have families, social communities, and natural behaviors.((bekoff, mark, colin allen, and gordon burghardt. the cognitive animal: empirical and theoretical perspectives on animal cognition. a bradford book, 2002 ))in these ways and others, they are like us, and what happens to them matters to them. they each have an inherent value apart from their usefulness to us. so even if humane-sounding labels were aboveboard, using animals for food is still not humane because we are depriving them of the only life they have and a life they value.this is true no matter how the killing is done, and it is true not only for animals used for meat but also for animals used for dairy products and eggs. those used for dairy and eggs, like those used for meat, are slaughtered very early in their lives. they are slaughtered when their reproductive systems are used up and they are no longer profitable. none of the animals we use for food are allowed to live out their lives.taking the life of anyone who wants to live is to harm that individual, regardless of their species. just as we would not consider killing for food humane if it were done to dogs, cats, or humans, then by any measure of fairness and justice, it is not humane when done to other sentient beings.humane slaughter is an oxymoron. humane means showing compassion or benevolence. to slaughter is to kill or butcher someone who does not want to die. slaughter is a violent act, not an act of compassion or benevolence.
humane-sounding labels and certifications are mostly meaningless.here we address the most common labels and certifications. some labels and certifications cover some forms of abuse, and others cover different forms of abuse, but none address all forms of abuse. but even if they did, the standards are often not enforced.free-range. the usda standard for free-range requires only that chickens are given some access to the outdoors. there are no stipulations for the size or quality of the outdoor space, and there is no requirement that the chickens actually spend time outdoors.((“fsis.” food safety inspection service, usda, http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/food-labeling/meat-and-poultry-labeling-terms)) also, the claim does not have to be verified through inspections.((“what does ‘free range’ mean?” greener choices | consumer reports, april 25, 2017. http://greenerchoices.org/2017/04/25/free-range/ ))so it's not surprising that investigations by consumer reports (and others) reveal that most chickens labeled free-range spend their lives confined inside a crowded chicken house. the free-range space itself may be nothing more than an enclosed concrete slab that the chickens never use. these individuals lack the room even to turn around, much less engage in their natural behaviors of preening, nesting, foraging, dust bathing, and perching.((“what does ‘free range’ mean?” greener choices | consumer reports, april 25, 2017. http://greenerchoices.org/2017/04/25/free-range/ ))this has led consumer reports to say that "'free range' is one of the most potentially misleading labels because of the discrepancy between what it implies and what is required to make the claim."((“what does ‘free range’ mean?” greener choices | consumer reports, april 25, 2017. http://greenerchoices.org/2017/04/25/free-range/ ))cage free. consumer reports advises you to “ignore cage-free claims” for chickens.((“a ‘cage-free’ claim: does it add value?” greener choices |consumer reports, march 5, 2018 http://greenerchoices.org/2018/03/05/cage-free-add-value/ )) "'cage-free' does not mean the chickens had access to the outdoors." it only means the chickens were not confined to a cage.((what does ‘cage free’ mean?” greener choices | consumer reports, february 6, 2017. http://greenerchoices.org/2017/02/06/cage-free-mean/ ))cage free chickens, like free-range chickens, may be confined not by a cage but by crowding so extreme that turning around and engaging in those previously mentioned natural behaviors of preening, nesting, foraging, dust bathing, and perching is difficult or impossible. such extreme crowding in large metal warehouses is the norm, with each chicken allowed less than a square foot of space.((ibid.))pasture raised. according to consumer reports, “government agencies have no common standard that producers have to meet to make a 'pasture raised' claim on a food label, no definition for ‘pasture,’ and no requirement for the claim to be verified through on-farm inspections.”((“pasture raised” greener choices | consumer reports, april 4, 2017, http://greenerchoices.org/2017/04/26/pasture-raised/ ))grass fed. the usda-regulated grass fed label in the united states requires that the bovine is fed grass their entire life. the designation has only to do with feeding and does not prohibit routine cruelties, such as dehorning, castration, confinement, harsh living conditions, rough handling, and lack of veterinary care.enforcement is weak,((“labeling guideline on documentation needed to substantiate animal raising claims for label submissions.” usda fsis, n.d. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/bf170761-33e3-4a2d-8f86-940c2698e2c5/label-approval-guide.pdf?mod=ajperes)) and the animals are still slaughtered at an early age.((whisnant, dvm, patricia. “faq grass fed beef.” american grass fed beef (blog). accessed october 25, 2018. https://www.americangrassfedbeef.com/faq-grass-fed-beef.asp ))organic. some have the perception that organic means humanely raised, but that is not the case. organic farmers are free to treat their animals no better than non-organic farmers. this is because the usda, which controls the organic label in the united states, ruled that the label does not allow "broadly prescriptive, stand-alone animal welfare regulations."((whoriskey, peter. “should ‘usda organic’ animals be treated more humanely? the trump administration just said no.” washington post, december 15, 2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/12/15/should-usda-organic-animals-be-treated-more-humanely-the-trump-administration-just-said-no/ ))consumer reports informs us that while there are organic standards relating to animals, they lack clarity and precision, letting producers with poor standards sell poultry and eggs.((“do you care about animal welfare on organic farms?” greener choices | consumer reports, february 6, 2018. http://greenerchoices.org/2018/02/06/care-animal-welfare-organic-farms/ ))certified humane raised and handled. consumer reports says that "we do not rate certified humane as a highly meaningful label for animal welfare, because the standards do not have certain requirements that a majority of consumers expect from a 'humanely raised' label, such as access to the outdoors."((“certified humane raised and handled.” consumer reports—greener choices | consumer reports, january 30, 2017. http://greenerchoices.org/2017/01/30/certified-humane/ ))whole foods' global animal partnership (gap) certified. the open philanthropy project criticized gap for having weak enforcement and for providing only slight improvements over standard factory farming conditions.((“global animal partnership.” open philanthropy project, march 26, 2016. https://www.openphilanthropy.org/focus/us-policy/farm-animal-welfare/global-animal-partnership-general-support )) for example, according to consumer reports, "standards for slaughter do not exist at any level for chickens and there is no limit on their rate of growth."((“global animal partnership step 5+.” greener choices | consumer reports, may 23, 2017. http://greenerchoices.org/2017/05/23/global-animal-partnership-step-5/ ))gap doesn't even publish standards for dairy cows, arguably the most abused of any of the farmed mammals.american humane certified. according to consumer reports, "the requirements fall short in meeting consumer expectations for a 'humane' label in many ways."((“american humane certified.” consumer reports—greener choices | consumer reports, january 11, 2017. http://greenerchoices.org/2017/01/11/american-humane-certified/ ))united egg producers certified. consumer reports says that while the label is verified, "it is not meaningful as an animal welfare label because certain basic conditions, such as the freedom to move, are not required."((“united egg producers certified.” greener choices | consumer reports, march 23, 2017. http://greenerchoices.org/2017/03/23/united-egg-producers-certified/ ))usda process verified. according to consumer reports, process verified claims can be written by the manufacturers themselves—and the claims do not have to be meaningful to the welfare of the animals.((“usda process verified.” greener choices | consumer reports, march 7, 2017. http://greenerchoices.org/2017/03/07/usda-process-verified/ ))animal welfare approved. this is the only certification that consumer reports says has strong standards, yet the standards still allow for mutilations((“animal welfare approved.” greener choices |consumer reports, november 16, 2016. http://greenerchoices.org/2016/11/16/awa-label-review/ )) and other injustices. also, products with this label are challenging to find. a search using their own product finder reveals that it's unlikely you will find any products with this label at a grocery store near you.((“find products.” a greener world. accessed october 4, 2018. https://agreenerworld.org/shop-agw/product-search/ ))certified sustainable seafood. sustainability has nothing to do with the treatment of the fish. fish typically die of suffocation because they are left in the air, or they die by having their throats slit while they are alive. although our concern for fish is typically less than it is for other animals, research in cognitive ethology and neurobiology reveals that fish show intelligence, feel pain, display emotions, and have many of the other characteristics of the land animals we use for food.((balcombe, jonathan. what a fish knows: the inner lives of our underwater cousins. scientific american / farrar, straus and giroux, 2016. ))not only that, but the sustainability claim itself is suspect. in a piece titled "is sustainable-labeled seafood really sustainable?" npr reports that scientists and other experts believe fisheries are being certified that should not be. in addition, fish are being incorrectly counted, rendering the claims of sustainability doubtful.((“is sustainable-labeled seafood really sustainable?” npr.org, february 11, 2013. https://www.npr.org/2013/02/11/171376509/is-sustainable-labeled-seafood-really-sustainable))backyard chickens. although backyard chickens are not associated with a certification or label like the others that we are covering here, they deserve a closer look. a considerable number of people regard the practice of keeping chickens in the backyard for food as innocuous. these backyard chickens are of the same or similar variety as those on industrial farms—the very farms that account for most of the cruelties outlined below.baby chicks often die in transport. a quick search will find numerous reports of chicks being shipped alive to backyard hobbyists and dying in transport—and reports of those that make it being greatly stressed.backyard chickens, like those on industrial farms, have been selectively bred, which stresses their bodies. here are just a few examples out of many:
- laying hens are bred to lay large eggs, which stresses their reproductive systems and causes such problems as osteoporosis, bone breakage, and uterus prolapse.((jamieson, alastair. “large eggs cause pain and stress to hens, shoppers are told,” march 11, 2009, sec. finance. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/4971966/large-eggs-cause-pain-and-stress-to-hens-shoppers-are-told.html ))
- another stressor for laying hens is the number of their eggs, which is the result of selective breeding. a laying hen produces more than 300 eggs a year, but the jungle fowl from which they are bred lay 4 to 6 eggs in a year.((cheng, h.-w. “breeding of tomorrow’s chickens to improve well-being.” poultry science 89, no. 4 (april 1, 2010): 805–13. https://doi.org/10.3382/ps.2009-00361 ))
- chickens used for meat have been bred to grow at an unnaturally fast rate and have large breasts. this selective breeding comes with serious welfare consequences: leg disorders; skeletal, developmental, and degenerative diseases; heart and lung problems; respiratory problems; and premature death.((stevenson, peter. “leg and heart problems in broiler chickens.” compassion in world farming, january 2003. https://www.ciwf.org.uk/media/3818898/leg-and-heart-problems-in-broilers-for-judicial-review.pdf ))
- in the hatcheries from which backyard chicken hobbyists order baby chicks, the males are either ground alive in macerators, gassed, or smothered to death soon after they are hatched. this is because the laying hens are selectively bred for producing eggs, not meat, rendering the males useless for their intended purpose.((blakemore, erin. “egg producers pledge more humane fate for male chicks.” smithsonian, june 13, 2016. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/egg-producers-pledge-more-humane-fate-male-chicks-180959394/ ))
- backyard hens are likely to be slaughtered when egg production wanes, preventing them from living out their natural lives. as one hobbyist euphemistically put it, "when the expenses outweigh the value, then changes have to be made."((“at what age do you kill a laying hen?” backyard chickens. accessed november 2, 2018. https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/at-what-age-do-you-kill-a-laying-hen.837302/ ))
cruelty and suffering are systemic in using animals as commodities for profit.the abuses inflicted on farmed animals are many and often severe, and they're part of the normal operations of exploiting animals for food. these abuses include confinement, crowding, mutilation, deprivation of natural behaviors, debilitating selective breeding, cruel handling, separation from their offspring, and, of course, slaughter.because many of the abuses are systemic, they cannot be humanely-labeled away. to be profitable, animal agriculture depends on animals being mistreated. for any label or certification to omit all animal abuses would render the products unaffordable by all but the most affluent.the cruelty stems in part from the attitudes that surround the commodification of animals, as exemplified by a piece in hog management, which recommends that farmers "forget the pig is an animal—treat him just like a machine in a factory."((prescott, matthew. “your pig almost certainly came from a factory farm, no matter what anyone tells you - the washington post,” july 15, 2014. https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/07/15/your-pig-almost-certainly-came-from-a-factory-farm-no-matter-what-anyone-tells-you/ ))here are a few specific examples of cruelty not covered earlier. these are allowed under many, if not most, labels and certifications.
- the early separation of calves from their mothers, depriving the calves of the love and milk of their mothers and depriving the grieving cow of her nurturing instinct((university of veterinary medicine, vienna. (2015, april 28). early separation of cow and calf has long-term effects on social behavior. sciencedaily. retrieved october 26, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150428081801.htm ))
- painful debeaking of chickens, depriving them of their ability to engage in preening and foraging((welfare implications of beak trimming.” american veterinary medical association, february 7, 2010. https://www.avma.org/kb/resources/literaturereviews/pages/beak-trimming-bgnd.aspx^^“upc factsheet - debeaking.” united poultry concerns, inc. accessed march 28, 2018. https://www.upc-online.org/merchandise/debeak_factsheet.html ))
- forcing a hesitant animal to move by any methods necessary, including whipping, prodding, dragging, and forklifting (the evidence for this can be seen in numerous videos and the several firsthand accounts in the book slaughterhouse by gail a. eisnitz)
- the dehorning of cows, which one professor of animal science calls "the single most painful thing we do,"((dehorning: ‘standard practice’ on dairy farms,” abc news, january 28, 2010,)) done via acid, burning, sawing, or cutting with a gigantic clipper((m’hamdi, naceur, cyrine darej, and rachid bouraoui. “animal welfare issues concerning procedures of calves dehorning.” department of animal sciences, national institute of agronomy of tunisia and hiher school of agriculture of mateur, bizerte, tunisia, 2013 ))
- the clipping of teeth and tails of piglets, a painful procedure usually performed without medication and which may also result in infections, tumors, and the suppression of natural behaviors((“welfare implications of teeth clipping, tail docking and permanent identification of piglets.” american veterinary medical association (avma), july 15, 2014. https://www.avma.org/kb/resources/literaturereviews/pages/welfare-implications-of-practices-performed-on-piglets.aspx ))
humane-sounding labels and certifications may be best thought of as marketing.the animal agriculture industry is aware of the growing concern for animals and know that if they appear to be uncaring, sales and profits will decline. they also know that few will examine these humane-sounding claims to see if they are true. so these labels and certifications give the appearance of being humane, assuaging the guilt of compassionate buyers.they may also engender higher profits, because the industry also knows that concerned, kindhearted consumers are willing to pay more for products they perceive to be humanely produced.
you cannot buy products made from animals that have been treated humanely.even if you buy into the idea that it’s ok to eat animal products as long as the animals are treated well, there is virtually no chance that the animals have, in fact, been treated well, regardless of what label is on the package. while certain labels may represent less suffering for some of the abuses, other abuses remain. the mitigation of some of the cruelties does not justify the remaining ones.as we have shown and as exposed via consumer reports and other sources, the standards for these humane-sounding labels are weak and they often go unenforced.the life of any farmed animal can only be described as one of commodified, abusive servitude ending in brutal slaughter. when viewed objectively, free from the fog of our cultural norms, their treatment and slaughter, no matter the label or certification—and by any standard of fairness and justice—cannot be considered humane.
“Eating animals is natural—animals eat animals, it’s part of the circle of life, and we are apex predators on top of the food chain.”“eating animals is natural—animals eat animals, it’s part of the circle of life, and we are apex predators on top of the food chain.”“eating animals is natural—animals eat animals, it’s part of the circle of life, and we are apex predators on top of the food chain.”all-objections anatomy-objections ethics-objections nature-objections objections [toc label="talking points"]in objecting to veganism and animal rights, some invoke a series of statements centering around the idea that eating animals and their secretions is natural. these statements often include a reference to the circle of life, apex predation, the fact that animals eat other animals, and the assertion that humans are on top of the food chain—all in an attempt to prove that the eating of animal flesh, chickens' eggs, and cow's milk by humans is as natural as the laws of physics.here we show that these declarations are not germane to the case for veganism. but even if they were, they are still defeated by taking a closer look at the assertions, which we do.
assertions as to what is natural are not pertinent to the validity of veganism.simply put, the case for veganism is that it’s wrong to cause unnecessary harm to animals. eating products made from animals harms animals, and because we don't need animal products to be healthy, the harm is unnecessary. the issues of harm and necessity are covered in our article "an introduction to veganism."so even if the practice of eating animals were natural, even if it were somehow part of some nebulous circle of life, even if we were apex predators on top of the food chain, and even though animals do eat other animals—all that still does not justify causing unnecessary harm to others.
naturalness says nothing about rightness.the occurrence of a behavior in the natural world says nothing about the morality of the behavior. rape, defined as forced sexual intercourse, is not unusual in other species. amphibians, reptiles, birds, fish, and mammals engage in the practice.((palmer, craig t. “rape in nonhuman animal species: definitions, evidence, and implications.” journal of sex research26, no. 3 (august 1989): 355–74. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224498909551520 )) infanticide is committed by dolphins, lions, and baboons.((thompson, helen. “why some mammals kill babies of their own kind.” smithsonian, november 13, 2014. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/why-some-mammals-kill-babies-own-kind-180953318/ )) we would not say these behaviors are moral, but we could not deny that they are natural in the sense that they occur in nature.
animals that eat other animals do not have a choice.the animals that eat other animals do not have a choice. if they are obligate carnivores, then they must eat animals for nutrition. if they are omnivores, then they are eating what is available to survive.most humans reading this, on the other hand, have available a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. and humans do not need to eat animals for nutrition, as shown in this post. the fact that in some rare situational circumstances a human might need to eat an animal for survival does not justify eating an animal when it is not necessary.
our natural abilities suggest we are not natural predators, much less apex predators.we may be apex predators in the sense that we are not eaten by other species, but this is a consequence of our not living in a more natural environment, such as the wilderness, as well as our ability to use our mental faculties to avoid being eaten. it is not because of physical strength or agility, as is the case with general predators or apex predators, such as the african wild dog, the lion, or the tiger.natural predators, apex or not, have physical characteristics that allow them to seize and kill their prey, rip and tear their prey's flesh, and then eat the raw flesh. humans are not so good at this. although we have developed tools that overcome our physical limitations, we don't have what it takes to do this unaided. also, we insist on cooking the flesh we eat, which no other species of flesh eater does.
our physiology and anatomy suggest that flesh is not a natural food for humans.a comparative review of the physiology and anatomy of animals reveals that humans match closely with herbivores, not omnivores or carnivores. we cover this topic in more depth in our post in response to the assertion that "humans are natural omnivores—we digest meat, have canine teeth, and have front-facing eyes."as that post demonstrates, the length of our intestines, the structure of our teeth, nails, jaw, mouth opening, and facial muscles, our digestive enzymes, our stomach acidity, our ability to detoxify vitamin a, and our urine concentration all point toward humans being herbivorous.((mills, milton r. “the comparative anatomy of eating.” vegsource interactive inc 26 (1996). https://www.scribd.com/doc/94656/the-comparative-anatomy-of-eating ))
there is nothing natural about how we get our meat, dairy, and eggs.selective breeding has resulted in farmed animals that produce far more flesh, far more eggs, and far more milk than their forebears would produce in a natural environment.dairy cows produce more than three times the amount of milk they did several decades ago, which burdens them and results in their development of unnaturally large udders.((blayney, don p. the changing landscape of us milk production. us department of agriculture, economic research service, 2002. https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/publications/47162/17864_sb978_1_.pdf?v=41056 ))an egg-laying hen produces more than 300 eggs per year, but the jungle fowl from which they were bred lay four to six eggs in a year.((cheng, h.-w. “breeding of tomorrow’s chickens to improve well-being.” poultry science 89, no. 4 (april 1, 2010): 805–13. https://doi.org/10.3382/ps.2009-00361 )) also, laying hens are bred to lay large eggs, which they are not evolved for; this stresses their reproductive system and causes such problems as osteoporosis, bone breakage, and uterus prolapse.((jamieson, alastair. “large eggs cause pain and stress to hens, shoppers are told,” march 11, 2009, sec. finance. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/4971966/large-eggs-cause-pain-and-stress-to-hens-shoppers-are-told.html ))the modern broiler chicken is unnaturally large and has been bred to grow at an unnaturally fast rate and have large breasts. this selective breeding causes numerous afflictions: leg disorders; skeletal, developmental, and degenerative diseases; heart and lung problems; breathing difficulty; and premature death.((stevenson, peter. “leg and heart problems in broiler chickens.” compassion in world farming, january 2003. https://www.ciwf.org.uk/media/3818898/leg-and-heart-problems-in-broilers-for-judicial-review.pdf ))farmed animals are far from natural—they could not survive in a natural environment. in our contrived animal agriculture system, the concepts of "natural," "circle of life," "apex predation," and "food chain" simply don't apply. and because of this, the fact that animals in the wild eat other animals in the wild is also irrelevant.
we shouldn't base our morality on animal behavior.we humans have moral agency, meaning we can judge the consequences of our actions. this implies a degree of responsibility, or duty, to do what is right. nonhuman animals seem to lack the ability to fully contemplate the moral consequences of their actions.((regan, tom. the case for animal rights. university of california press, 2004. 152-154 ))but even if they could, that does not mean we should model our morality on the behaviors of other species. instead, we should use our moral agency to make ethical decisions, not invoke nebulous and impertinent concepts of what is natural to justify behaviors that unnecessarily harm others.
“Don’t force your values on me—what I eat is a personal choice.”“don’t force your values on me—what i eat is a personal choice.”“don’t force your values on me—what i eat is a personal choice.”all-objections ethics-objections objections [toc label="talking points"]this objection to animal rights and veganism is made by those who are not aware of the implications of eating animals or by those who are aware but are unwilling to change. it is often accompanied by a statement such as, "i respect your right to be vegan; you should respect my right to not be vegan."this objection is usually an implicit admonition to back off.
personal choices are not necessarily ethical.just because it is a choice you personally make does not make it an ethical choice. for example, you may choose to be rude to someone because of their gender or color. the fact that you are not legally restricted from such an action does not imply the action is ethical.also, the personal-choice declaration can be and has been used to defend all manner of indefensible positions:
- "it's my personal choice to own slaves."
- "it's my personal choice to pay women less money than men for the same work."
it's not just a personal choice.it is a personal choice in the sense that it's a choice you can personally make, but for any choice to be only a personal one, all those affected must give consent. for example, i may personally choose to cut in front of you in the grocery-store line, but unless i get your permission, it negatively affects you.if it involves harming others, then it is as much a social choice as it is a personal choice. as the saying goes, "your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins."
this choice has a victim.it is inescapable that eating meat and animal secretions (such as milk, cheese, and eggs) harms animals.when we buy or eat animal products, we are not just ignoring the victim—we are complicit in the violence the victim has endured. we are complicit because even though we are not inflicting harm directly, we are paying someone else to do so.
awareness changes your perspective.when you become fully aware of the harms resulting from eating animals or their products, it is impossible to view it as merely a personal choice. when you take a little time to educate yourself on the atrocities inflicted on animals before they become the food on your plate, you will less likely choose to harm other sentient beings whose lives are as important to them as yours is to you.
“With all the problems in the world, we should spend our time helping humans first, then animals.”“with all the problems in the world, we should spend our time helping humans first, then animals.”“with all the problems in the world, we should spend our time helping humans first, then animals.”all-objections ethics-objections objections [toc label="talking points"]this objection is one that vegans and animal rights activists hear a lot. it is often expressed something like this: "there are so many problems in the world and so much human suffering, we should focus on these pressing human concerns rather than spend our time and energy on animals. maybe after we make real progress on human problems, we can then help the animals."
living vegan does not take more time.insofar as this objection is addressed to vegans who are not also animal rights or vegan activists, it assumes that just living a vegan life takes an inordinate amount of time—time that could be spent helping humans.yet vegans go about their lives in the same way as everyone—going to work, preparing recipes, eating out, buying groceries, and embarrassing their children in front of their friends.once you learn a few new recipes (or adapt your favorite ones) and choose brands of underarm deodorant and toothpaste that are not tested on animals, it takes no more time to be vegan than to not be vegan.
vegan activism does benefit humans.animal rights and vegan activists do spend time helping animals, but that time is also helping humans, as well as helping the earth that sustains both human and non-human animals. to the extent that vegan activism succeeds, humans benefit in some significant ways. there is perhaps no other cause that embodies so many benefits on so many fronts.it offers peace of mind. by embracing veganism, you gain the peace of mind that comes from knowing you are living your life in accordance with your own values of justice, fairness, and compassion.it benefits human health. the suffering and expense humans encounter due to health problems, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and early mortality, can be mitigated and sometimes eliminated by a whole-foods, plant-based vegan diet.((tuso, philip j, mohamed h ismail, benjamin p ha, and carole bartolotto. “nutritional update for physicians: plant-based diets.” the permanente journal 17, no. 2 (2013): 61–66. doi:10.7812/tpp/12-085 ))it addresses human equity and impoverishment. because animals are so inefficient at converting the calories in plant feed to calories in meat, dairy, and eggs, many times fewer impoverished people can be fed by animal-based agriculture than by plant-based agriculture.((cassidy, emily s., paul c. west, james s. gerber, and jonathan a. foley. “redefining agricultural yields: from tonnes to people nourished per hectare.” environmental research letters 8, no. 3 (2013): 034015. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/8/3/034015 ))it prevents violence. educating others, especially children, to show civility toward animals can help in preventing violence to humans. studies show an undeniable link between cruelty to animals and violence toward humans.((siebert, charles. “the animal-cruelty syndrome.” the new york times, june 11, 2010, sec. magazine. https://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/13/magazine/13dogfighting-t.html ))it helps the environment. we should do all we can to minimize harming the environment that sustains us all. the significant contributions of animal agriculture to climate change, depletion of fish, destruction of wildlife, deforestation, water depletion, and other environmental issues would all be eliminated.((hyner, christopher, and j.d. candidate. “a leading cause of everything: one industry that is destroying our planet and our ability to thrive on it.” stanford environmental law journal (selj). accessed september 23, 2017. https://journals.law.stanford.edu/stanford-environmental-law-journal-elj/blog/leading-cause-everything-one-industry-destroying-our-planet-and-our-ability-thrive-it ))
all oppression has the same roots.one of the problems plaguing the world is the oppression of others based on color, gender, ethnicity, or sexual identity. these problems are all rooted in the indefensible notion that others are less valuable because they differ in some way that is not pertinent. it’s the same with our exploitation of animals.all forms of oppression are interconnected. if we taught our children at an early age to value the lives of all sentient beings, it is unlikely they would grow up to hate and oppress other humans because of these irrelevant differences.
the objection is disingenuous.the people who raise this objection would not raise the same objection to people who volunteer at the local humane society for the benefit of companion animals—or to people who volunteer to organize purely gratuitous events, such as a game-day tailgating party.
the objection presents a false choice.there is no reason why one cannot work both for humanitarian causes and for animal rights causes. many vegan and animal rights activists, if not most, are engaged in other causes that directly help humans.they volunteer to feed the homeless, deliver meals to the elderly, work with drug addicts, and work with a variety of issues, such as civil rights, women's rights, and other causes of which humans, not animals, are the beneficiaries.when presented with the objection that we should spend our energies helping humans instead of animals, professor tom regan very simply and eloquently said, "we can do both; we should do both."((“tom regan; animal rights.” weeac. accessed september 23, 2017. http://goo.gl/mpa9bd ))
“There are no true vegans. Animal products are in car tires and everywhere.”“there are no true vegans. animal products are in car tires and everywhere.”“there are no true vegans. animal products are in car tires and everywhere.”all-objections ethics-objections objections situational-objections [toc label="talking points"] some have objected to veganism on the grounds that there are no true or pure vegans by virtue of the widespread inclusion of animal-derived products in many everyday items. this complaint, at best, reveals a lack of understanding about the definition and essence of veganism. at worst, it is an attempt to apply standards to veganism that would not be applied to any other cause or movement.
vegans seek to minimize harm to animals, not be perfect.vegans seek to eliminate harm to animals, according to the most widely accepted definition of veganism, "as far as is possible and practicable." there are some items containing incidental amounts of animal products for which there are no viable substitutes or for which substitutes are very difficult to obtain. automobile tires are one such example.this situation is beyond our control in the short term. it would be nonsensible to say that because we can't be perfect vegans, we shouldn't do anything. with the wide variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds available to most—as well as an increasingly large selection of processed vegan foods—it is not at all logistically difficult for most to adopt a vegan diet. adopting a vegan diet would eliminate, by far, most of the unnecessary suffering and slaughter that we pay others to inflict on animals.
once we stop eating animals, other uses will be eliminated or greatly reduced.the incidental use of animals in everyday products will take care of itself as veganism gains acceptance and people adopt a vegan diet. many of the products used, for which there are already alternatives, are byproducts of the slaughter process. as animal slaughter becomes less commonplace, nonanimal substitutes will be used and new substitutes will be developed.
no one objects to other worthy causes just because perfection is unobtainable.it would be difficult to think of any movement or cause in which perfection is obtainable. no one would say that because we will never completely stop discrimination, we shouldn't try to do what we can. no one would say that because we will never stop child abuse completely that we shouldn't even try. no one would say, for any worthwhile cause, that if we can't do everything, we shouldn't do anything. it seems disingenuous to apply such a standard of purity or perfection to veganism while ignoring it for other causes.
“Veganism would devastate the economy and cause massive unemployment.”“veganism would devastate the economy and cause massive unemployment.”“veganism would devastate the economy and cause massive unemployment.”all-objections ethics-objections objections [toc label="talking points"]the claim that veganism would devastate the economy and cause massive unemployment seems to be one of the most concerning objections to veganism and animal rights. after all, animal agriculture is a major segment of the economies of all industrialized nations. this objection is, however, defeated by a closer examination of the topic.
economies will have ample time to adjust.it's beyond improbable that everyone would go vegan at once. it will happen gradually, over a period of years or maybe even decades. as with past shifts in consumer preferences, economic resources and jobs will shift to accommodate the movement away from animal products.such shifts are not unusual. we are now witnessing a shift away from fossil fuels to more sustainable sources of energy, including a switch from gasoline-engine-powered cars to electric cars. the trend toward internet sales is continuing to cause job movement. in the past, we have seen a shift from an agrarian economy to an industrial economy to an information economy. in all these cases, new opportunities are created as others are diminished or eliminated.
most would choose principles over a beneficial economic impact.although people frequently make purchasing choices based on pricing and principles, it seems that few make choices on the basis of their national economy.imagine a country named tobaccastan, whose economy depended on the sale of cigarettes. if you lived there, would you refuse to stop smoking because it would hurt the economy if everyone quit? would you sacrifice your health and the health of others for the health of the economy? this example, while not perfect, does shed light on the nature of our purchasing choices.
veganism benefits the economy.as illustrated here and by other sources, animal agriculture unnecessarily harms innocent animals, is destructive to the environment, damages human health, and contributes to human impoverishment. the last three of these put a strain on the economy. because of this, veganism is a net benefit to any economy, especially over time.
“I only eat meat I hunt and kill myself.” To Do“i only eat meat i hunt and kill myself.” to do“i only eat meat i hunt and kill myself.” to doall-objections ethics-objections objections
“More small animals are killed in plant farming than are killed by us eating them.” To Do“more small animals are killed in plant farming than are killed by us eating them.” to do“more small animals are killed in plant farming than are killed by us eating them.” to doall-objections ethics-objections objections
“Vegans who support abortion are inconsistent” To Do“vegans who support abortion are inconsistent” to do“vegans who support abortion are inconsistent” to doall-objections ethics-objections objections
“You shouldn’t compare the confinement and slaughter of animals to human slavery and the holocaust” To Do“you shouldn’t compare the confinement and slaughter of animals to human slavery and the holocaust” to do“you shouldn’t compare the confinement and slaughter of animals to human slavery and the holocaust” to doall-objections ethics-objections objections