In reply to: If we all go vegan, farm animals will either overrun the world or become extinct
- 1 Context
- 2 Talking Points
- 3 See Also
- 4 Footnotes
- 5 Meta
We often hear two related but opposite objections to animal rights and veganism—that if everyone went vegan, animals would either overrun the world or become extinct. Of course, animals can't both overrun the world and become extinct at the same time. Yet these complaints are sometimes voiced, oddly enough, one after the other by the same person. Neither objection has merit. In the case of species extinction, we show that eating animals is the problem, not the solution to the problem.
As more people become vegan, we will gradually stop breeding animals.
Animals will not overrun the planet, because people will not all go vegan at once. Over one hundred billion land animals are slaughtered annually, but as more people go vegan, the demand for animal products will decrease, resulting in less breeding and slaughter.
Animal agriculture, as a profit-driven business sector, will breed into existence only the number of animals that will cover projected sales. It's a simple matter of supply and demand.
Farm animals are genetic anomalies that we shouldn't continue to breed.
Farm animals are far different from their natural ancestors. After decades of carrying out selective breeding without regard for the well-being of the animals being bred, we have sadly made them freaks of nature.
Chickens raised for meat are a prime example. They have more than doubled in weight in the past century, from 2.50 pounds in 1925 to 6.18 pounds in 2017, and a chicken's breast has been engineered to now be huge in relation to the rest of the chicken's body. Also, the growth of these unfortunate birds has been accelerated to such an extent that the slaughter weight is reached in fewer than fifty-seven days.
The excess weight and rapid growth cause leg problems, skeletal abnormalities, heart and lung disease, footpad dermatitis, ascites and acute heart failure, and high mortality. Walking becomes so painful that the birds move only to get food and water, spending most of their time lying down.
Other farm animals suffer similar deformities from selective breeding; the aim of such breeding is to produce the most meat, milk, and eggs in the shortest possible time with the least expense and the most profit.
These innocent individuals deserve our moral consideration, but it makes no sense for them to carry on as species, except for perhaps as small numbers of individuals in sanctuaries. Their bodies are frail from selective breeding, their capacity to positively contribute to the ecosystem is diminished due to their lack of independence from the agricultural systems that created them, and they cannot live on their own in the wild. They are creations of humankind and should be allowed to fade from existence.
Animal agriculture is likely the greatest cause of species extinction.
It's ironic that one would be concerned about the extinction of selectively bred farm animals when animal agriculture is a major cause of species extinction—most likely the greatest cause of species extinction—launching the planet into what scientists call the sixth mass extinction.
According to a systematic review published in Science of the Total Environment in 2015, which analyzed over 140 research papers and studies, "animal product consumption by humans is likely the leading cause of modern species extinctions, since it is not only the major driver of deforestation but also a principle driver of land degradation, pollution, climate change, overfishing, sedimentation of coastal areas, facilitation of invasions by alien species, and loss of wild carnivores and wild herbivores."
Another study, published in 2015 in Science Advances, confirms what many scientists have been saying, reporting there being "an exceptionally rapid loss of biodiversity over the last few centuries, indicating that a sixth mass extinction is already underway."
The studies cited here are just a couple of the many studies made by scientists in the last few years that reach essentially the same conclusions.
Eating animals is the problem, not the remedy.
I hope you can see the absurdity in first declaring that we have to eat farm animals because they may overrun the earth if we don't and then proceeding to continue breeding said animals that might overrun the earth.
We have shown not only that will animals not overrun the earth but also that animal extinction is caused by eating animals and is remedied by the world going vegan, not the other way around.
- “U.S. Broiler Performance.” The National Chicken Council (blog), September 26, 2017. http://www.nationalchickencouncil.org/about-the-industry/statistics/u-s-broiler-performance/
- “Out of Sight, Out of Mind.” Georgians for Pastured Poultry, 2012. https://www.ciwf.com/media/1141326/outofsight-full-report.pdf
- Machovina, Brian, Kenneth J. Feeley, and William J. Ripple. “Biodiversity Conservation: The Key Is Reducing Meat Consumption.” Science of The Total Environment 536 (December 2015): 419–31. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.07.022
- Ceballos, Gerardo, Paul R. Ehrlich, Anthony D. Barnosky, Andrés García, Robert M. Pringle, and Todd M. Palmer. “Accelerated Modern Human–induced Species Losses: Entering the Sixth Mass Extinction.” Science Advances 1, no. 5 (June 1, 2015): e1400253. https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.1400253
This article was originally authored by Greg Fuller and copyedited by Isaac Nickerson. The contents may have been edited since that time by others.