This weekend I got into a rather passionate debate with some friends of friends about animal rights. One of them was pretty educated about the evils of factory farming, and said that she didn’t eat much meat because she had to know where it came from. Her husband on the other hand, didn’t know much about factory farming at all, though he was curious about what I had to say and was a good, respectful listener.
After a lot of back and forth about how animals are treated, how ethical meat consumption is, and why I’m vegan, we ended up with them stating that animals wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for humans to eat them – as in, they were put on this earth specifically for us to use as we see fit. I said that I think animals exist for their own purposes, not for ours. They exist to be pigs and cows and chickens and zebras and elephants. I asked them why lions exist, since we don’t eat them (okay, maybe some humans eat lions, but I don’t think many).
“To eat zebras”, they replied.
“Um, ok, why do dogs exist?”
“To be our companions and protectors.”
“So why do humans exist?”
“To eat animals.”
“Wait – so everything on this earth exists to either eat other animals or to be
eaten by them? Or apparently, in the case of dogs, to be our buddies?”
They didn’t really have an answer to that.
It is kind of weird to think that we’re all just here to eat each other, isn’t it? I mean, to be fair, I don’t know why the hell we’re all here either, but I certainly do not think it’s to eat or be eaten.
They also tried to tell me that veganism is no better because of all the animals that are killed in the process of harvesting vegetables and grains. UGH. I am so tired of hearing that one. Let’s walk through this: yes, small animals and insects are killed in modern agriculture in the planting and harvesting of various crops. Those crops are then largely fed to “food animals”, which are then slaughtered and fed to humans. So, logically speaking, we could kill significantly fewer animals by simply harvesting those crops and eating them directly, could we not? And isn’t that better from an animal rights perspective than the alternative? Yes, yes it is. Plus, I don’t claim to be perfect – I step on ants and insects all the time, I’m sure. I hit them with my car. I live my life trying to do the least harm possible, but I can’t claim I’ve done no harm to animals.
It gets exhausting fielding these same questions again and again to people, and yet I have to remind myself that I once thought that way, and if no one had ever explained things to me, I’d still be eating the standard American diet – SAD! Do I think this couple is going to be vegan now? Heck no, but at least I tried to explain my perspective to them, to show them that not everyone thinks that animals are here just for our selfish human purposes. Maybe eventually it will sink in, maybe it won’t, but I did what I could!
So, friends, why do we humans exist anyway?