This is one of my favorite responses from omnivores when they find out that I would love it if the whole world stopped eating animals. “But what would we do with all the animals that are currently on farms? They’d have to die–we can’t possibly keep them all around if they’re going to serve no purpose.* Is that what you want? You want all the farm animals to just die?”
Um…okay, really? Yes, that is why I’m vegan – because I’d like all the farm animals to DIE! Does that even make sense?
First of all, people aren’t going to go vegan over night – at least not the entire population. These kinds of things don’t just happen like that. If they did, I guess I’d have to give some pretty serious thought to what would happen to the billions upon billions of animals that are currently suffering on farms everywhere. Until that’s a real possibility, I’m not really going to stress too much about what we’d do with all the now “useless” animals.
Secondly, the fact of the matter is that many farmed animals could likely survive if they were left to their own devices. Those that couldn’t – like “broiler” chickens – would only find it difficult because of human intervention in their breeding. Chickens who are bred for meat grow so large so quickly that even with the best of care, they do not live long. My sister lives in Tampa, FL and she sees wild chickens all the time. They live like any other normal wild bird, and are happy and free. Many farmed animals would be able to do the same if given the opportunity.
The last thing I’d say on this issue is that sometimes people say that these animals wouldn’t even exist if we didn’t breed them and eat them, and isn’t it better to have existed just for a little while than to never be born at all? To that I’d like to say a BIG FAT NO. If an animal never existed, s/he would never know s/he never existed, but when an animal lives in pain and fear every day of his/her short life, and then is brutally slaughtered at the hands of humans, s/he knows it. That’s no way to live. So, do I want pigs, cows, and chickens to exist? Of course I do – but I want their existences to be ones of joy and comfort. And I don’t want them to die just because humans like the way they taste!
___________* Someone actually told me that animals would “serve no purpose” if humans didn’t use them for food, clothing, etc. I did not do a very good job of hiding my shock.