A classic gotcha question answered simply
Recently, The Guardian asked readers to submit their response to this question. They’ve published some scintillating responses.
Below is my response. Also worth reading is There’s an Elephant in the Room’s essay from a few years ago which goes into more detail.
Although this is generally a gotcha question, I don’t believe it’s terrible because in answering it, one may highlights much of what the world doesn’t know about animal agribusiness and veganism
First, veganism is an ethical practice excluding to the extent possible and practicable the use of animals for food, clothing, entertainment or any other reason. The eating part is just one thing, albeit the most visible and involving the greatest number of victims
Second, society rationalises animal use because culturally and legally all animals are categorised as objects belonging either to individuals, corporates or the State. Yes, objects like your laptop. All animals – human and non-human – are not objects because they share one important trait: sentience. For it to be a meaningful term and not self-serving, sentience simply means having an interest in being alive for one more moment
Third, all animals involved in animal agribusiness are bred into existence through human intervention
Male animals are exploited for semen and female animals for ova. Male animals are often discarded at birth, as it happens in the dairy and egg laying industries
Female animals are subject to continued exploitation until they’re spent, which happens much earlier than their natural lifespans
None of this is morally good or pleasant. It’s simply a relentless gendered exploitationof reproductive systems, which the world accepts as a norm
If the world went vegan, then it means the world would have embraced ethical principles it currently doesn’t apply to animals at all and even struggles to apply to people, in some cases. We’d be living in a much more equitable world where non-human animals would no longer be classed as objects. If they’re not objects, they’d have the right to exist free of exploitation
We would’ve stopped breeding captive animals and would be thinking about how to manage the lives of those animals who remain in the custody of agribusiness and other businesses where animals are bred for profit
Today, we slaughter cows under 36 months of age, pigs anytime between three and 16 weeks (sometimes five to 10 months), sheep and goats between six and 12 months and chickens between 36 and 60 days, depending on weight, with organic poultry killed at 98 days. The natural lifespan of all these so-called farm animals is between seven and 20 years
Without relentless breeding, we would have a finite number to manage and look after whilst we also figured out how we would manage, look after and transition people working in the animal agribusiness and other animal exploiting businesses into different and non-exploitative industries
I look forward to that vegan world for people and animals alike
*note: the chart above excludes cows and chickens slaughtered for the dairy and egg industry