Sunday, November 9, 2008

Should we all be vegans?

Activist groups like PETA often promote the message that we should all be vegan and that farm animals would be more healthy and happy if they were allowed to wander unfettered through sun-lit pastures rather than being farmed. Is this really the future that we want to see?

Ok. Let’s think about this from an animal welfare point-of-view. Leaving aside the increased risk of predation (coyotes killing sheep, foxes killing lambs, chickens as road-kill), there’s no doubt that animal health can be at risk in such an environment. Investigation of the recent avian flu outbreaks showed that the spread and prevalence of the disease was widespread among outdoor and backyard chicken flocks, with no disease found on farms where chickens were housed in barns. Allowing animals to wander free totally negates biosecurity, putting the entire US herd or flock at risk, especially when notifiable diseases such as avian flu or foot-and-mouth occur. While it’s nice to imagine ‘happy’ Holstein cows peacefully grazing lush spring pastures, what happens when that pasture is buried under 48 inches of snow, or is bare and brown after only 1 inch of rain has fallen in the past four months? More to the point, where’s this pasture going to come from? If a producer doesn’t need to use their land to produce animal feed, how long will it be before it’s covered with concrete and houses?

However, this brings me to my main point, the one that the idealistic vegans seem to miss: if we all went vegan tomorrow, there would be no farm animals. No cute little chickens for the kids to hand feed, no baby lambs to pet at farm days, no doe-eyed Jerseys for 4-H kids to raise and take care of… just a big pile of 9.2 million slaughtered dairy cows.

Welfare-friendly? I think not.

Myth..... BUSTED!

By Jude L. Capper

NEXT MYTH: The American Medical Association and American Dietetic Association have both stated that saturated fat consumption leads to increased cholesterol levels and heart disease. Does consumption of dairy products predispose us to heart disease?


Tina said...

This is so ridiculous, I'm not even sure where to start. I guess I will just start at the beginning.

"PETA says we should all be vegan." Yes, they do. (I am not a member of PETA).

"PETA says that that farm animals would be more healthy and happy if they were allowed to wander unfettered through sun-lit pastures rather than being farmed." I am not sure they specifically say that, but I think it is clearly true. Farm animals currently are killed at probably an average of 6 months old. Dairy cows live to 4-5 yrs, egg-laying hens to about 2 yrs. Depending on species, they may spend most or all of that time in great discomfort, such as not being able to sit down or turn around. Imagine not being able to sit down for your entire life. They all endure painful procedures without anaesthetic. And then they are all shipped and slaughtered. Would they be happier in a field? Would you? Do you consider a slaughtered animal healthy? Is an animal that is alive healthier than an animal that is dead?

The crux of your argument is that if the 10 billion animals we kill every year were instantly released and left to fend for themselves, there would be suffering. Yes, if we abandon 10 billion animals, of course there will be suffering. Is that what vegans suggest - "everybody abandon your animals"? To play along with you, along with everyone else in this fantasy world where everyone is an instant vegan, CEOs of agribusiness would become vegan as well, and so they would care for the animals they have suddenly come to see as sentient beings. At farm animal sanctuaries they sterilize all the males. With anesthetic.

But your conclusion is that therefore, because instant nationwide veganism would cause a disruption in farm animal's lives, we must continue breeding them and eating them. For their own good. 10 billion this year, and next year, and the year after that, forever.
Fantasy worlds are all well and good, and dreams are wonderful things, but should we be making personal decisions, one at a time, based on what would happen in a dream world? How does your nightmare scenario have the slightest bit of relevance to your personal decision to eat a Big Mac?

Alex Chernavsky said...

I can't speak for all vegans, but my vision (hope?) for the future is that the demand for animal products will slowly decrease, and hence the number of farmed animals will gradually decline. There will be no large-scale, immediate slaughter of 9.2 million dairy cows. And, for the record, I'm perfectly fine with all the "cute little chickens", "baby lambs", etc. going extinct.

Incidentally, many vegans (myself included) dislike PETA and disagree with much of what they do.

Arguing against your opponents is all very well and good, but you should do your homework first. Might I suggest starting here and here?

usflin said...

"Leaving aside the increased risk of predation (coyotes killing sheep, foxes killing lambs, chickens as road-kill)"...Tell me, is killing animals for human consumption somehow better for the animal than being killed by predators?

You present a highly unlikely scenario - a world where everyone becomes a vegan overnight. I propose just as ridiculous a solution: a world where everyone would want to adopt all those "useless" farm animals as pets since they won't need to be killed any more.

kino said...

Cows are a recently introduced mammal in many countries. In Australia the year was 1788, in the USA 1640, In New Zealand 1790, In China 1945, In Japan recently, in Korea recently, In the pacific nations, very recently, and so on. This created a problem in the fragile ecology of the above mentioned countries.
Cows eat. Cows produce gas. Their flatulence emits methane
gas. Their urine produces nitrous oxide which adds to the
"Global Warming/ Greenhouse Effect." Add it all together and
each one of New Zealand's nine million dairy cows produces
189 pounds of methane gas per year. More of the same occurs
wherever farm animals are raised for human consumption.


Methane gas (C-H-4) makes the second biggest contribution to
global warming (carbon dioxide is number 1). The digestive
processes of cattle, particularly cows and sheep, is the
major source of methane emissions.


America's Environmental Protection Agency predicts that
rising global temperatures will melt polar ice and raise sea
levels, change precipitation and other local climate
conditions, alter forests, decrease crop yields, threaten
human health, and harm birds, fish, and many types of

There are
9.15 million cows in America and over 100 million cattle.
Ten billion farm animals will be slaughtered this year in
America. All must eat. We human consumers must logically
take responsibility for their indigestion.


The 100 million American cattle each eat 80 pounds of feed
per day. They collectively produce 8 billion daily pounds of
body wastes. Some 280 million Americans eat 5 pounds per day
of feed, and produce 1.4 billion pounds per day of body
wastes. Cattle produce nearly 6 times the amount of body
waste as do humans. Human waste is processed in sewage
treatment plants. Cattle waste is released into fields and streams.