“If everyone went vegan, what would happen to all the farm animals? If it weren’t for humans, sheep would be extinct!”
I remember the first time I was asked this question, I was quite shocked. I’m sad to report that I ranted and rambled and didn’t give a good answer at all, and the person who asked me walked away, quite smug.
In retrospect, I think the reason I was shocked was because as a vegan I have a very different worldview from someone who lives a lifestyle that incorporates animal products. It was a good reminder that not everyone sees the world the same way I do. It was also a reminder that, despite all the hard work of those in the animal rights community, and the progress that has been made, there is still a real lack of awareness in the mainstream about the realities of factory farming.
This question is not a simple one to answer because it assumes two things that vegans (and certainly I) don’t necessarily believe: 1) that farmed animals are on this earth for the purpose of feeding human beings; and 2) that being part of the system that supports a diet that includes animal products (thereby “allowing” domesticated animals to have a purposeful existence) is a good thing. So to answer it, you have to take a step back.
My answer to this question (because I have been asked it a few times since that first encounter) goes something like this:
“If everyone went vegan we would no longer have animals being born into a cruel system that gives them no kind of life any creature in their right mind would desire. Maybe farmed animal species would die out, and maybe they wouldn’t - maybe there would still be people who would keep cows, pigs, sheep, chickens and other farmed animals as members of their families – because all of these animals have attributes that make them wonderful companions. But the point is that we are currently breeding animals and bringing them into a life of slavery and misery, and the more people who go vegan and refuse to support that system, the better.”
Though it is difficult information to take in, and even more difficult to watch, we have a responsibility to be aware of what really goes on, and bear witness, for the sake of the animals who suffer and die every day. When you know you will be able to talk about the facts knowledgably, raising the awareness that is needed in order for significant change to happen. If you would like to read more about the way animals are treated on factory farms, check out these links:
- From CTV’s W5: Undercover investigation reveals disturbing and inhumane treatment of factory farm animals
- BeVeg.ca: Factory Farming in Canada
- DoSomething.org: 11 facts about factory farming
- Mercy for Animals
- Farm Sanctuary