How to Respond to…”If everyone went vegan, what would happen to all the farm animals?”


“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:



About the Author:

Emma Levez Larocque is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, writer and Certified Plant-Based Chef living on the west coast of Canada. She has been veg for 22 years, vegan for 7. Her passion is working to make veganism mainstream to promote a better, kinder world for all beings.
  • Anna Turkiewicz

    I just answer “I think farm animals would be better off going extinct than living like this”

  • Ricki

    I think it’s a nonsensical question to begin with. Where were farm animals BEFORE we started industrial farming? Before farming, period? We didn’t create these animals in a lab somewhere–they existed alongside us, just like squirrels, coyotes, rabbits, bears, giraffes, etc. They would go back to being what they were before, part of the overall system of animals and humans on earth. Of course, that would mean giving them space and conditions in which they could live, which I assume is getting harder and harder in our overcrowded, industrialized world.

  • fynn

    But then you’re putting words into an animals mouths. They deserve freedom of speech.

  • Chris hc

    I find this pretty ludicrous; would you prefer that a Sheep does not give birth to a lamb, which lives enjoyably, running around and playing in the countryside for just over a year and is then killed? So they are better off becoming extinct? Really? Than living in fields? Factory farming is completely different – even I don’t agree or subscribe to that. But extinction? So therefore, grey squirrels in the UK – would the red squirrels (the natural inhabitants before the grey’s introduction around 1893 – from America) be better off becoming extinct rather than slowly being eked out thanks to mans interference? As for the quantity – remember when all the rabbits had myxomatosis – so it would have been better to let them all get it – like the plague? Or let all cattle get TB? The space/conditions element does not apply to farm cattle and sheep – to merely refer to that element does not correctly describe or ascertain your position on this whole debate. It’s like something an MP would say.

  • TG154

    You’re making the assumption that current domesticated animals are the same as they were in the wild. That is simply not the case. Modern domesticated farm animals such as our dairy cows have evolved from their wild ancestors into a species incapable of surviving on their own. It is similar to the fact that if we released every dog into the wild, certain man-made breeds like the bulldog would die out very quickly.

  • fearnot

    so better dead than born or better dead than bred.. interesting

  • rosross

    It is perfectly possible to raise animals humanely and to make use of their produce whether you kill them or not. Apart from which, plants also have feelings. Who says a cow feels more than a carrot? Surely what matters is that people respect all life wherever they find it.

    When an animals kills to eat to survive it does so as part of a sacred pact between itself and its victim. Spend some time in Africa watching wild animals and you will know that.

    And humans have more options. Again in Africa, where there are no birds or animals because they have been eaten, where people eat grass and due during famines – do you think they would not find delusional this Western fashion for veganism?

    Beyond the fact that vegetarian diets rarely contain adequate nutrition for health for most people – there are exceptions – and meat is required by many, the reality is that food is food. In parts of Africa they catch mice which breed in the maize crops and slide them onto sticks to boil or roast them and then eat them, as a treat, skin, entrails and all. It provides people who live mostly on maize with nutrition with enables them and their children to live.

    Anyone starving would eat anything. People who live in poverty don’t worry about what they will eat as indulged Westerners do but if they will eat.

    Everything dies to give life and whether it is a bird, animal, insect, fish or a grain, vegetable, fruit – all offer their life as a part of the ‘sacrifice’ which is life.

    Being a vegetarian if it suits you makes some sense if you can indulge in the habit – none if life means eating meat – but being a vegan is delusional given that it is impossible and insane to remove all animal products from this world.

    For one thing it would mean the end of our greatest art works which can only be maintained and repaired with the use of animal glues. Wool, honey, leather – can one use products from animals who just drop dead? Is one allowed to put down an injured animal? Or will all the domestic animals just die?

    And how on earth does it harm a bee to eat their honey? Or a sheep to use their wool, or a goat for that matter? How does it hurt them to milk them and make cheese. How traumatised is a happy chicken, raised with love, when you collect the eggs which are not unfertilised?

    Veganism is more like a religion when taken to extremes. And no doubt it has come into being because religion has diminished in modern times.

  • sabelmouse

    depends on their actual quality of life, don’t it? farms are not cafos.

  • Mahalet M

    Plants do not feel pain, they can respond to stimuli, but they don’t have central nervous systems rendering them incapable to feel pain. Furthermore, most plants want to be eaten, when animals eat the fruits of a tree and defecate, the seeds are fertilized and more trees can grow. It is also worth noting that plants are not killed when their fruit, or leaves are picked, in fact the plant grows back another leaf/fruit and thrives, this cannot be said of an animal killed for meat.

    Vegetarian and vegan diets are perfectly adequate and support optimal health, the only concerns in a vegan diet would be omega-3s and B12. Omega-3 requirements can be easily be filled with chia or flax seeds, algae powder, or algae oil supplements. Most non-dairy milks, cereals, nutritional yeast, etc are fortified with B12 and B12 can also be accessed with regular consumption of organically grown, unwashed vegetables.

    Bees work hard to make their honey so that they don’t starve in the winter months, only to have their honey stolen. Sheep often have the skin around their rectums cut off without pain killers. Dairy cows are kept artificially impregnated almost constantly and have their children stolen from them so that people can have cheese. Chickens naturally lay eggs to fill their nests, taking their eggs signals their body to produce more. Laying eggs takes a lot of calcium and energy from the chicken and chickens usually cannibalize their unfertilized eggs to get back the nutrients they need.

    Animal products are cruel, unnecessary, unhealthy, and environmentally damaging.

  • Robert C. Mustain

    The argument that living a blissful existence is preferable than making your own way through life is rediculous. There is no valid argument that says we should enslave a species because we cannot perceive them being happy unless otherwise. The animals we enslave were doing fine without us before, and even though we have bred the wild out of them we can still allow them to live without raping them, tending their flesh, rubbing our bodies in their fat, covering ourselves in their fur, and using their skin. If you chose to use the internet for something other than reinforcing your confirmation bias, you could find an alternative to every animal product that does not involve these despicable acts. Sure, you may be so low and lazy as a person to think the convenience you get from the easy purchase of these things saves you an hour or so a week… but what are you doing with that time that means anything, anyway?

  • Robert C. Mustain

    Plants have feelings? Here we go…