Surely there are more pressing practical problems than AR,
such as homelessness; haven't you got better things to do?
#27 If everyone became vegetarian and gave up keeping pets, what
would happen to all the animals?
#28 Grazing animals on land not suited for agriculture increases the food
supply; how can that be considered wrong?
#29 If we try to eliminate all animals products, we'll be moving back to
the Stone Age; who wants that?
#30 It's virtually impossible to eliminate all animal products from one's
consumption; what's the point if you still cause animal death without knowing it?
#31 Wouldn't many customs and traditions, as well as jobs, be lost if we
stopped using animals?
The animal product industries are big business; wouldn't the economy
be crippled if they all stopped?
#26 Surely there
are more pressing practical problems than AR, such as homelessness; haven't you got better
things to do?
There are very
serious problems in our world that deserve our attention; cruelty to animals is one of
them. We should try to alleviate suffering wherever we can. Helping animals is not more or
less important than helping human beings -- both are important. Animal suffering and human
suffering are interconnected.
Inherent in this question is an assumption that it is more
important to help humans than to help nonhumans. Some would dismiss this as a speciesist
position (see question #1). It is possible, however, to invoke the scale-of-life notion
and argue that there is greater suffering and loss associated with cruelty and neglect of
humans than with animals.
This might appear to constitute a prima-facie case for expending one's
energies for humans rather than nonhumans. However, even if we accept the scale-of-life
notion, there are sound reasons for expending time and energy on the issue of rights for
Many of the consequences of carrying out the AR agenda are highly
beneficial to humans. For example, stopping the production and consumption of animal
products would result in a significant improvement of the general health of the human
population, and destruction of the environment would be greatly reduced.
Fostering compassion for animals is likely to pay dividends in terms of
a general increase of compassion in human affairs. Tom Regan puts it this way:
...the animal rights movement is a part of, not antagonistic to, the
human rights movement. The theory that rationally grounds the rights of animals also
grounds the rights of humans. Thus those involved in the animal rights movement are
partners in the struggle to secure respect for human rights--the rights of women, for
example, or minorities, or workers. The animal rights movement is cut from the same moral
cloth as these.
Finally, the behavior asked for by the AR agenda involves little
expenditure of energy. We are asking people to NOT do things: don't eat meat, don't
exploit animals for entertainment, don't wear furs.
These negative actions don't interfere with our ability to care for
humans. In some cases, they may actually make more time available for doing so (e.g., time
spent hunting or visiting zoos and circuses). --DG
Living cruelty-free is not a full-time job; rather, it's a way of life.
When I shop, I check ingredients and I consider if the product is tested on animals. These
things only consume a few minutes of the day. There is ample time left for helping both
humans and nonhumans. --JLS
"I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is
the way of a whole human being."
--Abraham Lincoln (16th U.S. President)
"To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious
than that of a human being."
--Mahatma Gandhi (statesman and philosopher)
"Our task must be to free ourselves...by widening our
circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its
beauty." --Albert Einstein (physicist, Nobel 1921)
They might ask explicitly, "Can't you find something better to do with your energy?" or "Why don't you work on fighting global poverty or child abuse or abortion?"
Remember that your goal is not to win this argument . Of course, the people who ask this question are probably not spending their own time fighting global poverty, so you could easily win the argument by pointing out that the person is a complete hypocrite. But however tempting and fun that might be, that's really not an effective way of bringing this person around to your way of thinking. Instead, acknowledge that it's a good question. Point out that you care about humans, too. And bring them around to an understanding that you are simply asking them to live up to their own ethical standards, which will include opposing cruelty to animals.
You may choose to say, "I see what you're saying, and I do support groups such as Amnesty International and Oxfam that fight for human rights as well. But don't you agree that cruelty to animals should be opposed?" Once they agree, you might continue by pointing out, "One of the great aspects of helping prevent cruelty to farmed animals is that it takes no extra time. We can continue our activism against AIDS or child abuse while simply choosing a veggie burger instead of chicken flesh at lunch. Of course, if we eat the veggie burger, we will likely be around a lot longer to fight for human rights, because vegetarians are less likely to suffer from heart disease, strokes, and colon cancer. Plus, because meat is so wasteful of fuel, grain, and water, you will be helping prevent global hunger by going vegetarian. It's a win-win decision for both animals and people. Here, won't you please read this brochure? I think that it will help explain why this issue is so important to me."
SEE ALSO: #1, #87, #95
became vegetarian and gave up keeping pets, what would happen to all the animals?
It's unrealistic to expect that everyone will stop eating animals
overnight. As the demand for meat decreases, the number of animals bred will decrease.
Farmers will stop breeding so many animals and will turn to other types of agriculture.
When there are fewer of these animals, they will be able to live more natural lives.
As vegetarianism grows, the number of
animals bred for food gradually will decline, since the market will no longer exist for
them. Similarly, a gradual decrease would accompany the lessening demand for the breeding
of companion animals. In both cases, those animals that remain will be better cared for by
a more compassionate society. --LK
SEE ALSO: #75
animals on land not suited for agriculture increases the food supply; how can that be
There are areas in the
world where grazing of livestock is possible but agriculture is not. If conditions are
such that people living in these areas cannot trade for crops and must raise livestock to
survive, few would question the practice. However, such areas are very small in comparison
to the fertile and semi-arid regions currently utilized for intensive grazing, and they do
not appreciably contribute to the world food supply. (Some would argue that it is morally
preferable not to live in such areas.)
The real issue is the intensive grazing in the fertile and semi-arid
regions. The use of such areas for livestock raising reduces the world food supply. Keith
Acker writes as follows in his "A Vegetarian Sourcebook":
Land, energy, and water resources for livestock agriculture range
anywhere from 10 to 1000 times greater than those necessary to produce an equivalent
amount of plant foods. And livestock agriculture does not merely use these resources, it
depletes them. This is a matter of historical record. Most of the world's soil, erosion,
groundwater depletion, and deforestation--factors now threatening the very basis of our
food system--are the result of this particularly destructive form of food production.
Livestock agriculture is also the single greatest cause of world-wide
deforestation both historically and currently (between 1967 and 1975, two-thirds of 70
million acres of lost forest went to grazing). Between 1950 and 1975 the area of
human-created pasture land in Central America more than doubled, almost all of it at the
expense of rain forests. Although this trend has slowed down, it still continues at an
alarming and inexorable pace.
Grazing requires large tracts of land and the consequences of
overgrazing and soil erosion are very serious ecological problems. By conservative
estimates, 60 percent of all U.S. grasslands are overgrazed, resulting in billions of tons
of soil lost each year. The amount of U.S. topsoil lost to date is about 75 percent, and
85 percent of that is directly associated with livestock grazing. Overgrazing has been the
single largest cause of human-made deserts.
One could argue that grazing is being replaced by the "feedlot
paradigm". These systems graze the livestock prior to transport to a feedlot for
final "fattening" with grains grown on crop lands. Although this does reduce
grazing somewhat, it is not eliminated, and the feedlot part of the paradigm still
constitutes a highly inefficient use of crops (to feed a human with livestock requires 16
times the grain that would be necessary if the grain was consumed directly). It has been
estimated that in the U.S., 80 percent of the corn and 95 percent of the oats grown are
fed to livestock. --TA
"I grew up in cattle country--that's why I became a vegetarian.
Meat stinks, for the animals, the environment, and your health."
#29 If we try to
eliminate all animals products, we'll be moving back to the Stone Age; who wants that?
On the contrary! It is a dependency upon animal products that
could be seen as returning us to the technologies and mind set of the Stone Age. For
example, Stone Age people had to wear furs in Northern climates to avoid freezing. That is
no longer the case, thanks to central heating and the ready availability of plenty of good
plant and human-made fabrics. If we are to characterize the modern age, it could be in
terms of the greater freedoms and options made possible by technological advance and
social progress. The Stone Age people had few options and so were forced to rely upon
animals for food, clothing, and materials for their implements. Today, we have an
abundance of choices for better foods, warmer clothing, and more efficient materials, none
of which need depend upon the killing of animals. --TA
It seems to me that the only Stone Age we are in any danger of entering
is that constituted by the continuous destruction of animals' habitats in favor of the
Portland-cement concrete jungle! --DG
SEE ALSO: #60, #62, #95
impossible to eliminate all animal products from one's consumption; what's the point if
you still cause animal death without knowing it?
Yes, it is very difficult to eliminate all animal products
from one's consumption, just as it is impossible to eliminate all accidental killing and
infliction of harm that results from our activities. But this cannot justify making it
"open season" for any kind of abuse of animals. The reasonable goal, given the
realities, is to minimize the harms one causes. The point, then, is that a great deal of
suffering is prevented. --DG
SEE ALSO: #57-#58
customs and traditions, as well as jobs, be lost if we stopped using animals?
Consider first the
issue of customs and traditions. The plain truth is that some customs and traditions
deserve to die out. Examples abound throughout history: slavery, Roman gladiatorial
contests, torture, public executions, witch burning, racism. To these the AR supporter
adds animal exploitation and enslavement.
The human animal is an almost infinitely adaptable organism. The loss
of the customs listed above has not resulted in any lasting harm to humankind. The same
can be confidently predicted for the elimination of animal exploitation. In fact,
humankind would likely benefit from a quantum leap of compassion in human affairs.
As far as jobs are concerned, the economic aspects are discussed in
question #32. It remains to point out that for a human, what is at stake is a job, which
can be replaced with one less morally dubious. What is at stake for an animal is the
elimination of torture and exploitation, and the possibility for a life of happiness, free
from human oppression and brutality. --DG
"People often say that humans have always eaten animals, as if
this is a justification for continuing the practice. According to this logic, we should
not try to prevent people from murdering other people, since this has also been done since
the earliest of times."
--Isaac Bashevis Singer (author, Nobel 1978)
SEE ALSO: #32
"But we've been eating animals for thousands of years, right?"
You may choose to say, "Yeah, we have been eating meat for a long time, but I'm not sure that's a good excuse for continuing to do so. Up until 100 years ago, you could legally beat a dog to death, but now that's illegal. Would you agree that making cruelty to dogs and cats illegal was a good idea?" They will, of course, agree with that, and then perhaps you can move on in the discussion to say something like this: "We held slaves for most of our existence as a species; we treated women and children as property, and so on, but of course, that didn't make it right. One thing to realize, though, is that it's only the past 100 years that we've been able to treat animals as badly as we do now. It used to be that animals had to be treated at least well enough so that they would grow and not die, but we don't even do that now because of all the drugs. It's just so horribly cruel and so unnecessary. That we've been doing something bad for a very long time isn't a reason to stop doing something bad, I don't think. Do you?"
product industries are big business; wouldn't the economy be crippled if they all stopped?
The invention of the automobile, the abolition of
slavery, and the end of World War II also necessitated job retraining and restructuring.
This is simply an ingredient in all social progress--not a reason to deter progress.
One cannot justify an action based on its
profitability. Many crimes and practices that we view as repugnant have been or continue
to be profitable: the slave trade, sale of child brides, drug dealing, scams of all sorts,
prostitution, child pornography.
A good example of this, and one that points up another key
consideration, is the tobacco industry. It is a multibillion-dollar industry, yet vigorous
efforts are proceeding on many fronts to put it out of business. The main problem with it
lies in its side-effects, i.e., the massive health consequences and deaths that it
produces, which easily outweigh the immediate profitability. There are side effects to
animal exploitation also. Among the most significant are the pollution and deforestation
associated with large-scale animal farming. As we see in question #28, these current
practices constitute a non-sustainable use of the planet's resources. It is more likely
true that the economy will be crippled if the practices continue!
Finally, the profits associated with the animal industries stem from
market demand and affluence. There is no reason to suppose that this demand cannot be
gradually redirected into other industries. Instead of prime beef, we can have prime
artichokes, or prime pasta, etc. Humanity's demand for gourmet food will not vanish with
the meat. Similarly, the jobs associated with the animal industries can be gradually
redirected into the industries that would spring up to replace the animal industries.
(Vice President Gore made a similar point in reference to complaints concerning loss of
jobs if logging was halted. He commented that the environmental movement would open up a
huge area for jobs that had heretofore been unavailable.) --DG
It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living by its purely
physical effect on the human temperament would most beneficially influence the lot of
mankind." --Albert Einstein (physicist, Nobel 1921)
SEE ALSO: #28, #31