Vegans say: leave animals alone. But if we don’t “use” animals, will they go extinct like the Tiger?

Via elephant journal
on Jan 3, 2010
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If all humans were vegan, would non-domesticated animals go extinct?

"walk the talk show" michael pollan video interview

When I interviewed Michael Pollan some months ago, I asked him why he ate meat. He said he’d given a lot of thought to it, and came to the conclusion that as long as the animals were humanely treated (before being, well, butchered), it was okay. He admitted it was a tough issue, but wondered allowed how many cows or sheep or turkeys or chickens would survive at all if we didn’t eat them.

It’s a valid question, even if the morality is dicey at best. You can’t get much more well-loved and famous than tigers, elephants or polar bears. But all are on the verge of extinction in our lifetime (four of nine species of tigers are already extinct, and more are on the verge this year).

The following Facebook conversation was prompted by our recent post on Wool may be Natural, but it’s Cruel.

ben jerry's vegan cows


Jill, as a knitter, I would have to say in my experience, this is the exception, not the rule. Most shepards of finer wools love their flocks like their own children (I know many) and their job is more a labour of love than a profit-making industry. This might be true of more commercially sold wools to the clothing industry perhaps? This is why I buy local and know my sources. There is corruption and cruelty in every industry, this is why you know where you buy from and find reputable sources, and avoid the bad ones.

Shannon, if only it were the exception! Do these shepards of finer wools you mention ever slaughter their sheep?

Generally, even if the wool supplier doesn’t practice mulesing and other standard cruel pracxtices, the sheep are eventually slaughtered, their families are separated and sold off, and their lives do not belong to themselves. And in … See Moremany cases, it’s extremely hard to tell where a wool product originated.

My Internet search for humane wool turned up an organization that boasted to be the first sheep farm in the United States to be “certified humane” by major “humane” organizations. However, it also offers “flavorful lamb cuts.” I suspect that like “humane meat,” “humane wool” is an oxymoron, unless perhaps it comes from such private individuals/shepards on a subsistence scale, rather than companies exploiting animals for profit … but even then, I’d be wary.

Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis

Something like 99% of wool, apparently, comes from Australia, and most of that is Merino, which is not fit for hot climes, thus the infections, the mulesings…well, read the article, the gent who wrote it is far better informed than I!

I think by being vegan, we’re just saying that we don’t need to “use” animals at all for clothing. We don’t need wool when there are plenty of earth-friendly, cruelty-free alternatives. Animals are not here on earth for humans to use.

I don’t care if the dang farmer kissed, hugged and spoiled his little sheepies all day long and every night. I “… know” plenty of people who race horses who loooove their little horsies. But in the end, the horses’ lives come second to profit.

Power to the animals. (Animal power salute.)

Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis
I hear you, but how many horses or sheep are going to survive the next century if, like tigers and elephants (about to go extinct in wild, 4 species of tigers already have) we humans have no “use” for them? Damned if we as a society will care to put aside much land for them when we can’t even agree that fighting climate change is worth investment … See Moreas a society–when climate change effects us all directly. Ideally, we can learn to live in harmony, be of use to one another, and truly cruelty-free. It’s a tough issue, I hear you.


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13 Responses to “Vegans say: leave animals alone. But if we don’t “use” animals, will they go extinct like the Tiger?”

  1. […] doesn’t advocate solely for veganism? Another personally riveting conversation came out of our recent Wool may be Natural—but it’s Cruel […]

  2. A species can become smaller and can become naturally extinct, as many have. How does that make a case for cruelty? Suppose we breed and raised children to be slaves, and then made the argument that if we didn't have slaves we would have fewer people?

  3. […] at this campaign, instead of being stared at. Be comfortable in your own skin, let animals keep theirs! #gallery-1 { margin: auto; } #gallery-1 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; […]

  4. Carnivore says:

    You're all crazy; humans are omnivores and we evolved to eat meat. You claim to be enlightened but you cant get over a fundamental part of being a human. Enlightenment means to be who you are; your human, humans eat meat. carnivore

  5. If war is a part of our tradition, too, does that mean we ought to advocate murder? Nah. Enlightenment doesn't mean being who we are: remember the zen aphorism: first you see the mountain, then you realize the mountain's not a mountain, then you see the mountain again. There's a difference, in other words, between being who we are and just being lazy.

  6. Such an interesting point! It almost sounds like real cows, pigs, and chickens are an endangered species as it is.

  7. Kevin Post says:

    Do you vegetarians eat locally? I think that it is hypocritical to say that one's dietary habit is earth friendly when I see that their salad or tempeh dish was made from four different ingredients from four different continents (i.e. their avocado from Chile, the soy beans from Michigan, the couscous from Tunisia, their almonds from Turkey, etc.). I can assure you that for those ingredients to be shipped across the globe (consuming thousands of liters of petrol) killed far more animals than me eating a locally raised organic chicken in the mountains of Colombia where I live.

    If your going to be vegan than stop being hypocritical and start eating locally.

  8. […] thing is, I mostly agree with the comment above. I’m vegetarian (though not vegan). I consider the killing of […]

  9. In a similar vein, via Gary Smith, one of our columnists, just posed the following question on his FB page:
    Gary Smith:
    Let's have a discussion on the use of animals. There are literally thousands of issues involving cruelty when it comes to animals. The horse issue alone I could have covered carriages, BLM… How do we bring the conversation back to use? If we open people to the idea that using animals is wrong, irregardless of the industry, we have a shot at making real change. So, how do we create effective arguments around usage?

    i leave the arguments to the intelligent people like you…AFTER the arguments have been developed, it is a matter of repitition, repitition, repitition…and you are looking at the expert in repitition. 🙂

    Harold Brown told this great story about how this stubborn farmer had a real paradigm shift when he contacted these people across the pond regarding "Vegan" farming – not using animals (and I do not just mean for meat)…the guy had huge success when he applied these vegan techniques to his farm…then the guy started to ask why these animals had … See Morecome into his life when they were surely not needed for successful farming…i think this story shows that there is a big paradigm that people feel we MUST use animals even if we do not like it because they are absolutely necessary for survival…presenting arguments showing success without them can be a great way to show how we do not need to use them!

    I don't have an answer on how to alter debates to get back to use, but I had to my two cents in 🙂

  10. More comments to Gary Smith:

    Gary Smith
    Judy – I agree that repetition is hugely important. Planting seeds is key. We never know what seed is going to ultimately make a shift in someone's consciousness and actions. I like to ask vegans how they came to that decision. A lot of times, it was something pretty small, yet they had read and heard other messages prior to that experience.

    Judy L
    you manufacture the seeds, i will plant them, over and over and over…….i do NOT let up

    Gary Smith
    Amanda – Really great point. Most people do believe that we need to use animals, particularly when it comes to diet and vivesection. Thanks for the feedback.

    Janice S
    We need to make them see animals as individuals with feelings and needs and their own right to life.

    Mary C
    Educate then sensitize? Some people have never been exposed to the truth about the various ways we consume animals. I think people who want to be more compassionate would be more amenable to learning.

    Peter K
    We're going against the grain of a couple thousand years of the Dominionist view. The arguments against the use of animals seem to require a few things at once:
    1. the stated view that animals aren't here for our use (people aren't used to hearing that point in the first place)
    2. presenting alternatives to animal use
    3. challenging people to a … See Morehigher bar. If we appeal to their own sense of intelligence and explain this is a next stage of human evolution, they'll want to get there quicker.
    4. people relate to personal stories than abstracts. Make correlations to the animals that they truly care about and challenge the idea that there should be an arbitrary line between species.
    5.Making the use of animals an issue similarto other social justice issues is a powerful one once you get people used to the idea that people shouldn't have supremacy over animals. Comparing it to slavery can be tricky; you can get blowback from some that try to argue that you're pulling the race card, or that animals aren't as important as people.

    But I think you can steer the argument back by just simply asking the question "do you think that (fill-in-animal) wants to live?" Most people will relent that animals have an interest in continuing to live, it's just they don't want to think about it so they can rationalize their use. Then you can go into how animlas don't want to be confined, etc.

    Stephanie F
    As someone writing a book on animals, nature and religion, I can tell you that every major religion (except the Jain sect of Hinduism) sanctions the use of non-human animals by humans. That is why, in part, I'm writing this book. Most people pick and choose what parts of their rleigions to follow (e.g., even Evangelicals don't put people to death … See Morefor working on Sunday- tho this is what the Bible instructs). People need 2 be shown that they are not really now living their faiths literally and how monstrous it would be 2 actually do sp (ladies and gnetlemen, I give you the Taliban)

  11. more comments to Gary:
    For some reason I like to mention profit along with use. The concept of profiting unfairly wrinkles people a little because it reminds them of classism.

    Daniel M
    Animals are perpetual hostages as prisoners of a species war. take the focus off the animal's welfare and put it on those that breed them showing the advantages to a world in kindness towards people and a world that should exist apart from animals.

    I wish all humans could exist on one continent and all animals on another. We as a species are not … See Morementally equipped to live selfless lives. Animals have no use for us, we offer them nothing in return for their misery. We deserve to be a species on an island, lonely without any animals to be abused.

    GS- Spot on! "use" is the core msg that I attempt to convey in my Animal Advocacy classes. We attempt to drive this home by repeating the phrase, "How animals are used. . ."- as pets, as food, in entertainment, in fashion & so on. Emphasis when used for $$$, so offering viable alt's is key.
    AC- "presenting arguments showing success without animals" is critical!
    PK- Excellent points!
    I'm wondering what U all think re: M. Joy's philosophy of carnism.

    Waylon Lewis
    Sounds like that paragraph could make an open-ended blog on its own! I thought a lot about use vs. abuse today thanks to your comments…I personally get that abuse is bad, as with your article re Kentucky Derby…but use I don't get as being bad, if done with love. I grew up riding horses, I own a dog…if we humans don't find ways to work and … See Moreplay with animals, my concern is that those animals will no longer exist. Michael Pollan said same thing re why he eats meat. I don't eat meat, but how many cows are going to exist in the wild if we stop using them? None. Already charismatic animals like the Polar Bear, Panda, tiger, elephant are nearly extinct in the wild. If you vegans realllly care about animals, then we need to prioritize the establishment of vast swathes of land set aside of wild animals…otherwise, once we get rid of 'use' of animals in humankind's everyday life, they'll just go extinct.

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