Vegetarianism is morally wrong. I want to set aside the ‘usual’ arguments for/against vegetarianism. This will not cover health, environmental impact, animal intelligence or self-awareness. These points do not effect where the bigger moral quandary lies.
Let us explore the possibility that a difference can be made. Vegetarians who do not eat meat say that demand can be decreased, and thus can production. This results in lower loss of animal life.
Before fewer cattle are slaughtered, it is likely that the mortality rate would increase instead. Farmers who do not have the revenue to support their livestock will slaughter what they cannot continue to support. Even repurposing a percentage of livestock to production of methane or dairy would not compensate for the loss. With this fresh slaughter, supply for meat will go up and prices will go down.
Let us not think of the loss of animal life if the industry collapsed altogether and meat fell out of favor. Without the industry to supply money to buy feed or grazing land, livestock will not be fed. If this industry collapsed overnight, livestock would starve to death.
Decreasing demand, even gradually, means you are preventing the birth of countless livestock. Let’s focus on that. They will never be born. Is it morally right to decide that something in particular should never exist because you don’t agree with its life cycle? Is not being allowed to experience life at any better than having your life ended by another species preying on you?
To be clear, these creatures have been serving in this function for literally thousands of years. This is a symbiotic relationship. In so many ways, their strength is our strength. We have depended on them and they depend on us. If things were different, we’d need to morally accept the lack of proliferation of the species or even their very existence as we know them today. If those that are left are released into the wild, the impact they would have on the ecosystem would also be profound. It would be horrible to attempt to correct a mistake and only make things much worse in the process.
Animal cruelty is a terrible thing. I agree that our livestock—as with all life—should be treated respectfully, and not be abused. It is my opinion that those who express their passion over being vegetarian should repurpose their energy to that end. They are boasting the morality of doing something that would lead to the destruction of these species. All the while, millions of animals are being abused. Even if you have health, religious, spiritual or simple dietary preference (ie flavor/texture) concerns, please consider the moral implications of what happens to our livestock.
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