Question 26: Surely there are more pressing
practical problems than AR, such as homelessness; haven't you got better
things to do?
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 nonhuman animals.
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
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).
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.
I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is
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
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)
see also question 1, 87, 95
Question 27: If everyone became vegetarian and
gave up keeping pets,
what would happen to all the animals?
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.
see also question 75
Question 28: Grazing animals on land not suited
for agriculture increases the food supply; how can that be considered wrong?
There are areas in the world where grazing of livestock is possible
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
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
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
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
feedlot for final "fattening" with grains grown on crop lands.
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
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.
I grew up in cattle country--that's why I became a vegetarian. Meat
for the animals, the environment, and your health.
k.d. lang (musician)
Question 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
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
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!
see also question 60, 62, 95
Question 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?
Yes, it is very difficult to eliminate all animal products from
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.
reasonable goal, given the realities, is to minimize the harms one causes.
The point, then, is that a great deal of suffering is prevented.
see also question 57-58
Question 31: Wouldn't many 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
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
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
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
People often say that humans have always eaten animals, as if this
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 question 32
Question 32: The animal product industries are
big business; wouldn't the economy be crippled if they all stopped?
One cannot justify an action based on its profitability. Many crimes
practices that we view as repugnant have been or continue to be
profitable: the slave trade, sale of child brides, drug dealing, scams
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
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 nonsustainable 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.)
It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living by its purely
effect on the human temperament would most beneficially influence the lot
Albert Einstein (physicist, Nobel 1921)
see also question 28, 31