A fellow vegan recently posed this question to a veg group: If the world went vegan, what would happen to all the farm animals?
It wasn’t the first time I’d seen the question. Here is my answer:
The question you raise is one I think is actually funny. “What would we do with the animals?” It is a question raised by Barbara Kingsolver in her book, Animal, Vegetable, Mineral (the link is to my review of her book). Here is my answer:
Over time, if the world goes the way we’d like, fewer and fewer “industrial” animals will be bred. Eventually they would go extinct. If a few get mixed into the wild herds we may have some interesting animals but their survival will depend on how well they can handle that environment. Many will likely be kept in sanctuaries until they die (and not allowed to breed).
That’s how I see it going. The world is not going to stop eating meat and other animal products suddenly. I cannot imagine any scenario where that would happen, even if all of the health issues became common knowledge (people still smoke). I am too cynical to believe everyone will suddenly develop a conscience about animals, though I would love to be proven wrong (in fact, I would so much love to figure out how to reach that tipping point, when people start thinking about food animals differently). Therefore, the best I can see happening is a dramatic decrease in meat eating, along with a rising belief in the wrongness of it, leading eventually to fewer and fewer farm animals being raised.
Another thing Barbara asked was what about the milk? Those cows need to be milked! It was a shock to me to read that, because she is not lacking in knowledge about animals. It did not occur to her, however, that cows are like humans. When the demand goes, so goes the milk. Strange that she – and so many others – would not understand this simple bit of biology.
This is one question we really don’t have to worry about – but I wish we did.