OK, I know I’m getting into controversial territory today, but please bear with me for a bit.
For some reason my Facebook feed has been full of vegan news lately including one that states that if everyone on Earth stopped consuming animal products we could cut greenhouse gas emissions far more - and at a far lower cost - than through energy production limits. This same article postulates lower land prices and a huge decrease in antibiotic resistant germs. I do have to give this particular article a hand for at least pointing out that this shift would most likely destroy the world economy; but the thing that all of these articles I’ve read never address is “what happens to all the animals?”
Now first, let me clarify that I’m not going to be talking today about whether or not we should be vegetarian (or vegan) or not. To me that’s a personal choice, and the only thing I have to say about it is to ask you to consider all of the consequences of your choice and make the one that’s right for you. What I want to focus on is mindful reflection. To me this means being aware of all of the consequences of your actions. I’m just using global veganism as a starting point to this discussion.
So; what do I think is being left out of this particular discussion? Obviously from the title of this post, I think most of these rather activist articles leave out “what happens to all the animals?” The simple fact is that if the whole world were to adopt global veganism today all the animals - both free roaming and factory farmed - would still be here. Free roaming animals are of little concern to this discussion since they would be little affected other than that their lives would end naturally rather than in a slaughter house. These are probably the ones that the vegan supporters are thinking about, but what about the other animals?
Factory farmed animals make up the majority of animals used for meat, eggs, dairy and other animal products and the simple fact is that most of these animals cannot care for themselves due to the way they have been bred for generations. That breeding itself is fodder for another ethical discussion, but for now we have to accept it as reality. If we release these animals into the wild we would be producing a global cataclysm of death - most likely from starvation and other painful causes. If you’re supporting veganism from a perspective of compassion for animals is this an acceptable outcome? If these animals did survive there would be little if any reduction in global greenhouse gases since there would be little reduction in global animal population; so again, is this acceptable outcome if you’re supporting veganism from a perspective of global climate? There would probably be a huge uptick in human disease as well since there would be more encounters between humans and animals who had previously had little contact.
Again, please don’t take this as an indictment of veganism. I’m only asking if those supporting these positions are considering all the possible outcomes. So, are we supposed to be so paralyzed by considering options that we never act? Of course not, that’s why I call this mindful reflection. When we are present in the moment we are more open to others offering different opinions and suggestions. When we remove our reflection from our personal concerns and desires we are able to expand our perception to the perspective of others. These are the changes in thought that lead to truly compassionate action.
The article I mention in the beginning does this to an extent by pointing out the negative effects on the global economy and even proposes maybe vegetarianism is a better path since it would allow for dairy and egg production as well as using naturally deceased animals for leather and other animal products. This is a good start, but even arguing just from the perspective of pollution it shows no consideration for the question of what will happen to all the animals.
Are you considering your actions with mindful reflection? When you give money directly to a homeless person what are the chances it will be used for drugs or alcohol rather than food? Might it be better to give the same amount to a homeless shelter or organization or to give an equivalent amount of food to the person? When you interact with people at work are you considering only your own job? Do you think about the effect of your decisions on others at your company? On customers? On the environment? When you vote on ballot measures do you think only about what it cost you, or do you consider the good that can be done with those funds - or the potential harm that might come from the proposed use of the funds?
Open your eyes and open your mind and you can avoid being buried in BS……