Vegetarianism is genocide

Copyright 2002, by Alec Rawls


Veganism is vegetarianism as ideology. Any use of animals is presumed to hurt animals and is eschewed. That's right: no chewing. "Meat is murder."

What do vegetarians accomplish by their abstinence? The animals that would have been raised for them to eat instead never exist. If the animal rights movement is successful in its goal of eliminating the consumption of animal products by society at large, the herds of domesticated animals that pepper vast expanses of rural America will cease to exist. This is not a rational way to love animals. If "meat is murder," then vegetarianism is genocide.

The wellspring of veganism is morally important. We should care about animals, and be willing to pay a substantial price for them to have humane existences, only balking at the price when it is truly high: when it comes up against the value of human life. Where animal rights activists go wrong is in their identification of use with harm. It is the old Marxist-socialist-communist canard that markets are bad because they "exploit."

We all need to be exploited. We need to have markets value what we have to offer, and take it from us, or we can't live. The same goes for animals. By having flesh and hide to offer, they earn life till maturity. The alternative is not life until they die of old age. It is no life.

Even if society were to set aside vast resources to raise domestic animals without using them, this calculation would remain exactly the same. Markets for animal products would support the lives of millions more animals. Choosing to not eat and otherwise use animals necessarily eliminates the existence of those animals that would have been used.

What animal lovers can rationally do to promote animal welfare is pay a premium for products from animals that were grown in humane conditions. Some such markets do exist. There is a small market for free range beef that actually makes it into some mainstream grocery stores. If you look hard enough, you might find a specialty store that carries eggs from cooped rather than caged chickens. Unfortunately, these markets are far smaller than they could be because many of those who care most about animal welfare are removing themselves from the market.

Vegans hate the fact that huge numbers of animals are packed into feed lots instead of grazing on hills and fields. They could create humane existences for many animals by paying the extra cost of raising animals in humane conditions. Instead they don't eat meat at all, which not only means that fewer animals live, but that there is no incentive for farmers to raise animals humanely. Vegans are putting their own peculiar fastidiousness above the lives and welfare of animals.

It would be nice to see a thriving market for meat from humanely raised animals. If those who claim to care about animals would step up to the plate (knife and fork in hand) it would happen. Pay for an animal to live. Pay a little more for it to live well. Eat meat.

This article originally appeared in The Stanford Review. Contact


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