Finally, a commentator who gets to the point, one we all knew was true: Activists fighting for animal rights are actually working to get rid all animal agriculture — period, full stop.
In an essay by Samita Sarkar, a freelance writer (and animal activist, as that will become immediately apparent) for The Huffington Post, she opened by stating, “There are two schools of thought: animal welfare and animal rights. Whereas animal rightists seek to dismantle the institution of animal agriculture altogether, those in favor of animal welfare advocate a situation where farmed animals are treated well in life on family ranches and meet as quick and painless a death as possible before becoming the food on our plates.”
At least she called animal agriculture an institution. That’s better than the descriptions most animal activists favor.
In her piece titled, “3 Reasons Why ‘Animal Welfare’ Doesn’t Work,” Sarkar tries to make a case that promoting animal welfare — ie, treating farm animals well — doesn’t hold water. However, even a cursory analysis shows her to harbor a profound disconnect with reality.
As is true with virtually all anti-industry, pro-veggie activists. Here’s her argument:
- There is no respectful way to kill. “Welfarists believe that farmed animals can be treated with respect in both life and in death, but there is nothing respectful about taking a life.”
Really? So all of human history and the entire animal kingdom is “disrespectful?” Sarkar and her ilk conveniently ignore the fact that even the most iconic of the wildlife species we imagine are running (or swimming) free in some mythical “peaceable kingdom” are, in fact, eating each other 24-7.
By the way, veggie activists like Sarkar always compare people’s love for their pets with their (alleged) disdain for livestock. Again, that sounds persuasive. Just don’t happen to be a mouse and try to run past Fluffy on your way to scrounging a vegetarian snack. The ending of that scenario won’t be very “respectful.”
- It isn't a zero-sum game (“It” being food production). “Although [author Michael] Pollan acknowledges that the arguments put forward by animal rights activists are powerful, he . . . argues that since harvesting crops will also result in the killing of field mice and woodchucks, if America was suddenly to adopt a strictly vegetarian diet, it isn’t at all clear that the total number of animals killed each year would necessarily decline.”
That is probably the weakest of all possible arguments in favor of animal agriculture, as opposed to farmers only raising food crops — and it makes total sense! Once again, activists willfully ignore reality, in this case the fact that only through widespread application of the very science and technology they abhor is it even possible to produce food efficiently without using animals. Tractors replaced horses and oxen, synthetic fertilizer made manure optional and agronomists scientifically ramped up crop productivity to a level that made vegetarianism itself more than a theoretical possibility.
None of that argues that using farm animals or raising livestock is somehow immoral, only that modern science and technology has fundamentally altered the ethical discussions that are possible.
- Scientific fact outweighs sensory perception. “Pollan thinks that being vegetarian would require a ‘highly industrialized’ and fossil-fuel dependent food chain [but] animal agriculture contributes to greenhouse gases more than the transportation sector. He treats vegetarianism as a modern Western concept, industrialized and detached from Mother Earth.”
Yes, and yes.
Citing the “Omnivore’s Dilemma” author by way of trying to contend that vegetarianism is ecologically and biologically preferred only serves to underscore how weak the pro-veggie arguments really are.
Of course eliminating all animal protein from the world’s food supply would cause tremendous dislocation across agriculture, the least of which would be greater reliance on fossil fuels to significantly increase production of corn, wheat, soybeans and rice.
Sakar concluded her rambling diatribe with this bon mot: “We should all work towards not only decreasing the harm we cause [to the environment] but also consider ways in which we can benefit nature and live in harmony with animals.”
Either you believe that agriculture can at least co-exist, if not benefit, Nature, or you don’t — regardless of whether animals are part of the equation.
And if you don’t, you’re basically arguing that we all go return to the “lifestyles” of prehistoric cave people who were totally dependent on hunting, trapping and fishing.
That’s about as practical as pretending that cattle, pigs and sheep could be eliminated from agriculture, and the only result would be some ethical upside.
Instead of relying on urban vegetarians like Sakar, let’s ask the two billion people around the world who are totally dependent on livestock for their livelihood and sustenance. Let’s ask them what they think about whether we need animal agriculture.
Dan Murphy is a food-industry journalist and commentator