Which is better: a short, good life or no life?

I’ve been into animal welfare since I could think, and I’m continuously changing my stance on many aspects of the matter. I’m now trying to get my head around this one:

Many of my fellow vegans say that we should not eat animals. That we should not kill them. One of the arguments we get in response is that, if we didn’t farm animals for food, there simply wouldn’t be any cows, sheep, chickens, etc. And I think I agree with them.

For me, killing for food isn’t wrong; it’s just a not very nice reality of nature. I love nature, and thus have to accept the bits I don’t like. If we stopped all killing, then how would tigers eat? How would dolphins eat? How would eagles eat? Surely they have rights too, of you believe the pray animals also do.

Here’s what I want to debate: Let’s say England became a vegan nation and we banned meat. That would mean millions of animals would no longer be born, as we could only expect a few thousand cows at most to be kept as pets or in farm animal sanctuaries. Those sanctuary animals would have good lives, though. But what about the ones who will never be born now? Is it really better to take away life before it’s happened to prevent it being taken away later?

For me, I believe that it’s the insanely cruel farming practices that are wrong, not the killing. If animals could have a good life before they died for meat, then I believe that is better than no life at all. That’s nature. I’m pro hunting for food because, if people must eat meat, they shouldn’t cause incredible suffering for it. Grant the animal a good, preferably natural life first.

Meat-eating creates lives. Just make sure those lives are worth living. That’s my position.

What say you?

I remember reading something the Dalai Lama once wrote saying that traditionally in Tibet, where the climate realities meant a veg diet was not possible and meat had to be eaten, they believed it was better to kill a large animal, say a yak, in order to feed a village rather than smaller ones, (chickens, fish), because killing the large one means less killing for the same result.

I’ve been through this thought process. I choose the farming option. Since we are no longer nomadic and farming is are common means of sustenance, we really don’t have another option that is currently practical. Just crop farming would mean we would need a lot lore space. If we choose a no meat lifestyle (for arguments sake, decreed by law) then alongside animals not being raised (it’s too hypothetical to talk about non-birth) there would be less jobs too and that would hugely affect the supporting industries as well.

The spiritual side is questionable to be honest, it goes against nature too much for me. Nature rules supreme in my opinion and heaven/nirvana is just a state of mind (possibly a delusion?). And nature dictates that everything must die, the natural order.

The problem for me is the wholesale consumption of meat. We eat too much and too often. This his driven production high and value low. But how do you feed the ever growing world population? Especially the western and developing worlds that insist on meat consumption 24/7?

I accept the way things are. The native american philosophy to killing is pretty good (to help ease the guilty mind), that an animal sacrifices itself for us and this is a symbiotic relationship we have with animals. If you feel an affinity to a certain animal then you should not eat it, but that is a personal choice.

Just need to correct the idea that crop farming needs more space. Its the demand for meat that puts huge pressures on food and water supplies. For instance most cattle in the US are corn fed. The conversion rate of crops to meat is a big multiple and the same with water to meat vs water to crops.

I have opted for the short,good life. I remain, unsure,regarding Animals. :popcorn:

Ah yea, got a good point there, was just thinking acreage.

I live near some small scale cattle farms. These cattle live the relatively good life. They have green fields and low hills to roam all day, a shed to return to at nite , to food and water. I see the young cattle especially chasing each other and running around and seemingly having a great time.

But it pains me when another mental image comes to mind. When i was a young boy, in one back street in a low rent district of taipei there was a small slaughter house.

Once a week or so Id see a small number of cattle that were obviously heading for slaughter. These cattle had tears in their eyes, and some tried to hump females in the group. They calmly were led one after the other to slaughter. But I knew that they knew what they were facing.

Its an image I cant get out of my head.

Now i sure do love a good steak, but for some years now iv cut down on eating beef as much as possible. Now cutting down on eating pork.

Sticking to less meat overall. And eating mainly chicken.

I think that we should all strive to eat less beef. Beef is a red meat and is not good for us to eat large amounts of it.

And I think many cattle in the USA and other places are abused in slaughter houses, which is against the law, but still happens.

It could be said that if an animal is treated very well and truly humanely killed and treated well at the slaughter house that it may be ok. But still.

Contrast those young cattles lives with that of the average american house cat or dog and there is a huge difference.

Seeing that herd of young cattle charging around on a beautiful day in california (most of our days are beautiful here) in green fields and low hills, lifts the spirit. But to think of their coming demise saddens it.

[quote]Many of my fellow vegans say that we should not eat animals. That we should not kill them. One of the arguments we get in response is that, if we didn’t farm animals for food, there simply wouldn’t be any cows, sheep, chickens, etc. And I think I agree with them.

For me, killing for food isn’t wrong; it’s just a not very nice reality of nature. I love nature, and thus have to accept the bits I don’t like. If we stopped all killing, then how would tigers eat? How would dolphins eat? How would eagles eat? Surely they have rights too, of you believe the pray animals also do.[/quote]

Great thread topic, Ex Animo. It’s about time we had something, um, meaty to discuss.

I have no idea where vegans get the idea that wild animals die a peaceful death in their beds, surrounded by family and friends, and are conveyed off to heaven by the great Earth Spirit. Mostly, their lives are nasty, brutish and short. I suspect carnivores have it the worst; for the prey animals, at least it’s pretty quick. Vegans also seem to imagine that farming vegetables - or modern life in general - involves no harm to animals. A combine harvester will make mincemeat of the few animals that still survive in our sterile monocultures. Countless billions are killed or harmed by pesticides and herbicides, or fail to find suitable habitats in the unnatural landscapes we create. The truck that brings your vegan-certified tofu to the supermarket probably splatters a few hedgehogs and birds en route. The pollution and habitat destruction that accompanies road-building kills a load more. Vegans are just as guilty as the rest of us, bearing in mind that a single cow or a pig might yield 100kg+ of edible meat product; that’s enough for 2000 carnivore meals, as long as one isn’t too greedy.

Anyway, I agree with your stance on the matter, although perhaps for slightly different reasons. There is a natural food chain, and I think veganism is just another aspect of denialist philosophies that like to pretend humans are somehow ‘different’, and elevated above the common animals. It’s this sort of thinking that leads to our species celebrating pyrrhic victories in our “struggle against nature”. We are as much a part of nature as bugs, chickens and fungi; we all live for a time, and then die; and we all have a function in the Order of Things.

On a practical level, you simply could not run a proper farm without animals. I guess vegans think that science will come to the rescue, but that inevitably means chemical-fed, unsustainable, petrochemical-driven farming. Animals are a vital component in the entropy waterfall: they scavenge energy and materials that other biological systems cannot use, and bring it back into the loop. For example, a farmer intending to grow mangelwurzels can let the pigs loose in the field to root around for the remains of the previous crop (which turns the soil). Whatever they scavenge ends up as prime manure (possibly deposited while they’re rooting). When he harvests the crop, he can feed rejects and foliage (which, on mangelwurzels, is copious and nutritious) to the pigs, and they turn it into bacon. Everybody wins, at least until the pigs make that one-way trip to the slaughterhouse.

As you said, what matters is how we treat the animals while they are alive; and if we can allow them to live blissfully unaware of their impending doom until the very last millisecond, so much the better.

Oh, and to return to the point mentioned above about animals taking up more land area than plants: this is only true for our current model of animal rearing. Obviously, animals have to eat, but they can eat the stuff that we don’t. A cow left out to free-range needs about one acre of good pasture; from fodder beet or similar, about one-quarter acre. Pigs have similar requirements. That’s a lot of food … except that it isn’t. As I said, there’s a lot of meat on an animal that size, so although it’s true that a lot of food goes in (the typical quote is about one-fifth to one-tenth of the input), it doesn’t have to compete with human requirements. Especially in the tropics, it’s important to keep the ground covered, and that means a polyculture in multiple layers. The middle layers - shrubby legumes, usually - make excellent livestock feed. Likewise with general scraps (as in the case of the mangelwurzels), weeds and bugs (which ducks and chickens will happily browse on), and similar incidentals. The animals turn this “waste” into meat, dairy, eggs, or manure. Economists, of course, will tell you that this is not efficient; but I have never yet met an economist who knew one end of a chicken from the other, so I am happy to discount their opinion on the subject.

Of course people have always kept some animals on small landholdings to efficiently make use of all their food available (pig/chickens/dairy cow/ducks) and contribute their power to ploughing and harvesting. They are also an excellent source of protein and sometimes the only real source of protein locally. They also taste good and pack lots of energy into is that we can power our activities by.
It does depend on the general agricultural and lifestyle setup.

I’ve been a vegan for a lot of my life, apart from a fairly carnivorous few years in Taiwan. I have no emotional attachment to animals: it’s more of a moral ‘do no harm’ feeling and a certain squeamishness that I’ve had since childhood.

I often used to think about whether it was worse to eat eight prawns or one steak (so I was 14, sue me!), and I guess it comes down to whether you give more weight to suffering or death. I think most of us would agree that a cow suffers more in its killing than a prawn would, but is it better to take one life over eight? Buddhists may see them as souls and I really can’t think that way because I’m not a person who can deal with the prospect of being surrounded by spectral hungry-ghost prawns that I can’t see.

So then taking this further with suffering as a benchmark, rather than killing, is it worse to eat eggs than fish? One could argue that keeping hens in industrial conditions causes more suffering than killing and eating wild fish (aside from the deaths of the male chicks), even though the laying of one egg doesn’t result in a loss of life.

Farm animals are not ‘natural’, any more, in the same way that wheat is a relatively new plant in terms of evolution. They have been bred to be agricultural ‘products’, so if we all because vegans tomorrow and ‘freed’ them, there would be great suffering amongst these animals.

As humans, how shitty does your life have to be before you sincerely think ‘I wish I’d never existed’?

I guess the focus is to think about what you consume: that’s the real power and responsibility we have. Don’t eat shitty cheap meat, eggs, milk. Don’t accept suffering, if you can help it: fuck the food industry. They justify fucking over animals by saying YOU want it that way because you want cheap products.

Just a few thoughts: not pontificating over what people should do or judging prawn eaters.

What about lambs or piglets, or calves that are butchered for their hides? Most male chicks are discarded at birth in processing plants. Are there other baby animals slaughtered for food?

The only meat I eat is Chicken and some fish. Much less than I used to as I believe we eat too much meat based protein.

The post about the cows knowing they were about to be culled - I saw the same look in a slaughter video. Although I stopped eating beef in 1996 due to the CJD scare, the video hit home why I would never eat beef again. The same with pork, at first it was due to red meat but seeing a video of a pig squealing as it waited its turn to die after seeing it’s brethren slaughtered before it, was enough for me to not eat pork ever again.
And yes I ask myself why I eat any meat if I pick and chose like I do.

Although I am against GM food, I have no issues with lab grown meat which will probably be on our shelves in a generation. Your average McDonald’s patron probably wouldn’t care nor notice any difference.
Would I eat it? No.
It would cut down the farming of animals, but those kind of farms would become exclusive and I would guess ‘natural’ meat would become expensive. Maybe similar to the grass/corn fed beef option. I would guess Grass fed beef is more expensive than corn fed beef?

And if they could create fur and leather in labs then who would complain about that?

One thing I have always wondered, are there vegans who only feed their pets vegetables?

The OP asked:
“Is it really better to take away life before it’s happened to prevent it being taken away later?”

With regards to animals bred for meat, I would say yes. Something that doesn’t exist is not a life.

I completely understand the sentiment from cake and ermintrude. But it seems to me they’re supporting the OP’s position, not rejecting the idea of meat-eating entirely.

This is just plain Wrong, especially when male animals are culled because they’re “useless”. What’s actually happened here is that the economic externalities of meat production have been shoved under the carpet to make meat appear cheaper. It isn’t cheaper at all: it’s just that we pay the costs in other ways (either as taxes and subsidies, or by accepting a degraded environment). Meat processors are permitted egregious cruelty that a pet-owner would be jailed for. If meat were expensive, male animals would have value; capons (castrated male chickens) were once in high demand. By relentlessly reducing the costs, economists have actually destroyed value. You can see the same effect in all sorts of other endeavours.

Thing is, though, most animals are slaughtered when only a few months old. For chickens, it’s about six weeks.

I have no idea why this is even permitted. The economic advantage must be small to nonexistent. This is what happens when you get bean-counters running the show instead of human beings. But again, this is simply about humane treatment, not the ethics of slaughter per se.

I only eat pork these days if someone else puts it on the table: pigs are just too damn smart. I’m not sure it’s right to say, well, this animal here is a bit gormless so it’s OK to eat it; but I’m certainly less comfortable with killing animals that clearly have an advanced consciousness.

I do, because it’s just another way of hiding the costs of meat-eating. Synthetic meat, all things considered, will be far more environmentally-destructive than the natural alternative. It will require high-quality energy and feedstocks, and it will produce pollutants. Animals are actually extremely efficient at turning low-grade inputs into high-grade protein. It’s fashionable to sneer at the result (about 1:3 for fish, or 1:10 for large animals), but I’d like to see any industrial process get even close to that … given the same inputs.

Again, it would be highly polluting. As long as fur/leather animals are treated humanely (and their meat is also used) I don’t have a problem with these products.

Apparently there are. I consider this cruel and self-indulgent. If you can’t cope with the fact that your pet eats meat, keep a guinea-pig.

I think the point here is that we need to massively reduce our intake of animal protein. I read somewhere that the meat industry is responsible for something like 18% of CO2 emissions. Well, if we all ate 80% less meat, it would only be 3.6%; and we could easily achieve that just by enforcing animal welfare laws (which exist anyway, but meat processors are above the law).

Exactly. The awful thing is that a lot of people believe the industry bullshit. These guys have a lot of money to buy the best PR there is.

There was a TV programme in the UK a while back involving Jamie Oliver (IIRC) trying to educate people about quality, animal welfare, cooking skills, and economics. It was a real uphill struggle. There was one particular woman who, after being shown around a chicken factory that reduced her kids to tears, said something like: well? What do you want me to say? How am I going to feed my family unless there’s someone out there doing this? To his credit, Oliver then showed her exactly how: by buying high-quality meat, less often, and making better use of it, but I’m not sure it really sunk in, and there are a lot of people with poor money management skills who will never get the idea. It’s not helped by the fact that supermarket vegetables are awful. It’s no surprise that people don’t like eating them and prefer highly-flavoured trash made from MRM.

Thanks for some great responses! :thumbsup: