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This is one argument I get from meat-eaters ALL the time. They tell me that even though I don't eat meat it doesn't make a difference to the animals because they are still getting killed and eaten by billions of other people. My argument is that by not eating it we are not contributing to the pain and suffering or the industries who produce the products. What are your thoughts on this?
By not eating meat you're decreasing the demand. As the demand goes down, so do the the numbers of animals killed for meat. It's simple economics really.
Think of it this way. A few short years ago, plant milks were virtually unheard of. Now every grocery store carries a variety of them. As more and more people are buying plant based milks, less and less people are buying dairy milk. It's supply and demand and capitalism at work. My family isn't even Veg@n but plant milks are what I buy and therefor what they drink and they actually love them. Its these victories that are changing what has always been the norm in to something better.
Well, first off, this is a utilitarian argument that actually doesn't hold much weight for me. From an ethical standpoint, it's irrelevant what the effects of your actions are: if an action is discovered to be unethical, an ethical person can no longer continue to act in that manner after coming to this realization, regardless of what anyone else is doing.
Besides, that utilitarian argument is flawed in a number of ways. Not eating meat DOES absolutely make a difference in clear numerical terms to the animals. Statistics vary but going vegan means 900 fewer animals per year are dying than otherwise would be if you hadn't... over a lifetime, that's between 5000 and 7000 animals. Hardly small potatoes.
And other people already brought this up, but your decision to become veg(itari)an undoubtedly influences others around you. Even if only one or two other people you know become vegetarian because of your influence, that still doubles or triples the impact, to say nothing of the people who they in turn influence. It's a ripple effect. I know I wouldn't have made my decision to stop eating meat had I not been influenced by a few close friends who happened to be veg(itari)an. So that figure of 7000 gets multiplied by quite a bit.
To paraphrase Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, one of my main heroes, Just because you can't do everything, doesn't mean you should do nothing. Do something, anything! Do what you can in your own life and in your own sphere of influence.
I have never been told that but its essentially stupid if you know anything about basic consumer behaviour and economics. I worked for large retail for many years, they will carry product if there is demand. If you stop buying meat, the person responsible for the meat category is going to notice sales arent going so well. As a result, sales probably picking up in another category, say produce. This is where the company divests in meat space and allocates more to produce, very simple, demand and supply, all grocery companies or places that produce meat does is cater to consumer demands. If everyone eventually shifts, then it will eventually get reduced. I've been a vegetarian my whole life (I am 27 now) and I can honestly tell you that the amount of vegetarian options available are worlds apart. Sales per square foot is the universal measure for how well a grocery store does, clearly they arent allocating space to more vegetarian options because they have morals, its because the demand is shifting :).
I am only responsible for MY own actions, not for what others do. Yes there will still be slaughtering, people eating meat and other animal (bi)products. It's the fact that i'm not a part of that that matters and the only thing I can "control".
The fact that I don't kill people isn't stoping murder or genocide(s) around the world, is it?