This is my first post.
I participated in an internet discussion about eating meat a few months ago. I presented my pro-AR case in a polite manner and for the most part my arguments were well received. The people involved in this conversation didn't necessarily agree with me (this occured on a mainstream forum), but the conversation was largely civil and free of the personal attacks which sometimes occur in these exchanges.
One of the points made by someone who eats meat threw me a bit. It concerns the phasing out of animal farms. It also relates to the strict or adaptive adherence to principles. One of these topics is discussed in the following threads, but I do not feel that I have personally come to grips with these two issues:
This person argued that ending the meat industry would leave us with many living animals. I pointed out that if breeding were to cease, there would not be a huge surplus, but there are at least two hypothetical scenarios (these being theoretical, rather than realistic):
(a) In response to animal activism and/or increasing recognition of the plight of animals in human communities, animal resarch/husbandry laws are amended to bring them into line with other laws concerning animal cruelty. The meat industry is outlawed.
(b) More and more people become vegetarian/vegan until it no longer becomes financially viable to produce meat. Farming gradually slows and stops.
It is more certain in scenario A that we would be left with a surplus of animals. In scenario B, this is also a possibility albeit on a much smaller scale. There are a number of ways to respond, I think. The first is that the farmers brought these animals into the world so they are responsible for caring for them until their natural deaths. This presents another problem (keeping them in captivity@), which I will discuss shortly. One problem with this response is that it is unrealistic to assume that the farmers will in fact spend their own money to care for the animals for the duration of their lives. Farmers like everyone else have to make a living and in the past, the cost of caring for the animals would be covered by the sale of their meat. Without such an incentive, they might simply abandon the animals or seek to transfer the responsibility for their welfare to people like us, who claim to know what is just. Who would pay for the housing & feeding of the animals? The second response is to suggest that the animals be released into the wild. Some of them may have become dependent on humans (eg. for sustenance) and might not be able to look after themselves. They may also be exposed to predators. They may damage the environment. Without any limits on their breeding@ (this is also a problem with the first captive solution listed here), they may multiply and over-populate, thus becoming susceptible to starvation. Wouldn't releasing them make them suffer more than simply killing them? The last response is to let any remaining farm animals be killed for their meat@, with the understanding that there will be no more livestock henceforth.
@Wouldn't allowing these animals to be killed be contrary to our philosophy? I know that we would not be killing them personally, but we are asked whether we condone such action in the process of eradicating animal farms. Wouldn't keeping the animals in captivity and/or forcibly neutering them represent a restriction of their freedom and be at odds with animal 'liberation'? How are we to respond when asked these questions&?
I have only recently become aware of this distinction that is made between 'animal welfare' (minimising the suffering of animals, possibly at the same time as exploiting them) and 'animal rights' (giving animals absolute freedom from humans). We are encouraged to choose between allowing the suffering of animals released into the wild ('unfeeling vegans') or compromising our attitude to liberation ('hypocritical vegans'). These points are being made more and more often to marginalise us "extremists" and undermine our cause. As I see it, some of the people questioning animal rights (and its repercussions) are motivated by genuine compassion. How can someone who says that they care about animal suffering enough to change their diet, leave animals to starve and die in the wild? These dilemmas are also used by pro-abusers to protect their interests. I know that these people will say anything not to change their ways, but we must address these issues in a satisfactory manner.
&I have been wondering lately whether the only way to avoid this 'vegans are happy to let animals suffer (after releasing them into the wild)' argument is to restrict animal freedom. By weakening our stance on 'full-blown' liberation, we prove that we care (minimising suffering is the primary goal of our philosophy, surely?). This might take the form of 'mutually beneficial relationships' - the sort of transactions which occur in human society (those involving animal slaughter and testing would be regarded as blatantly one-sided contracts of little benefit to animals). Are guide dogs mistreated? People benefit from them and they benefit from being looked after. Lastly, I am writing this last part not because I am trying to justify some forms of exploitation, but because I am grappling with these issues - whether I should pick one or the other (welfare, rights) or try to reconcile the two. I am looking for guidance.