Animals are an important part of the earth, just as much as humans and plants are. They all have their own way of helping and influencing our ecosystem, thus keeping a balance on life. Because of this, it makes sense that people should treat animals with care and fairness. Thus, a lot of vegetarians and vegans become so with the idea of saving animals as well as the environment, citing how livestock is producing a lot of greenhouse gases and how it is cruel to eat animal products.
But…is being vegan or vegetarian really saving the planet and animals?
Claudio Bertonatti is an Argentinian Naturalist who has been embroiled in controversy lately, after releasing an article (warning: the article is in spanish) about how being vegan or vegetarian could actually end up killing more animals, if we don’t do something to change things that is.
The basis for Claudio’s article is that vegetarians and vegans encourage the proliferation of crop fields as opposed to livestock. However, the fact is that you can find more animal species in farmlands (actual farmlands, not places where animals are cooped up cruelly) when compared to crop fields. The reason for this is simple – animals in farms actively cohabitate with the nature around them, allowing for rivers, trees and the environment to stand and in turn allow the animals that frequent those places (birds, fish and other land animals that aren’t farmable) to also frequent those areas. Livestock farmers do not actively kill or chase off other animals, with exception to wolves or predators, thus there is a sort of symbiosis of a variety of animals in farmlands.
When we look to crop fields, that’s where things get a little less cheerful and unlike the picture that a lot of vegetarians and vegans paint. Obviously, if people don’t eat animals, then we’d have to eat vegetables or wheat and other crops. The problem with that is that in order to cope with demand from a growing population, more land has to be taken away from forests. With deforestation, animals’ habitats are now taken away or reduced and the amount of food for these animals within the forest has been reduced. If you were the animal, what would you do? Naturally, you’d go to where those crops the humans have been farming as it’s an easy source. Unfortunately, farmers see these animals as pests and in order to keep animals from messing with the crops, farmers constantly find ways to deal with them. This is done mostly through the use of poisons or pesticides, sometimes farmers even spread out seeds that have been poisoned so that animals eat them and die. This is all to make sure so that they don’t mess with the crops.
The problem with the argument that most vegetarians and vegans when it comes to animal conservation is that it is too simplistic. Also, it seems to put more importance of the lives of domesticated animals over wildlife. This includes endangered species that can’t migrate to other areas or need specific types of foods in order to sustain life. Sure, it’s bad that domestic animals have to get killed and suffer (especially suffer) but they’re spread out by the dozens compared to a lot of other species that could suffer more from this.
It should be noted that Claudio never stated that it’s wrong to be vegan or vegetarian, he also doesn’t say that it’s impossible for humans to eventually not to have to consume animals. The problem is that, at least right now, that is essentially impossible. Whether it’s eating meat or not, humans have already established themselves in nature to the point where anything we do will affect things unfavourably for another party.
Claudio does propose a way to start to make things better, not solve them but at least improve them. He stated that both vegetarians and omnivores should be well educated on just how nature works and is influenced by what we do, as well as what animals would benefit or not from our choices. He also states that, even if we can’t avoid killing animals, we can still treat them better and give them more humane methods of dying.
Taking care of an animal, giving them a happy life where they can grow and be nurtured and then taking that life through a method where they don’t have to suffer or die horribly is the least that we can do.
He also stressed that what people can do away with is the more, consumer-oriented methods of farming. These are methods employed by big companies that just want to produce as much as possible, thus they subject animals to tough life where they’re basically living factory machines. Again, even if we can’t change things completely we can at least make them better.
It should be noted, that even through all this, being vegan or vegetarian isn’t a bad thing. We just did an article on the benefits of being vegan ourselves. Everyone is allowed to eat and support what they want. What we, all, have to keep in mind is to stay informed about the world around us, instead of shutting ourselves up in our own ideologies or points of view we should try and look at what’s around us with patience and understanding. That is how we can help make this world a better place, not just for humans but animals and nature itself as well.
Photo Credits: Noticias Agropecuarias, Playground and Cosas ricas de Emilia