More than ever in the past few weeks I have encountered an argument against Veganism that for many people who are not Vegan seems to be, at first glance at least, reasonable. That is the statement "but this is what they are raised for, that is their purpose."
Lets analyse this a little. First off, clearly this is why they were brought into this world, at least from the humans who did the farmings perspective. The animals mothers, (pigs, cows, sheep, chickens, turkeys and so on) were forcibly impregnated to make them give birth so that the farmers could raise their children to grow as fast and large as possible to sell for their meat and skin. They are commodities in business, again according to the farm, and property, whose value is judged by profitability. So the more babies they can have, the faster and bigger they grow and the more money they can make is all part of the plan. They are food, or a source of milk, eggs and so on. If they are not profitable to the business then they have no purpose and are killed to recount any money they would otherwise lose in keeping them alive.
However, lets look at the statement again. First of from the animals perspective this is not only untrue, but also extremely cruel and narrow minded. The animals never asked to be born, and their mothers never asked to be raped, forcibly impregnated repeatedly their entire lives and never planned to be part of this cycle of torture and terror. The lives being lived by these animals are just as real and just as full of life as the lives we humans are living. They form close friendships, have deep emotional and familial bonds, want love, health, food, water, shelter and happiness just like you and me. From the point of view then of these animals and their mothers they were most certainly not raised to be killed at a fraction of their potential life span, just to make money from their dead bodies. Furthermore stating that it is their purpose is like saying the purpose of a dog is to bring back sticks. Their lives are much more meaningful than just being the main course on your table at one meal on one day, after their lives have ended. The mother cow in the dairy industry is just trying to be a mother,but has her baby taken from her within a few days if not hours, so that we can hook her up to milking machines and suck the milk out of her that her body made to feed to her newborn calf, she doesn't care about providing milk for humans, she isn't even aware that we are drinking her milk. The same goes for the mother pig who is repeatedly impregnated, stuck in a gestation crate and has to watch her piglets be born, suckle for a few weeks and then be taken away to be killed, while the process is repeated on her until the time comes when she is no longer able to continue this intensive cycle of endless pregnancies and is sent to be slaughtered. Nor for the battery hens who lay up to 300 eggs a year, suffer calcium and iron deficiencies, are crammed into locked cages and never see the sun until they are loaded onto the truck for the slaughter house. None of these animals or the countless other who all suffer for our lust for the taste of meat and flesh have ever willingly or purposely chosen or opted for this life, but it is the life they endure. Even in the most loving and ideal conditions, no living creature will ever willingly walk down the ramp to the slaughter house. And in the end, that;s all that matters.
When you start to peel away the layers of conditioning and advertising then your initial acceptance of the statement becomes more murky and unclear. Then you may consider this, the lives of the animals may not seem like they have much importance to you, but they have tremendous importance to those living those lives. In fact when you look at many humans on the planet today you could say that their lives have no more purpose or meaning than the lives of the animals you do not place importance on. People in jail or those who have committed terrible crimes and are now a burden on society, people in comas, people with severe mental disabilities, people who are unemployed, unborn babies, the chronically ill, people who make little to no contribution to society. They all have tremendous value to their friends, family, and to themselves, not to mention that many are good people, and yet if we looked at them the way we look at animals we can not fail to make the same conclusion that their lives do not matter when thinking about the greater purpose that so many claim to value. We give these lives value because they are human and we can understand them and their needs and wants. But for non-human animals we refuse to see this same need and purpose. This view point has been named - Speciesism.
If it was decided by a government or authority that certain groups or sections of human society would suddenly be given a new purpose such as children being conscripted to the army or sent to work in sweat shops, or ethnicity was decided to be the main criteria for jobs, if people over child bearing age were killed and we ended all life support and medical care for people with terminal or chronic conditions we would have mass rioting and anger because we all see the individual when it comes to humans. We value human life, but not the lives of other animals. We can claim our intelligence gives us superiority or higher significance, and yet we are the only species that if we were all wiped out tomorrow the world would be a better place. No war, pollution, no more plastic or oil spills in the oceans, no more deforestation, less wildfires and less damage and chaos in the natural world. Switch us out for Bees, phyto-plankton and many other animals and its a different story, some leading to the collapse of ecosystems or food webs, others to complete global and climate catastrophe. So to say our lives matter more is irrelevant. They may matter more to the growth of the economy, to the advancement of technology and to human understanding of the world, but when it comes down to it, life is life, and all lives matter to those who are living them.
Now perhaps you see my confusion with this initial line of thinking. We do not raise humans for the purpose of advancing society, selling for profit or in a more horrible scenario for their meats. We raise human children because as parents and caregivers we care for the genuine life that is in that child. As a family we love each other and try to make each other happy, we encourage those children to follow their dreams and chosen path, we may at times attempt to steer them and guide them but in the end its all about love. We try to keep them safe and healthy and do what we think is in their best interests. And can you see that those same animals on which it was claimed "but this is what they are raised for, that is their purpose." Are only trying to do exactly the same things for their children, to keep them safe and healthy and to love them and care for them.
So what then do we do with them? Leave them alone. Stop impregnating them and mass breeding them, let the mothers be mothers and the children grow old. Care for those that need our care and help those that need our help. We after all are the reason they are here, but they are the ones who are living their lives. And that is the difference. Just as our parents are the reason we were born but do not have a say on how we live our lives when we reach 18, so we should treat animals, like the parent we are. Tend to them, and if there are too many then consider radical forms of birth control, or in the case of animal agriculture, stop the endless cycle of forced pregnancies. Let them live out their lives and die like everyone else and then stop.
All I am trying to say is that you cannot claim that the only purpose of an animal is to die when we say so just so we can enjoy the taste of its flesh or milk. They are alive, they feel pain and suffering. Their lives have value to them and their family. They want to live, to send time with family, to enjoy the grass and sunlight and to experience life on this planet. To treat them as anything else but a living being is morally and ethically unfounded and in my mind a horrific miscalculation that at present means that billions of animals every year are killed for foods and products that are not only causing massive suffering worldwide, but making us sicker and destroying the planet.
Please think on this, and if you are ready to chose a more loving approach to other living beings, then start by adopting a Vegan diet.