"Pain and Death are a part of Life. To reject them is to reject Life itself."
-- Havelock EllisI love this quote. It speaks for not only human life, but animal life as well. And it's the latter that many people are just unable to grasp and understand.
Way too often–and maybe because I've been in too many vegan/vegetarian vs. meat-eater on-line discussions in the past–do I hear the bumper-sticker quip that "animals don't want to die." And too often I've told those that try to use this on me that they're full of it.
But the reason I started this post is because of the complete bullshit that follows the quip that "animals don't want to die:" that animals "deserve or have a right to live and choose to live their lives as they see fit" and that "slaughtering or killing them is needless." Variations of this exist all over the Internet and intricate web of social media, and I've probably heard them all.
The fact that animals don't want to die is only partly true. Of course animals don't want to die; they obviously make any effort they can to survive and live another day, no matter if they are wild or domesticated. But they do not have a choice in when or how they are going to die, nor even the fact that they may need to die to feed another hungry animal or several hungry animals.
See, if all animals deserve to live, and have a choice to live their lives as they see fit, doesn't a predator then have the right to take the life of a prey animal to feed itself and/or its family? What right to life does a predator have if it is not allowed to do this?
An uncomfortable truth–not notion–that I consistently and diligently bring up is the fact that humans are predators as well as animals. We may lack the teeth and claws of a "typical" predator, but we have the instincts, binocular vision, and classic behaviour that tells other animals–especially those that are prey animals and not your typical apex predators–that we are a predator to be feared and not trusted unless proven otherwise.
The particular notion that humans are both animals and predators deeply implies that we are an integral part of the ecology that makes Earth Earth and Nature Nature. Denying us the right to hunt, kill, and eat other animals for food denies us the right to life as well. We may be obligate omnivores, both plant and meat-eaters, but we are definitely not excluded from the natural balance that encapsulates all life.
Hence, slaughtering is not "needless." It is needed.
The Real Justification for Slaughtering Animals
The "excuse" for the acceptance of slaughtering animals, according to the animal rights movement, is so that the "carnist" of the human population can satisfy their tastebuds and/or violent tendencies to "commit murder." This reasoning is actually a tiny piece of the pie, and is not the true reason why animals are slaughtered.
Slaughtering or killing animals for food means alleviating pressure on the landscape. It means one less animal to feed, and one less animal to have to make room for on a piece of land so that it has an equal share of the piece of pasture to graze on.
I'd take hunting as an example, but hunting is a lot more complex subject in and of itself--and rife with controversy with trophy hunting versus hunting for the purpose of filling the freezer with meat from more "ethically raised" animals, which I don't care to get into--than if I am going to aim my argument at and use livestock instead. I'll only mention this about hunting: It does serve a worthy purpose to help control wildlife populations that have potential to get out of control, as many have in the past and even today. Hunting is and plays an incredible part of the conservation initiative, much more than people realize.
Where hunting is deliberately looking for animals to harvest, raising livestock is a little different. It, of course, involves the care and attention of various species of animals so that those animals can give the caregivers something in return: meat, milk, eggs, fibre, help with doing farm work, and to some extent entertainment. Humans create the environment for these animals whereas those hunted in the wild do not get such luxury.
The raising of these animals involves feeding them and providing them with enough land to live and eat from. These animals are often not discouraged from breeding. When they breed, they produce offspring, and those offspring obviously grow into adults themselves. Here lies the clincher: Because the offspring grow into adults, these animals need food too. So if the offspring of a group of 100 cows were kept, then that herd would literally double in size. That means double the feed required, double the pasture required, or double the grass demanded by those animals.
Keep in mind here that humans are at the helm of the raising of livestock animals. With natural predators removed from the system or kept at bay--not permitted to remove any animals at any time no matter if those animals are old, sick, young, or healthy but too dumb to really survive in the wild for long without any human interference--only the humans have the responsibility of doing the weeding-out or culling, so to speak.
Now, what if this responsibility were denied because of some extreme-leftist animal-rights governing body that says no livestock should be killed or bought or sold from any farm at any time? What would happen to the landscape of that farm and other subsequent farms? And what will happen to the animals themselves??
If you haven't figured it out by now, the truth is that it's really, really ugly.
Too Many Leads to Too Little
Should animals continue to be able to breed (and are not fixed to allow them to slowly dwindle down their numbers to near extinction), just a doubling of population size puts an enormous amount of pressure on the landscape, and not just on feed availability.
Every farm and ranch and every piece of land that has potential to provide forage for all and any animals, domesticated and wild, has a number attached to it. That number is called a stocking rate. Stocking rate is based on the amount of forage available to be utilized by an animal at a certain amount of time on a per-acre basis (or per hectare if using the metric system). Stocking rate is prone to change year after year according to things like precipitation, soil health, and grazing pressure. This number tells a stockman, rancher, farmer, or herder just how many animals and/or for how long they can graze a certain number of animals on piece of land. If that number is ignored or exceeded for whatever reason, there is severe risk of damage to that landscape.
Okay, that's a bit too much to take in, so let me explain it a little better for you by providing an example.
Let's say I have 100 cows, and 4 bulls. These 104 animals are able to breed and produce offspring at will.
Now let's say I have these 104 cattle (not yet including offspring) on 250 acres. Sounds pretty good, right? For a good growing area that gets enough rain to provide a lot of good grass, yes.
So, without getting into the whole stocking rate mumbo-jumbo that takes a bit of extra explaining (another blog post, another time), let's just say that on average, my land base of 250 acres can only handle 110 cattle at a time. So that means I have some room for expansion, but not a whole lot. I could easily add another bull and 2 cows, or 6 cows while still keeping those four bulls. And all that without causing damage to the very important forage resource I rely on to keep those animals year after year after year.
(An aside: Cows and bulls don't weigh the same. Your average beef cow can weigh around 1400 pounds, and a mature beef bull can drop in at 2200 pounds. So it's either I add another bull to add a couple (or three) extra cows, or just add 6 more cows and get the four bulls to work a little bit harder.)
If I apply the governing-body's rules to not cull any of my stock, and my land limit is 110 cattle for 250 acres on an average growing year, and my current cow-herd all successfully calve and raise good strong calves, that means that my herd went from 104 to 204.
That nearly doubles what my land can safely handle. This means that for one year alone I have to start looking for feed to feeding my growing herd.
Let's say that half of the offspring are heifers. So that means that I went from 100 females to 150; and, from 4 males to 54.
Say that this governing body also legislated that no farm is allowed to castrate or otherwise sterilize part of my herd. That means that those 50 extra males are going to be increasing competition for my four foundry bulls to breed my 150 females. Can you say possible inbreeding?
In 15 months, those 50 heifers are, technically, "ready to breed," but they reach puberty sooner and can actually be receptive to a bull in less than a year. If that were the case, then if my 100 cows and those 50 heifers also got bred, successfully calved out and raised calves right up to weaning, that means that my herd of 204 total increased to 354 cattle (150 + 150 + 54).
By now I am over three times above and beyond what my land can safely carry. Even with implementing some sort of managed rotational grazing scheme I am quickly running out of grass to keep these cattle fed. And because many other farms in my hypothetically animal-rights-governed country also cannot get rid of any of their cattle (or other livestock animals) either, available feed is running short in supply. Very, very quickly, at that.
It eventually gets to the point that any available feed or forage is all out, period. I cannot get feed anywhere. And my animals are beginning to show the signs of what outside people may call "neglect."
When there is no feed, no forage, nor any kind of edible vegetation available (not even anywhere off the farm premises like in ditches, along fields, even in fields themselves [this alone could cause a lot of horrible conflicts with the neighbours]), my animals begin to starve. First, any body fat gets used up, followed by the muscle tissue. By the time the body starts harvesting nutrients from the brain, the animal is already very, very close to death, if not dead already. All of them become walking skeletons, waiting for Death to come relieve them of this torture.
And the disease! With inbreeding, malnutrition and starvation, animals become more sensitive to disease and illnesses. Many of them get sick and die slowly because I am not allowed to even treat them, much less put those who are obviously suffering great pain out of their misery with as humane a euthanasia as I could deliver if the damned government didn't take my Winchester away from me.
Things of course, sort of begin turn around a few years later when enough animals have died that the grass can begin to come back. But it's a vicious cycle. Any kind of grass that does try to come up is immediately clipped to the dark, bare earth by these starving skeletons. And they continue to starve, and breed. And they starve, and they starve, until they finally die. Those left behind also starve, their young suffer incredibly because they cannot get enough sustenance. Eventually they too just up and die.
It's true that when the population dies back to less than, say, 50 animals, the vegetation eventually comes back. But as I mentioned, the cycle is bound to repeat itself again, and will do so probably every 5 or so years. It's a scary thought.
Water isn't an issue; these animals can get water on a regular basis. But water doesn't have much for nutrients that good hay and grass does. But any kind of water body and adjacent wetland would become mutilated and demolished to become nothing more than an ugly mud-hole.
Maybe by that time it would be more logical to allow the predators to move in to do their duty because I, hypothetically, cannot. But if there is just not enough of those predators around, and if for whatever reason the governing body also wishes the extermination of any predatory animal, then my animals will continue to suffer and suffer through this vicious, horrid cycle.
This is what would happen if humans were no longer allowed to sell, slaughter, euthanize, sterilize, or even treat any of their animals.
Why Culling or Slaughter is Still Needed
Today, livestock animals are well cared-for. They have ample feed, water, living space, and other animals to socialize with, and are also free of disease and pain. Why livestock animals today have these five freedoms is because slaughter and on-farm euthanasia is allowed to continue to happen.
Any responsible livestock-raiser understands that if they do not cull out any animals that are in excess of what a farm or ranch can handle, the above scenario is very likely to happen, though probably not as in extreme as I went into.
Raising animals is not cheap by any means, and nothing comes for free. Feed has to be purchased, and though it is cheaper to buy feed than to harvest it on the farm, many producers feel it better to grow their own feed for their own animals because they know what's in it, how it was made, and where it came from. Buying extra feed puts a lot of extra pressure on the pocketbooks, and that's not the kind of pressure most producers can even afford.
Nope, farming and ranching is not cheap nor made possible with free handouts.
It's very true that this blue ball we call Earth only has so much plant matter and feed to go around. In order for animals to continue to exist and be healthy, sacrifices need to be made to some of those animals so that the rest can continue on and produce more generations. And in order for the environment and the ecological integrity of the land, no matter if it has native plants or tamed ones for human and/or animal consumption, to remain healthy, vibrant, and diverse, some animals need to die for food for other animals in order to keep this environment as healthy as it can be.
This is exactly what happens in Nature, and is replicated to some extent on the less-natural, man-made farm environment. And it's a truth that all of us must be willing to understand and accept, no matter what feelings or opinions we have on the subject.