“Don’t you care about people?”
“I’m not vegan because I value human life over animal life.”
“Do you feel for humans who suffer?”
I wish I had ten dollars for every time I have seen the Quid Populus fallacy, or the "But What About People?" approach to trying to convince someone that vegans care less about people than animals, or that caring for people and animals are mutually exclusive activities.
Let’s take a look at the people who benefit from meat-eating, shall we? Since we are looking for direct cause-effect relationships, I prefer to take my examples out of the abstract and place them directly in the line of real human experience.
A Cameo Appearance from the $10,000 Umbrella Stand
The first person to benefit from someone else’s addiction to eating meat, dairy, and eggs is the owner of the company selling the animal product. For instance, the CEO of McDonalds benefits every time a human being buys his company’s artery-clogging, preservative-soaked food because he is now able to afford yet another ten-thousand dollar umbrella stand and/or Graham & Brown wallpaper for his second or third trophy wife. Ex-McDonalds CEO Jim Skinner drew a salary of 8.75 million dollars per year, which is particularly ironic in a mathematical sense as most non-manager American McDonalds employees make about $8.75 an hour.
I don’t think anyone who is trapped in a McDonalds “career”, where one goes home stinking of beef fat and fry grease, is in a fantastic place. On all stations of the chain from slaughterhouse worker to fast-food cashier to restaurant manager, the benefits of any random meat-eater’s habit are negligible until you reach the top one percent whose combined income is more than ninety percent of everyone else, and we have not even begun to cover tax evasion.
Another benefactor of mass meat-dairy-egg addiction is the heart surgeon who lives in my parent’s neighborhood. He lives in a palatial, custom built six-bedroom house with his wife. If it weren’t for your father’s latest heart attack, caused by a lifetime of eating animal products, he would have to find other work to afford his vacations in the south of France and his luxury SUVs.
But What About Joe Slaughterhouse Worker?
Compare the daughters and sons of the slaughterhouse worker whose employment is dependent on the false idea that eating meat is necessary. I think we can safely say the slaughterhouse worker’s thoughts and actions can be directly linked to those who buy the products of the slaughterhouse, i.e. one would not exist without the other.
Sociology professor Dr. Nik Taylor noted that slaughterhouse workers’ aggression levels are “so high they’re similar to incarcerated populations.” The findings of a 1994 – 2002 study of the “Sinclair effect” of slaughterhouses in 581 American counties finds that slaughterhouse employment increases total arrest rates, arrests for violent crime, arrests for rape, and arrests for other sex offenses in the communities surrounding.
Consider a slaughterhouse worker who spends his day of slitting pig’s throats, haunted by the memory of a pig who nuzzled his hand like a dog shortly before he drew the knife through the creature’s carotid artery.
Consider also a chicken-hanger who took living birds, hung them by their feet as they struggled and pecked her hands as she shunted them towards an electric stun bath and then to a mechanical blade that slit their throats washes her aching, sore hands after a hellish day of “processing” thirty-five birds a minute. No amount of masks or protective gear could stop the birds from shitting all over her until she reeked of feces, feathers, and blood.
The guy who slit the throat of the pig comes home and finds his children have decided to decorate the floor with cereal and a bag of flour. That’s when he beats the living daylights out of the three of them, nearly killing his daughter when she begs for mercy, kind of like the pig who nuzzled his hand.
The woman who worked the chicken line starts drinking in the car on the way home. She doesn’t beat anyone half to death, however, she has an alcohol problem that’s destroying her family and there is no cure for the fact she is losing the use of her hands.
I think we can agree neither the pig-destroyer nor the chicken-hanger enjoy quality lives. At the very least, their quality of life does not resemble that of a McDonalds CEO or a heart surgeon.
I cannot seem to find individual stories of children or adults who have suffered similarly on account of my veganism.
But What About the CHILDREN???
If we look at how eating animals impacts the environment all human beings must share, especially the children, the effect is rather alarming.
The individual now being affected is your hypothetical great-grandchild. (I deliberately chose not to reproduce and I have never been pregnant, so I cannot claim my descendants will be affected by anything, as they will never exist.)
Your great-grandchild is named Katie. She will be born in the year 2095 and will die by the age of thirty, which will be far more common in her era than yours. Her planet is nothing like the one you know now. For one, the oceans are crowded with eerie, dead spaces and almost free of fish. The Amazon rainforest is gone. Elephants, lions, tigers, walruses, manatees, orangutans, gorillas, and rhinos only exist for her in pictures. She has never seen a butterfly or a bumblebee in real life.
The place where she lives is a former suburb. She squats in the ruins of a once-pricey single family home with other workers, who eke out a living salvaging copper and other metals from ruins like the one she lives in. She dies of cancer due to radiation poisoning after having several deformed children, most of whom died either in her womb or shortly after their birth. She never learned how to read in her hard-scrabble, vicious existence. Literacy was her fondest aspiration in life.
If eating meat helps anyone, I would ask the meat-eater to show me the money, or at least figure out where the dollars are going.