Veganism will create problems
Point/Counter-Point: This article is part of an Op-Ed Duel. To read the other side of this debate, "Veganism is the solution," click here.
The extent of the conversation surrounding veganism tends to wallow around the shallow pools of animal cruelty. Sometimes the strength of the present intellect will allow the dialogue to venture into sustainability territory — which is a good start. However, we as a society almost always fail to recognize what the larger implications and long term effects would be if we stopped eating animal products altogether.
Its important to call to attention to the fact that people are a part of this thing called an ecosystem. Believe it or not, we're still a part of it. When we get our food at the supermarket and enjoy the comfort of air conditioned, insulated buildings, we tend to forget that, despite our cognitive distance from the environment, we are not in fact separate from it. Our buildings, although technically unnatural, create a new landscape for the planet. Our new methods of subsistence are not separate from the greater food chain, but an integral part of it. Whether we like it or not, we participate in this cycle.
People eat animals. They have been for as long as people have been people, and probably even before people were people. If we're not eating animals, we're eating animal products. To ask people to suddenly give up animal products would be like asking trees to stop preforming photosynthesis. The amount of carbon dioxide left in the environment would be unreal. And if we stopped relying on animals for calories, local animal populations would be out of control.
Take the wolves in Yellowstone National Park, for example. They were famous for preying on livestock and were hunted until practically ceasing to exist in the park by the 1920’s. What followed, of course, was an explosion of the antelope population due to the fact that there were a lack of predators to regulate it. As the antelope began to dominate the area, they began to eat a considerably larger amount of brush than they had before. They also began devouring willows located close to streams that are integral to the streams structure and water flow. Apparently, the slow current the willows provided was a crucial factor of a beaver's ability to create dams. The beavers also used willow as material for building the dams and in some cases for food. Without adequate resources, beaver populations declined. At the end of the day, the massive increase in grazers caused so much damage that rangers began killing them or capturing them themselves to deal with the problem.
Like antelope, cows are grazers. They’re also one of the main animals the vegan community is adamantly against farming for food.
According to PETA, 29 million cows a year are used for food production. Lets say we decide tomorrow that we as a nation want to go vegan and halt any and all efforts to use these animals for food. The U.S. would immediately be faced with the task of what to do with 29 million large animals. Right now, they're contained in designated spaces that prevent them from reaching the greater extent of the environment. If we let them go, the situation would be similar to that of the explosive antelope population upon removing the wolves from Yellowstone. They would consume an unreal amount of resources, taking disproportionately from the rest of the already existing and established ecosystem, which has evolved without the large population of cows. A rise in prey population would probably also lead to a rise in the population of predators like mountain lions and coyotes, because they would have the resources to maintain a larger population.
And that's just cows. According to Food Equality, 56 billion animals are killed on farms every year. Consider how we as a country and an ecosystem could handle 56 billion animals released into the wild. That's over 1 billion animals per state. There is no way that we as a society and a natural world could seamlessly manage the integration of these animals into our environment.
Granted, there are issues with the current system of food production including, but not limited to, factory farming. There are serious environmental repercussions such as the intense release of methane that cows produce being put in the atmosphere. The answer to this is not an extreme solution like veganism, but moderation. By reducing the amount of animal products we eat, rather than cutting them out all together, we can maintain the delicate, natural balance of the ecosystem while also reducing these carbon emissions.
What vegans propose to do, behind a curtain of morality, is ask us to go to extreme lengths like removing ourselves from the food chain in order to accomplish a goal that can be achieved in a much more palatable fashion. As well intentioned as the movement is, I hope the prospect of really fucking things up for the natural world might deter you from the utopian vision of global veganism.