Justifications? Please Don't Bother.

A recent posting on a pro-vegan Facebook page showed pictures of ‘farmed animals’ (the exact ones shown above - I stole them!) eating, relaxing and generally being in repose in natural settings. The accompanying text simply said: “Living as they intended, having experiences without human exploitation.”

It was a pleasant, positive and inoffensive. Yet it prompted the following, somewhat defensive response, from one observer.

"Without human intervention not one of those species would exist. Furthermore without human stewardship none of them would continue to exist.

Cows, pigs, sheep, dogs, honey bees, and horses are the product of centuries of hybridization and selective breeding. Without humans none of them with the exception of some breeds of pigs, dogs and horses would survive the majority of the ecosystems they currently occupy. 

I find factory farming more disgusting than you could imagine and what people do to animals is absolutely deplorable. I care deeply for my animals and love having them around but in order for me to have them they need to be profitable and I'll go as far as saying my animals only have 1 bad day in their lives."

I find this a flawed, ill-considered and really, rather silly response, on so many levels. Allow me to dissect it:

As yet, humankind is not responsible for the creation of any species. The first DNA genome to be sequenced was in 1977, and in the 40+ years since (at least as far as has been shared with the general public), we have not gained enough technical capability to do any more with the knowledge than meddle with what nature creates. So whilst the author of the comments may perceive humanity as being somewhat godlike, to claim that “Without human intervention not one of those species would exist” is utter nonsense.

Isn’t it common knowledge that all animals have their origins in a wild or natural state, without intervention by us? They have indeed been “the product of centuries of hybridization and selective breeding”,often to their severe physical detriment. Yet he writes as if, through some great benevolence, we have done them a service. What is true is that our insatiable desire to change other living beings has arrived at the point where meddling with dog breeding for appearance sake, is recognised to have caused life threatening genetic disorders in at least a dozen popular breeds. Similar interference with (for instance) certain fowls, renders them ideal for consumption, but unable to even move as was intended. Where’s the favour there? Our 'domestication' of previously wild creatures has been solely for our benefit.

To claim that none of them would continue to exist is not only unfounded, but farcical. There is no evidence to support this belief (if only because livestock is considered too valuable to be left to its own devices). Granted, many animals are by no means in their natural ecosystems and would suffer hardship if abandoned by their human feeders. But does the writer not know that nature adapts? It finds a way. There are countless examples of creatures living in the harshest of habitats that have evolved to cope with what they face. Does he not know that pigs will revert happily to a wild foraging existence within a generation? Does he not know that horses are still naturally wild creatures that have to be ‘broken’; or that tens of thousands still live without any human interference in the US alone? Is he not aware that dogs can survive by catching their own food or scavenging? If animals like cows and sheep cannot adapt, it would only be because we have robbed them of their ability to do so, and put them in places where they shouldn’t be. And as for bees. Are there no other bees than those that live in hives? Oh please! If that’s the case, we’re all going to be in a lot of trouble very soon.