In my later years I am coming to understand that life is full of unintended consequences.
Case in point. I am trying hard to be vegan. I understand completely that when we treat animals as commodities we are exploiting them. No matter how gently we treat them, we are harming them by using them to supplement our diets, even if they don’t have to die to do it.
We have a favorite goat farm that makes the most delicious goat cheese. I am convinced they are as compassionate as is possible in a small, but still commercial environment. They feed them well, treat them lovingly. We love going and watching the babies frolic, feeding them grass, and the kids love milking the goats by hand.
But, as humane as they try to be, bad things still have to happen.
Baby goats don’t get to drink their own mother’s milk. It is too hard to keep the babies with their own mother, and when the goats feed from other mothers, disease is spread. So the babies are separated from their mothers.
Additionally, in order to have enough milk to make a commercial success of the dairy, the females have to be kept pregnant so they lactate continuously. This means lots of babies. Male goats are of little use, so the males have to be slaughtered and sold as meat. Not even all the females can be used, so only the best get to stay there for milking, and the rest are also sold or slaughtered.
Now, we could boycott the farm, but if everyone did, they would go out of business. All goat farms would. No one would need goat milk, so what would become of the species? Same with cows, pigs, chickens… Few people would raise them as pets, so they would eventually cease to exist, right?
So by not using the products they give us, they will be gone. Completely gone. So they are not exploited, but we miss out on having them in our lives. An unintended consequence.
Nature is brutal. Wild animals eat other animals to survive. If an animal’s natural predator is removed, the herds get too large for the land to support and they die of starvation. Even if domesticated animals were set free, they would be eaten by other animals. One way or another, they die.
I don’t like the whole set up. My love for animals prevents me from accepting killing them. But what, then, is the answer? I sure can’t come up with one.