It is sometimes heard on the lips of vegetarians that vegetarianism is the solution to animal cruelty in the food industry. After all, it is argued, if we stop eating meat then the corporations who are cruel to animals in the process of getting meat to their consumers will either shut down (because of lack of customers) or wake up and change their tack (because of the real threat of loss of customers). Now while vegetarianism does seem to be a solution to this is it the best solution out there? I’m not convinced.
It seems to me that there are two kinds of corporations when we deal with animals: those who are cruel to animals before and when they kill them and those who aren’t cruel to animals before and when they kill them (I don’t think killing animals is inherently a cruel act, it’s how you kill an animal that determines that). So, then, not all corporations are cruel to animals.
But, once we realize this, a whole new solution comes to mind: only eat meat offered by the friendly corporations (the corporations who aren’t cruel to the animals). This seems to be a better solution to the cruelty towards animals for two reasons:
- At the moment the cruel corporations own a greater proportion of the market (ie. people buy meat from them more often than the friendly corporations, for reasons such as them being more readily available, etc.). As people stop eating meat in general (vegetarianism) then both the friendly and the cruel corporations lose customers, meaning the cruel corporations still hold the greater proportion of the market. So the problem isn’t being solved (until everyone stops eating meat) since the cruel corporations have no incentive (or substantially less incentive than we would’ve thought) to change their behavior since they’re still ahead.
- It is significantly more difficult to convince people to stop eating meat altogether than convince them to eat different meat (ie. meat from the friendly corporations). So on the whole, the friendly corporation solution would probably spread more easily and have a much bigger influence.
If these reasons stand (and I think they do) then vegetarians really can’t use the cruelty towards animals as a reason for vegetarianism. I’m not saying there might not be other reasons, but this would no longer be one of them.