People often ask me why I think animals matter, when compared to all of the other problems in the world. World hunger, world peace, economic and political stability—aren’t these things more important than animal rights?
It’s a fair question, and actually a very important one because the answer to this question turned my world upside down when I learned it.
Why is the world so violent? Why can’t we manage to implement solutions on issues of simple justice?
Animals matter precisely because they are deeply integrated into issues such as world hunger and world peace. They matter because our treatment of animals affects our psychological outlook on the world. And they matter because caring about animals and adopting a vegan lifestyle is perhaps one of the most powerful things we can do to change the world for the better.
Imagine an idealised future in which humans have learned how to live without physically harming each other. There’s no need for armies, bombs or guns. The people live in peace and prosperity all the world over.
Except at the slaughterhouses. These are places of massive slaying machines, steeped in blood and entrails. People work at the slaughterhouses. They numb themselves to their emotional connection to animals, then come home to our peaceful paradise..?
If something seems wrong with this image, it’s because it’s so farfetched as to be nearly unimaginable. We can’t expect to live in an enlightened peaceful world while we’re still practicing mass slaughter of innocent creatures.
Now turn the example upside down: imagine a vegan future, in which our hearts are so sensitive that we fully reject outright the harming of animals. Could people of this temperament really go to war and kill other people? We can’t rule it out, but it certainly seems less likely.
Dig behind the surface level of burger ads and war propaganda, and you’ll find that our treatment of animals and violence in our culture are so interlinked that it’s nearly unimaginable that we could ever solve one without solving the other.
I think most people want to feel inner peace. When we’re at peace with ourselves and the world, we’re content and happy.
I also think most people are kindhearted. In fact, I think the vast majority of people would choose not to harm animals if all other things were equal.
When we eat animals and animal secretions, we create an inner conflict; on the one hand we are kind, compassionate beings who would rather not harm anyone, and yet, there are the bodies of innocent beings on our plate.
Adopting a vegan lifestyle is dramatically empowering. It’s empowering because it’s a radical rejection of violence and coercion towards all beings, of environmental devastation, and it requires no assistance. An individual can decide to make a stand for peace and love, directly, without needing help from any community, government, or corporation. It’s a profound expression of the power of the individual.
And it has resounding effects. Right now, it’s estimated that less than 1% of people in the modern world are ethically committed to a vegan lifestyle. And yet, as a testament to the power of the vegan message, nearly everyone in society knows about us and has given at least some small thought to the perspective.
Imagine a world in which 75% of people are committed, ethical vegans. Restaurants that serve meat are the exception to the rule, and most people think meat eating is strange and disturbing. Wouldn’t that pressure quickly convert the remaining 25%?
At 50% or even 25%, huge pockets of society would be committed to the cause of animals and we would begin to see radical shifts in the public perception of animals and veganism. Each person who commits themselves to veganism can truly have a far-reaching effect, not just for animals, but for humans as well.