Many people who call themselves vegans and animal rights activists, in my experience, have little or no knowledge of social science; and, often, what they do “know” about the connections between society and non-human nature is laden with misnomers. For example, it is not uncommon to hear vegans argue that it is the consumption of livestock which causes world hunger. After all, more than 80% of the US’s grain harvest is fed to cattle, and that would be more than enough to feed the hungry of the world. It seems logical to conclude, then, that the end of human consumption of animals in the United States would bring about the feeding of hungry people elsewhere. Vegan guru John Robbins seems to hold this belief.
But it is entirely false! If North Americans stopped eating meat next year, it is unlikely that a single hungry person would be fed newly-freed grains grown on US soil. This is because the problem of world hunger, like that of “overpopulation,” is not at all what it seems. These problems have their root not in the availability of resources, but in the allocation of resources. Elites require scarcity—a tightly restricted supply of resources—for two major reasons. First of all, the market value of goods drops decisively as supply increases. If grains now fed to livestock were to become suddenly available, the change would drop the price of grains through the floor, undermining the profit margin. Elites with investments in the grain agricultural market, then, have interests directly corresponding to those of elites who own part of the animal agriculture market. Vegetarians tend to think that vegetable and grain farmers are benign while those involved in animal husbandry are vile. The fact is, however, that vegetables are a commodity, and those with financial interests in the vegetable industry do not want to make their product available if it means growing more to make even less profit.
Second, it is the case that the national and global distribution of food is a political tool. Governments and international economic organizations carefully manipulate food and water supplies to control entire populations. At times, food can be withheld from hungry people as a means of keeping them weak and docile. At other times, its provision is part of a strategy intended to appease restless populations on the verge of revolt.
Knowing all this, it becomes reasonable to assume that the US government, so tightly controlled by private interests, would subsidize the non-production of grains, in order to “save the industry from collapse.” Farmers would likely be paid not to grow grains, or even to destroy their crops. It is not enough to boycott the meat industry and hope that resources will be re-allocated to feed the hungry. We must establish a system which actually intends to meet human needs, which implies social revolution.
This is only one of many connections between animal and human exploitation, but it illustrates well the need for total revolution. A revolution in the relationship between humans and animals is narrowly focused and is, in fact, preempted by the very nature of modern society. One reason animals are exploited in the first place is because their abuse is profitable. Vegetarians tend to understand this much. But the meat industry (including dairy, vivisection, etc) is not an isolated entity. The meat industry will not be destroyed until market capitalism is destroyed, for it is the latter which provides impetus and initiative to the former. And to capitalists, the prospect of easy profits from animal exploitation is irresistible.
The profit motive is not the only social factor which encourages animal exploitation. Indeed, economics is only one form of social relationship. We also have political, cultural and interpersonal relationships, each of which can be demonstrated to influence the perception that animals exist for use by humans."
Animal Liberation and Social Revolution - Brian A. Dominick (via scherbensalat)