Nonvegans often claim that their ancestral dietary habits justify continued exploitation of others. Advocates for animal agriculture and other sectors like hunting, fishing, and trapping make this assumption without factual support and reveal a fundamental lack of understanding about human ecology* and evolution. Here is a response that can be useful for vegan abolitionist advocates.
When you encounter people who use “evolution” to the present day as a smokescreen to destroy the planet and wreak a terrible toll against individuals from other species, remind them of what evolution is: evolution is the response required to adapt to a changing environment. Evolution is adaptation. Many societies failed to adapt, to evolve, and in the process destroyed the ecosystems that made their lives possible. Adapting to ecosystems also means there are limits to how much we should change them. Today, we have undeniable evidence that as a species we are failing to adapt planet-wide—not just in an area inhabited by a few cultures. We must understand that evolution now means doing what it takes to adapt in ways that support what’s left of ecosystems and each another. Certainly, animal agriculture is not adaptive. It is too wasteful, morally empty, and unsustainable. It is going to end as a matter of survival and human evolution.
The global scope of animal agriculture is hard to comprehend. According to the World Preservation Foundation, we use 67 billion farm animals to produce meat, much of it coming from species we use to produce milk and eggs after they are no longer deemed productive. Getting an exact count is difficult but many organizations assume the number hovers at 50-plus billion. This does not include those individuals killed on fur “farms” and the countless individuals we call hunted and trapped wildlife. Add to their toll the many billions of fish and “sea food” individuals from other species that nonvegans consume. Think about the magnitude and impacts of 7.2 billion humans practicing a human ecology that does not work, is not adaptive, and therefore not evolutionarily successful. Our population decisions are as important as veganism when it concerns evolution. Human population levels are adaptive or not adaptive, survivable or not survivable. When the World Bank estimates that livestock production uses over “two-thirds of the world’s surface under agriculture, and one-third of the total global land area,” they are describing the fact that these terrestrial ecosystems are controlled by tens of billions of our domesticated livestock. Nonvegans and our collective overpopulation are the cause.
Many non-government organizations (NGOs) refuse to associate human sustainability, maintaining biodiversity, and creating a world without hunger with a call to end animal agriculture and consumption of other species. They fail equally in not addressing overpopulation, social and economic injustice, and the need to reform economic systems to protect people and ecosystems alike. These and other issues cannot be addressed as separate campaigns because they are all woven into our human ecology. The issues are interdependent like species in ecosystems.
This is going to be difficult to change because our habits, economic systems, and resource management institutions favor the continuation of hunter, fisher, and animal agriculture models of predation. With our endless appetites, we have become increasingly voracious and ferocious predators, far more so than our ancestors were. And we do it on a massive, unsustainable scale that is not evolutionarily adaptive.
The elephant in the room is the absence of a worthwhile discussion about the suffering of domestic and wild individuals from other species condemned to be human food. The recognition of this great evil waged living systems and individuals should unite us instead of divide us. Vegans are acting from verifiable facts and not the nonvegans’ emotional need for there being no change. Countless lives, including the people loved by everyone reading this, depend on our defeating thoughtless quips about what our ancestors ate in a world that no longer exists. Veganism and additional changes in human behavior will create a new, reformed human ecology. This is what we must do as a species. Vegans are evolving.
*Human ecology is the study of the relationships we and our social institutions have with our external environment. Our external environment consists of other people and societies, human institutions, ecosystems, and all life on Earth. We create these relationships through our behaviors as individuals, societies, and the human institutions that harness and represent our decisions. I believe human ecology is the best way to demonstrate how profoundly our veganism heals our relationships with all else. It also reveals that veganism cannot on its own stop the exploitation and destruction of others and ecosystems. In fact, achieving a veganized world requires many other changes in our behaviors, our human ecology. Study the Seven Results illustration at www.thisishopethebook.com to get a sense of how the issues are interdependent. I explain this in depth in “This Is Hope: Green Vegans and the New Human Ecology” but also in my blog posts.