Sunday, December 16, 2012

Animal Rights, Veganism, and The End of The World

December 21, 2012 is rapidly approaching. At the time I write this, in fact, it's only FIVE DAYS AWAY! Does this matter? Not necessarily, but I think it could. Today, I want to explore the animal-rights-related implications of what would happen if civilization collapses, which is what some people believe will happen on the 21st.
Even if nothing abnormal happens on Friday, a collapse of the global economy, a food crisis, or environmental collapse could bring about drastic changes to our civilization at any given time. We live in uncertain times. The more complex our food systems and economy become, the more disastrous it would be if there was even a minor malfunctioning in the system. As the environment becomes further degraded, we will face problems that no civilization before us has faced: How will we get our resources to live, and from where? What will happen if there are no longer trees and plants to absorb the toxic chemicals which are spewed out of factories and which are in our consumer products?
If our civilization collapses, we'll probably have to go back to farming, or hunting-and-gathering. Communities would be strengthened-- no more "global economy" nonsense-- but we would have to be self-sufficient, and that would be hard. Self-sufficiency may include using animals for farm labour, transportation, clothes, and food. Veganism would be an incredibly difficult concept to adhere to-- at least, it would be difficult to follow veganism up here in Canada, where winters are cold and summers are hot, and where nutritious food for humans doesn't grow in abundance without intervention.

"Ahh! It's all too much!" Photo Courtesy of http://runningcode3.com/2011/07/04/an-ostrich-in-disguise/
Don't bury your head in the sand, though. I want you to read this blog post! This is an incredibly important thing to think about.
"I'm ready to face the truth-- bring it on!" Photo Courtesy of http://pat-aviewfromtheedge.blogspot.ca/2010/03/ostrich-festival.html
If our civilization DOES collapse (whether on December 21 or another day), what would become of the animal rights movement?
One thing is for sure: a lot of animal rights would be squashed, because everyone would be too busy trying to survive. If you mentioned the idea of "animal rights" to your neighbours, they would probably laugh scornfully and tell you to get your head out of the clouds. This is the read world, not a utopian society.
Sigh! I suppose we mustn't ask, then, what most people would do. After all, I find that most people can be pretty selfish when times get difficult. Perhaps the better question is this: Should we, the animal-rights-believers, keep going on with our animal rights beliefs in disastrous situations?
It's just like the old you-and-a-goat-both-starving-in-a-boat question. Do you eat the goat? Or do you both perish? Or is there another way?
In this case, and in the civilization-collapses situation, we have to take a number of factors into consideration.

1) If we follow our animal rights beliefs (for example, don't breed horses to ride around on, don't eat animals, etc.), will we die? If not, will we be inconvenienced in any way? How will we be inconvenienced?
2) How much do we care about animal rights? How much do we care about ourselves, our own well-being and happiness, our lives? Which is more important? Are the two things equal?
3) What will we be willing to do once our survival instincts kick in?

As you can see, it's no easy question to answer. It demands a different answer for each different situation.
Let's use an example situation, just so I can show you how I think you should run this through your head when thinking about your own situation.
Erm, how about we talk about what would happen to me if the global food market and economy collapsed? And, just for the fun of it, let's pretend that this would happen on December the 21.
Well, first of all, super-markets would either close down or become rather empty. People would rush to the stores, grabbing every last can of beans, jar of peanut butter, and loaf of bread. Thankfully for my family, it wouldn't be so bad, because we are going to make sure to stock up on non-perishable food supplies today-- just in case. Still, though, we wouldn't have much time to sit around thinking about what to do.
The trees in my neighbourhood would probably come down, much to the dismay of local wildlife. Not all of them, but a lot of them. So many of them, in fact, that I would describe it as a breach of the animal-rights ethic. The trees are homes of many creatures, after all. We would need firewood to burn for heat in our houses, and remember, the stores probably wouldn't be very helpful in providing anything anymore if there was no more global economy. A lot of people would cram into one house, leaving many houses empty, and, therefore, unheated, which would help a little bit with saving trees.
I would be forced to confront the problem of what to eat. Like I said, we'll be stocking up on enough supplies that I could eat for a while, but then what? Would I take what I could get, regardless of its ingredients, or not? From a philosophical  standpoint, I should try my very best to keep my vegan diet, no matter what, because I don't want to kill animals. But if we somehow came across a cow or hen or some other creature and brought her into our house, I would possibly eat her eggs and/or milk to survive. However, I would not eat the animal's flesh or that of a wild animal, for I feel that doing so would reduce me to a sort of savage. In case of imminent death by starvation, however, who knows what I would do? How can I make that sort of decision now, sitting in front of my computer with relatively little worries? In the survivalist realm of nature, animals frequently eat each other for survival. Humans have been known to become cannibals when faced with the choice between death and eating each other. That doesn't mean we should become cannibals in modern-day society, nor should we stop being vegans in our current lives, but in a survivalist world, there is a lot more moral ambiguity-- an "anything goes" ethic.
For horse-back riding as a method of transportation, I would first and foremost try to avoid it. If I couldn't, however, I would opt to look for a rescue horse or pony. And, again, if things got so bad that I had to buy one from a breeder-- heck, if things got so bad that I had to steal one from a breeder-- who knows what I would do? I don't want to admit it, but I would probably do whatever I had to to survive. It's called survival instincts, you know.
What would you do if civilization collapsed, readers?
Regardless of what you would do in an extreme situation, I urge you to remember that we aren't living in a survivalist era (yet), so you have no excuse to break the ethic of animal rights for now. This is just to get you thinking about it in case of civilization's collapse, or, perhaps, just for the intellectual stimulation of philosophizing on the finer points of animal rights. It can also strengthen your current resolve over animal rights-- when you decide for yourself how far your beliefs into animal rights go, you'll be less likely to break them later on. Decide now on how far you'll go with it, and be spared the pain of uncertainty later.

Photo Courtesy of http://www.atinachile.cl/content/view/19162/quieres-ser-buena-persona-VEGAN-una-ideologia-para-ser-Feliz.html

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