Some people worry that individual species of farmed animals would become extinct if people stopped eating them, and for many farmed species this would definitely be a good thing. Farmed breeds are not natural in that they do not occur in the wild. They were specifically bred by people to have certain physical traits, such as large muscles or high milk yields, but these money-making traits also cause a lot of suffering.
Commercial breeds of turkeys and broiler chickens, for example, are bred to put on a lot of weight as quickly as possible and as a result their joints are painful, their hearts are weak, and they are prone to bone breakages. It is right that these poor creatures are not bred to suffer this way. But that doesn’t mean that all poultry breeds will completely die out. There are still wild species of fowl, while others have become feral, which is to say that they were once captive, but they have successfully returned to the wild.
Dairy cows have been genetically bred to have a high milk yields but this means they suffer from increased leg and metabolic problems, and an increased susceptibility to disease.1 On farms, they are repeatedly impregnated and suffer the additional emotional toll of having their calves taken away from them. By the time they are six, most dairy cows are considered ‘spent’ – that is, they are lame, exhausted or have become infertile – and they are sent to the slaughterhouse. It is right that these poor creatures no longer exist purely to suffer. Besides, there are wild bovines including bison and buffalo and so bovines will not become extinct.
And this is the same for all other farmed species – ducks, geese, boar and sheep. Their wild ancestors are still living freely, and they will not become extinct. And if we all switched to a plant-based diet, there would be a lot more land available for habitats for these and other wild animals.2 It is also quite likely that farmed species will remain on sanctuaries, too. After all, we don’t eat dogs or cats, and they’re not extinct!
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