In a long-running series in which readers answer other readers’ questions, Guardian readers give their opinion of what would happen to farm animals if the world went vegan.

If the whole world went vegan, what would we do with all the farm animals? Grant McNish, Cumbernauld

Readers reply

We would slowly stop breeding them and they would die out naturally, apart from animals kept as pets or in zoos. Just as we gradually stopped breeding horses when the motorcar became popular. GrasmereGardens

Farm animals are highly selectively bred and require a lot of daily care, by farmers who are paid for by the meat sales. If there were no meat sales, the animals would have to be destroyed, to avoid cruel deaths from neglect. This happened a couple of years ago, when pigs couldn’t be sold due to a lack of abattoir workers in the UK’s meat-processing industry, so large numbers of pigs had to be culled. It’s rare for markets to collapse like that, though; markets change slowly in response to consumer demand. The growing industry usually has time to adjust. Randomusername222

If the world went vegan overnight, then I’ve absolutely no clue, but, for better or worse, that’s not a particularly plausible scenario. If we do see a global vegan conversion, then it will be a gradual process, taking years. The solution, then, is that, as the demand for animal products drops, so does the incentive to continue breeding them into existence, reducing the population naturally. TomFryers

It would mark a new epoch for civilisation. The final day of meat consumption (Sausage Day) would involve dining on the largest chipolata in history, with a new calendar built around Sausage Day denoting times Before Sausages (BS) and After Sausages (ASS).

In the days of BS, we can expect unprecedented social conflict between two sharply divided camps, with Freethinkers on one side raising livestock for ritual slaughter to be streamed live on Facebook. On the other side, the Wokerati will self-identify through the wearing of bead necklaces made from dried chickpeas and patrol the streets armed with ethically cultivated avocados, surreptitiously knocking on doors and listening for the distant sound of an imprisoned animal. Smaller independent groups will form with the largest – the Omnivores – offering early promise of a third way. Sadly, they will see limited success and splinter into factions: those who only consume air, those who only consume water, those who question traditional labels of ‘“animal, vegetable or mineral?” and so on.

Civilisation will ultimately survive this brutality and the days of ASS will see a return to a new normal, although one in which people have more roughage in the diet. The new smells that people create as a result of this high-fibre diet will transform the world of work, putting an end to the use of enclosed shared spaces. Instead, people will mostly Work From a Toilet (WTAF) and blurring the backgrounds of video calls will become commonplace. Mistakes involving mute and unmute will become precarious in novel ways, but it will be increasingly socially acceptable to take your smartphone to the bathroom. Many will fret about the impact this might have on young people. dorkalicious

It’s always supply and demand in market economy. If no one bought beef or lamb, they couldn’t be bred for a living. If everyone shifted to a plant-based diet, we could reduce global land use for agriculture by 75%. The land use of livestock is so large because it takes about 100 times as much land to produce a a gram of beef versus plant-based alternatives. Our water footprint could be reduced by more than 50% and greenhouses gases by 85%. KHeinzmann

We still have wild sheep and wild goats and, in many countries, feral pigs cause a lot of damage (in the US, they are the biggest contributor to premature calf deaths) But wild cattle have managed the landscape for a few million years, have many symbiotic relationships, are great nutrient recyclers and contribute beneficial microbes to soil ecosystems. In most countries, they are not the environmental demons we make them out to be, but are traction engines, cart-pullers and drivers of grain mills. They provide fuel, fertiliser and essential nutrients and purify water. They are embedded in every aspect of culture, ritual and religion.

Without them, 3 billion people will be forced to become slum dwellers and, in the west, land will have to be managed mechanically to prevent the inevitable growth in wildfires that scrub conversion will bring. The reality is, there are more than 3,000 breeds of cattle, which bring many benefits to biodiversity, as unmedicated megafauna. We are best following the lead of the rewilding projects and regenerative farms to best use their essential attributes. woodworm20

If the whole world suddenly went vegan and the animals went soon after, then the fossil fuel industry would argue it had no reason to be replaced by renewables – and humanity would make sure it continued to destroy itself another way. spatiality

A much harder question to answer is “Where do we get all the extra plant based food from”. CornishByRetirement

What’s more likely is that as demand for meat from livestock continues to decline either due dietary preference changes or the rise of cultured meat and precision fermented products farmers will just breed fewer animals to match the reduced demand. Philustrate2

Have one final farewell barbecue? apacheman

Original source: https://www.theguardian.com

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