July 30, 2007

Dairy Farmers in the American Heartland

Posted in animal advocacy, vegan, veganism at 1:11 pm by nevavegan

I have a really good friend who often argues with me that if everyone went vegan a lot of “Americans” would be out of work. And she isn’t the only one who says this—many people believe that taking compassion into account when we fill our plates somehow means less compassion toward our human neighbors.

I for one never really bought this argument. For one thing I’ve never been so optimistic as to think that I’d start my vegan blog and then suddenly a few days later nobody would be buying cow’s milk. But I also believe that people currently employed in industries that exploit animals could slowly but surely find work in the expanding industries replacing animal exploitation. Soy milk and veggie burgers, anyone?

But yesterday the Washington Post ran an interesting article showing a little spoken of trend in animal agriculture today. The United States is actually importing people from other nations to supply us with the steady stream of animal products consumers demand. This article covered the tensions and growing pollution in one community as Dutch dairy farmers set up huge operations in the US. We also know that many people working on battery farms for eggs or in slaughterhouses are illegal immigrants.

I’m not anti-immigrant by any means, but I believe that these trends show that rather than keeping our citizens working and productive, this huge push for more and cheaper animal products is actually just increasing a demand for cheap labor and asks immigrants to do work that many citizens are no longer willing to do.

So the next time someone accusing you of trying to put American family farmers out of business just because you order a soy latte, ask them how many of their friends currently work in animal agriculture. Remind them that the mythic small family farm is just that, a myth. Remind them that to produce all these animal products they thoughtlessly gobble we’re importing people as well as animals.

Then point them to this article and show them how dairy farming rather than keeping “Americans” employed is pushing them out of their communities and polluting their water and soil. I wonder if anyone making the “jobs before animals” argument really knows much about how our animal exploiting industries operate.



  1. Sean said,

    One simple response is that by drinking cow’s milk, you are putting soy farmers and soymilk producers out of business.

  2. jen said,

    people have so little faith in the american economy! is that how they think we got to where we are in the world now, by picking one industry and sticking with it, no matter what else changes in the world? if anything, it’s the REFUSAL to adapt to changing economic realities that results in large sections of the american economy bleeding jobs.

    my response to someone who says that not eating meat is going to cause people to lose jobs is, “would you tell people to keep getting kids hooked on smoking to keep those good cigarette industry jobs?” and if michael moore gets his way and we reform the healthcare system to actually treat our sick, what will happen to all those poor folks whose sole job is to deny health care claims? they’ll all be out of work!

    it’s a silly argument. there is no automatic net loss of jobs when one industry contracts. americans will spend their money on something else. or else they’ll save their money and free up capital that can be used to create jobs. it’s not a zero sum game. it only seems that way because of how recent changes in the structure of our economy have frequently resulted in outsourcing and globalization being used to benefit a few rich at the expense of poorer americans (and poorer people throughout the world). but that dynamic has nothing to with the particular industries being affected, and won’t be solved by trying to put the breaks on our economy changing, because that ship is sailing regardless of what happens in animal agriculture. the answer isn’t to keep eating meat, the answer is to deal with the larger problem of how we intend to deal with the challenges of a changing economy.

  3. jen said,

    oh yeah, and i forgot to mention that it’s ANTI-CAPITALIST to suggest that people should eat meat to preserve jobs. what are these people, pinko commies? that’s how capitalism works, people — supply and demand. if there’s no demand for your product, tough nougies, go make a product that there is a demand for.

  4. Mindy said,

    Thanks for posting about this, Neva. I think this is really important information for us to have on hand.

  5. Adam Kochanowicz said,

    I’ve heard this argument too. This makes it sound like a company is downsizing. To say that all these people who work within the meat and dairy industry would suddenly come to work with a pink slip in their mailbox is utterly unrealistic. If more people were to turn away from dairy and eggs, the industry would slowly fade away.

    On another note, I should add that the “one vegan at a time” philosophy doesn’t always work out the way people think it does. I have a blog about this that will be published next week.

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