If you’re vegan, chances are high that you care deeply about animals. It may be that your love of domesticated animals - be they dogs, cats, horses, cows or chickens -- is what brought you to a compassionate lifestyle in the first place. It’s also likely that you spend time advocating for companion animals or farmed animals. But what place does wildlife have in your interests? Do you view wildlife protection as a vegan issue?
For those who are vegans for ethical reasons, the answer to this question likely seems obvious. Ethical vegans, who live by the principle that animals are not humankind’s to exploit, generally extend that belief to all animals. They recognize that indirect threats to wildlife, such as environmental pollution or habitat destruction, still constitute human exploitation of these creatures.
But people adopt a vegan diet for many reasons: some who adopt a plant-based way of eating for health or in opposition to food policy or factory farming methods may not consider the protection of wildlife as part of their ideology. For those who are vegan for health or food safety, the issue may not seem so clear. Why should these people care about wildlife?
According to a Humane Society of the United States, animal agriculture as an industry is the single largest user of land worldwide. For those whose veganism is based in an opposition to factory farming methods, consider this: animal agriculture has a direct impact on wildlife through the destruction of habitat. Once lands are cleared for livestock production, wild animals that remain in neighboring habitat are killed if they present a potential threat to farmed animals, or the crops grown to feed livestock. Moreover wildlife is killed in the production of livestock feed crops, which account for as much as 50% of the total crop yield globally.
For those who adopt a vegan diet for health reasons, consider that the same indirect effects of animal agriculture that affect wildlife -- environmental pollution, pesticide usage, contribution to climate change -- also affect you. (To learn more about the impact of animal agriculture on climate change, see this HSUS report.) You are part of the ecosystem just as wild animals are. Your water and soil is being polluted, the climate you live in is changing. By fighting to limit the effect of animal agriculture on wildlife and the lands they inhabit, you are limiting the impact on yourself as well.
Every species -- human, animal, or plant -- is part of the delicate balance of life on this planet. All are interrelated and need to be preserved. While it may seem that fighting the factory farming industry is enough to take on, remember: compassion is a renewable resource. Do your part to preserve and protect all animal life!
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Photo credit: Kasey