Inherently bankrupt industries

In talks about animal agriculture from a vegan perspective, the argument often comes up that animal agriculture is an inherently bankrupt industry. The market surrounding animal products is fuelled by taxpayer money through the common agricultural policy (CAP). What they often fail to acknowledge, however, is that an industry being funded partially by taxpayer money is not inherently bad or bankrupt as such. Accordingly, I present the argument as to why industries fuelled by taxpayers money are not inherently bad and then produce an adaptation of the argument as to why, in the case of animal agriculture, this does in fact matter.

Commercial aviation

One example of an industry fuelled by taxpayer money is commercial aviation. Historically, taxes paid for aviation tickets have been incredibly low. Lower, in fact, than taxes paid in other forms of public transportation [1]. Moreover, there are no taxes on aviation fuel [2]. These differences, among others, make it possible for commercial aviation to be affordable to the general public. This was important during the rise of air travel in the 1950s as ticket prices were incredibly high back then. Moreover, such policies of lowering prices through state funding generally serves people well as it allows people of all social classes to participate in or buy a certain good or service.

This is an important example to raise as nowadays, similar arguments could be made as to how commercial aviation is also inherently bankrupt. There is a difference, however, namely in the distinction that can be made that air travel forms a necessity. If one would travel from the Netherlands to, say, New York, they would not do so by boat. Unless, of course, they were as devoted to their cause as Greta Thunberg. This simultaneously raises how air travel differs from animal agriculture: In the fact that we do not need the latter.

Refined argument

The argument that animal agriculture is an inherently bankrupt industry can be appended with the aforementioned claim. In general terms, an inherently bankrupt industry should not exist (or be artificially maintained) if there is an alternative (existing or upcoming) that forms an improvement on said industry. Accordingly, we only need to show that there is an improvement on animal agriculture. In this case, that would be plant-based farming.

Animal agriculture is the leading cause of climate change [3], signifying the need for a more sustainable alternative in terms of resource usage. Moreover, plant-based agriculture is opted to be the most sustainable alternative we have today, as is also shown in [3]. The American Dietetic Association, one of the most independent collaborations of dieticians and nutritionists, claim that a plant-based diet can be healthy for any stage of life [4]. This produces sufficient evidence for the part of the argument relating to health, as their position is supported by several meta analyses. Whether a transition to plant-based farming in terms of land use can be deduced from the fact that a majority of crops is currently being used in animal agriculture to feed said animals. If those crops were used for human consumption, less crops would be used in total. Whether those crops would produce a sufficiently diverse dietary makeup is not in the scope of this post, though let’s grant that for the sake of argument. Ergo, there is an alternative to animal agriculture that is more sustainable and healthy.

I feel this appendage of the argument forms a clearer whole as to why bankrupt industries (be it monetary or otherwise) may be bad. Consequently, it produces an argument that will likely convince more people of the subject matter. In the context of aviation, we may approach a setting in the future in which this is also the case, for instance when cross-continental travel has a good alternative (perhaps Elon Musk’s underground tunnel?). However, as is a transition to a plant-based food system, such a change would be an enormous endeavour.

Sources

  1. A study on aviation ticket taxes
  2. The Hidden Cost of Air Travel
  3. Animal Agriculture is the Leading Cause of Climate Change – A White Paper
  4. American Dietetic Association on Vegetarian Diets

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