I’m shamelessly hyping my own article because it answers this question.
In addition to the environmental benefits above, there would be some drastic economic effects. Everyone who raises, processes, transports, or sells meat or dairy would be out of a job. Even people like bakers would have to drastically reformulate their business plan.
Eventually the livestock land may be able to grow crops, but that would take some time, effort, and money. I suspect there would be an excess of land, and the land owners would have to find some other use for it or suffer financially.
I would guess the restaurant industry would still be strong, because all these new vegans probably don’t know how to cook to their former satisfaction.
I think it would eventually be a much healthier country, but if everyone swore off animal products tomorrow, the economy would be drastically shaken up.
Although food processing businesses and the restaurant business would change a lot, I don’t think the end product would necessarily be loss of jobs. Vegans actually eat a lot of processed foods, from tofu, to rice milk, to egg substitutes. All of these foods would need to be made in much greater quantities than they currently are. If people became healthy vegans whose diets consisted mainly of fruits and vegetables, this could push people to eat more locally, which would improve the success of farmer’s markets and small farms.
People are focusing on the benefits of everyone becoming vegan. Sure; there are some. One is that we might some rainforest recovery due to less logging in South America; much of this logging is done to create space for cattle to graze.
What people don’t understand is that this would create massive unbalance in the ecosystem. We’ve killed off a lot of the predators in all of our ecosystems, like wolves, and replaced them with ourselves.
For example, if Americans stopped hunting deer, the deer population would spiral out of control and cause massive ecological devastation. Already, the lack of predators for deer has significantly decreased the biodiversity in many of their habitats, such as Pennsyvlania. If we were to stop hunting them, many species that rely on the same food as deer would probably go extinct, like songbirds. They can’t live in an overbrowsed forest because they need nesting to survive. This is why the Audubon Society allows deer hunting on its lands. Places like Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, who forbid hunting, have no idea how to control their ungulate populations, like elk. They are having significant problems maintaining the ecosystem there. Not to mention that if we stopped hunting ungulates like deer, the amount of deer collisions on the road would skyrocket.
That’s just ONE example; there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other types of ecosystems that would be wrecked if humans suddenly stopped interfering.
Hunters are actually the largest group contributors to conservation, and many programs that originate from hunters really help save the environment, such as Lousiana’s Marsh-to-Markets program.
Also, domestic animals are actually an important part of keeping ground fertile. Their dung restores nitrogen to the soil, among other things. That’s why grazing animals are an important part of keeping farms fertile by natural cyclical shifting of crops of different types and grazing animals. If grazing animals became less profitable, farmers would stop raising them and increasinly rely on toxic pesticides and fertilizers.
I’m not trying to rain on everyone’s parade, but it’s very important to think about how everything relates together. Ecosystems are complex, and a massive shift like that would have massive consequences – some of them good, some of them bad.
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