I was inspired to think about this question by Suzanne’s experience at the Peace Fair last weekend (see her blog post). I and my fellow vegans fantasize about a day when animal agriculture will be a thing of the past. I imagine my great-grandchildren looking at pictures in history books and exclaiming, “THAT was a thing?! People used to DO that?!” It’s a nice thought and I believe that day will come (although, let’s face it, I may not actually be around to see it) but when someone asks a question at a “Conversation with a Friendly Vegan” table, I want to spend some time with it, do a little research and dig a little deeper.
The question posed to Suzanne was: What’s your plan for all the people who will lose their jobs if we stop eating animals? I’ll momentarily put aside the intention of the speaker which I think was to ask a “gotcha” question and just assume the question is sincere. The truth is, I’m not an economist or expert on market restructuring. My “thing” is to be as compassionate as I can be in my daily actions and to do what I can to build compassionate relationships with others. Given that particular mission, I guess my personal “plan” is to extend that compassion to anyone who may be temporarily harmed by the extinction of animal agriculture. When it happens, it will not be the first nor the last time the market forces industries to adapt to changes in consumer demand.
Looking to the future
If you’ve been paying attention, you’re probably aware that animal agriculture is not the only industry that will experience massive changes in workforce needs. If you believe the experts, artificial intelligence will be performing most repetitive jobs in the not-so-distant future. What’s my plan for them? Same as above. Compassion may not be able to solve all problems but, in my opinion, it’s a powerful place to start the brainstorming session that will result in positive action.
Learning from the past
It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I used to head over to Blockbuster to rent a movie every Friday night. If you’re under forty, you may not even know what I’m talking about so let me enlighten you. Whenever we wanted to watch a movie that wasn’t on one of the thirteen channels available to us, we had to get in our cars and drive to a store to rent one. We were better off going early or we’d be stuck with a clunker of a movie because all the good ones would be gone. Then, if we returned it late or failed to rewind, we’d pay fees. Oh wait, you don’t know what I mean by “rewind”, do you? Look up “VHS” and figure it out, young one. My point is that there are many jobs and entire industries that no longer exist. Why? In Blockbuster’s case, it was due to technological progress. When the CAFOs are gone, it will be largely due to compassionate progress. We are an innovative species with a lot of grit and we will figure it out.
What do you think? Any economist vegans out there that can shed some light?