The ethics, ecology, and economics of domesticated animals are a touchy subject for many people. There are those who think that eating meat is a horrific wrong against the animal; to others, it is a contribution to a polluted world. Different views about our consumption of meat flood the idea marketplace. Yet the practicalities involved seem to be absent or overlooked.
Some people would state that everyone should stop eating meat. However, it begs the question: what would the world look like if everyone stopped eating meat? What would happen to the meat in the shops? What would happen to the animals that the meat comes from and the farmers who raise them? These are important questions and ones that have great implications. If everyone stopped eating meat tomorrow, then the stores would have to get rid of the meat somehow since it is taking up valuable space on their shelves. That meat would most likely go into the garbage and then into landfills. Butchers who exclusively deal in meat would go out of business, after all their entire business revolves around meat. There are others who deal almost exclusively in meat: farmers.
Farmers who mainly make their money by raising animals such as chicken, cows, and pigs would find issue should the world stop eating meat. They would no longer have money coming in to pay for the housing or feeding of these animals. What could they do with them? The environment outside of the farm is not designed to handle all of these animals. Many of the animals would die rapidly to predators happy to get a free meal. After all, most of the aggression in domesticated animals was bred out of them to make them easier to handle. Should any survive, they could cause great issue with the local wildlife and populace. Texas is currently dealing with wild hogs which have been causing great damage. There is an article on the Smithsonian magazine website that states that “wild hogs are among the most destructive invasive species in the United States today.” (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/a-plague-of-pigs-in-texas-73769069/) It is not difficult to imagine a greater expanse of such an issue should farmers of animals find themselves with no way of keeping the animals that they have. So what should they do with the animals if they can’t keep them and can’t release them?
There is a third response that farmers have to animals that aren’t wanted and was used heavily during WWII, especially in the UK. This option is to simply kill the animals; although it is anything but simple. In WWII, the government called farmers to get rid of livestock so they could use the land for human crop consumption rather than using the land to graze animals or grow feed. This cull of livestock has had an impact on domesticated animals that exists to this day. There are rare breeds of animals that came to be rare breeds because of the cull and there are conservation groups in place trying to save them. Many complain about mono-culture in our fruits and vegetable crops yet forget or may not be aware that our meat is the same way. Most meat bought in stores tends to come from a small groups of breeds for each animal. What genetic diversity would be left in these species, allowing them to survive, if the world stopped eating meat and had to cull some or release others? It is hard to imagine that there would be very much diversity. It is not so hard to imagine the issues, economically and ecologically, that would arise should the world stop eating meat whether all at once or slowly over a period of time. Even with a slow decline of meat consumption, there would be issues as to what to do with the animals meant for human consumption for large portions of human history. They are what we made them, so then what is to be done with them when that purpose is no longer required.