Do the Animals a Favor: Don’t Breed

Growing up in the 1960s (back when the human population was less than half of what it is today), we were allowed to talk freely about the problem of overpopulation without being labeled a misanthropist, or worse. Even Mary Tyler Moore covered the issue in an episode of her classic comedy show (before she was written off as a liberal animal lover).

But something happened over the years to effectively quell the voice of concern for the planet. I don’t know quite when it started, but I do remember when the prime minister of Japan (already an utterly overpopulated country at the time) urged his people to produce more offspring because they weren’t turning out enough ‘human resources’ to satisfy their industrialists’ and economists’ visions of unrestrained growth. What do our world leaders think we are, chattel? (Never mind, don’t answer that.)

Thankfully, some people are starting to talk about the subject again. Dave Foreman, founder of Earth First, recently wrote a book on overpopulation called Manswarm and the Killing of Wildlife. Meanwhile, comedian and author of a new feminist book, Caitlin Moran, known as the British Tina Fey (I assume because she does a great cockney Sarah Palin), wrote the following philosophical lines in a chapter called “Why You Shouldn’t Have Children:”

“JESUS! CORK UP YOUR NETHERS! IMMUNIZE YOURSELF AGAINST SPERM! Because it’s not simply that a baby puts a whole person-ful of problems into the world. It takes a useful person out of the world as well. Minimum. Often two. When you have young children, you are useless to the forces of revolution and righteousness for years. Before I had my kids I may have mooched about a lot but I was politically informed, signing petitions, and recycling everything down to watch batteries. It was compost heap here, dinner from scratch there, public transport everywhere. … I was smugly, bustingly, low-level good.

Six weeks into being poleaxed by a newborn colicky baby, however, and I would have happily shot the world’s last panda in the face if it made the baby cry for 60 seconds less. The cloth diapers … were dumped for disposables; we lived on ready meals. Nothing got recycled … Union dues and widow’s mites were cancelled — we needed the money for the disposables and the ready meals. …

Let’s face it, most women will continue to have babies, the planet isn’t going to run out of new people, so it’s of no real use to the world for you to have a child. Quite the opposite, in fact. That shouldn’t stop you having one if you want one, of course…But it’s also worth remembering it’s not of vital use to you as a woman, either. … I don’t think there’s a single lesson that motherhood has to offer that couldn’t be learned elsewhere. …

Every woman who chooses — joyfully, thoughtfully, calmly, of her own free will and desire — not to have a child does womankind a massive favor in the long term. We need more women who are allowed to prove their worth as people, rather than being assessed merely for their potential to create new people.”


Not only does having children often relegate concepts like recycling, cloth diapers or a thriving world of diverse wildlife to the back burner, but the family pet so often gets ignored as well. In a story all too common, our adopted dog Honey was one of those animals surrendered by a young couple who, as new parents, no longer had any time for her…



26 thoughts on “Do the Animals a Favor: Don’t Breed

  1. I think anyone offering real solutions to the enormous problems facing the planet is going to be labeled all sorts of awful things. I’m beginning to believe that the powers that be don’t want real solutions because that might entail them losing…power, money…whatever. Just notice…no representative of any power group or country has offered any real solutions…none. Either they offer palliatives or they urge more of what is causing the problems. They all aren’t stupid, I don’t think, therefore something weird is going on.

    That’s my conspiracy theory. 🙂

    The single best thing any human animal can do for the environment, for other sentient beings and for human animals…is to not reproduce. Period. While you’re at it make sure you’re living as an ethical vegan, too.

      • I have preached for a long time, SPAY AND NEUTER, too many dogs and cats land up either in Shelters or worse yet, just abandoned. Sometimes I wonder what is wrong with some people, It is the Dollar, Greed to make money off those SPECIAL Breeds, and i also wonder WHERE IS GOD who lets this all happen.
        A proud and happy Pitbull girl I saved from a certain death. She is my little girl.

  2. I knew when I was 10 years old that I didn’t want to have kids, and I’ve never second guessed myself on that account. Go me! 🙂

  3. so true….in the 1970’s we used to seriously discuss overpopulation & its destructive effects. Apparently the topic is FORBIDDEN now, and we need it now more than ever. You know what’s really ironic though, is that the kids/grandkids/great-grandkids/adinfinitum of these overbreeders are the ones who will be paying the price-and it won’t be pretty.
    The animals and the environment are held hostage once again by our species’ selfishness.
    Thanks for having the guts to say/print this.

    • You’re welcome, Deb, somebody has to say it. Thanks for backing me up here! Yes, it certainly seems like a forbidden subject nowadays, but how to people think we can have any kind of biodiversity when one species, which fancies itself a top predator, outnumbers all the rest? The loss of biodiversity leads to collapse (our species along with it).

  4. Since you asked about when, exactly, we in the West began ignoring or dismissing the problem of human overpopulation, allow me to offer this politically incorrect response coming from someone who was actually there at the time: the early 1980s with the rise of Christian fundamentalism. When the sad history of the destruction of the planet is finally written (if there is, indeed, anybody around left to write it ) the real villains of this piece are going to be clearly discernable: the likes of Pope John-Paul and Rev. Jerry Falwell and the obeisant right wing politicians, like “St. Ronald” (Reagan), who indulged their lunatic fantasy that the world’s natural resources are infinitely expansible. Part of getting to the root of any problem is being honest and not hiding behind claims of being “apolitical”, and willing to assign blame where blame is actually due.

    • While I agree that Christian fundamentalism (along with the Republican party, and other religious fanaticism) is partly to blame, there’s nothing really politically incorrect about that claim. To dare to actually tread the waters of political incorrectness, it goes further than that. When Hillary Clinton spoke out against China’s “one-child” policy it was at a time that the country was adopting a new way of looking at overpopulation. It had become a cultural issue and, like immigration, no one would touch overpopulation with a ten foot pole for fear of being labelled “culturally elite,” etc. If it were only the right who were burying the issue of overpopulation, the left would surely have dug it up and demanded action on it. But they lost interest and are now touting “sustainability” as though the planet can actually support an ever-growing population…

      • I was just reporting an historical observation that might irritate John-Paul and Reagan hagiograpers who, these days, seem equally numerous on both the political Right and Left. But you are absolutely correct that there is plenty of blame to go around. Limousine liberals and “progressives” who have adopted as their secular religion a sort of scorched-earth anthropocentrism or as it has been accurately described elsewhere “murderous humanism” deserve as much contempt as any right wing ideologue. Maybe more so since Lefties like to pose as the tireless defenders of the oppressed, impelled by a towering compassion for the downtrodden. Apparently wild animals, unless perhaps they happen to be an endangered species, fall outside their zone of concern.

  5. Great post, thank you!! One of the subjects closest to my heart–or rather, closest to killing my soul. I loved reading about the evolution of its being “okay” to talk about overpopulation, and now it’s seen as an attack on women. Fuck that. As a male vasectomized at 25, I clearly walk the walk as well as talk the fuck out of the talk 😉 I can’t more highly recommend that men “man up” and get vasectomies–take the burden of birth control and pregnancy off women and the Earth! If you want any inspiration or information on vasectomies, just about everything can be found in my poem Vasectomy!, aqui esta:

    Abortions, vasectomies, contraception, sodomy, and fellatio–go green!!

    –Love and Liberation (and snip snip!)–

    Jan @ TheRewildWest

  6. Thank you for, as Deb said, having the courage to say this. As issues go, this one is truly is the “human” in the living room, to paraphrase the adage. 🙂 My husband and I also chose not to have children and, as a woman who doesn’t have children, I’ve been surprised by the criticism or marginalization I sometimes face for this choice. I realize that anyone who even quietly challenges the dominant paradigm is perceived as a threat to some, so I accept it as the cost of admission to an alternative framework.

    In one of my conservation courses at UC many years ago, the professor asked the group of environmentally-minded students, how many of them expected to have children. Only a small portion raised their hands. Those who were going to stay child-free cited ecological concerns as their main motivation. I’ve often wondered how many of those who didn’t raise their hands, actually ended up having kids as they got older. It ain’t easy to think and live outside the cultural box. Thanks again, Jim.

  7. I want to share this – I republished a 1998 article which was only on web archives. I wasn’t even born in the 70’s and it is certainly a forbidden and censored subject, and it is terribly hard to get the point across that with every new human birth we are encroaching on a little more wild habitat (and if some want human kids, why not adopt and raise an orphan vegan). I’ve tried to debate the subject with many vegans of many generations and of many political inclinations. The few anarchists I know all over the world who agree there is a consent issue (which a couple of philosophers have spoken about too) in creating a new life find it amazing how many anarchists refute this without good arguments. Likewise for those with spiritual inclinations towards Buddhism or Hinduism where there have always been verses against human procreation in scriptures. The human world is amazingly unthinking and depressing.

  8. I’ve been into zero population growth for decades and chose never to have kids. I was totally in favor of China’s one child policy, totally in favor of world wide family planning and access to reliable birth control, in favor of abortions and vasectomies…..but here we are and all has been for naught. Religion has been at the forefront of encouraging people to not use birth control, encouraging the cult of the fetus, and promoting the idea that humans are the most important of the animals on the planet. Then there is the capitalist system of economics that continually needs a new supply of consumers. Even when by some miracle a woman simply cannot conceive in a “reasonable” amount of time, the fertility clinics are ready and waiting to charge thousands of dollars to rectify this.
    I admire and respect the couples/singles who have chosen to adopt only or at the very least have only one child and adopt if they want more.
    There is no way without a major catastrophe that decimates human populations world wide (and unfortunately might decimate other species) that our takeover of the planet will ever be stopped…..
    coming sooner rather than later I hope.

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