Vegans Should Care About Overpopulation


Yesterday a commenter here suggested that vegans (animal rightsists) don’t care about the problem of overpopulation. That may seem true for some, but it’s certainly not my experience. Those animal-rightsists that I know who are adamantly opposed to human overpopulation are so in part because they have seen animals suffering from their overpopulation.

A friend who is unwaveringly against human overpopulation remarked, “I don’t understand why people want to have babies in this day and age.” I’ve often pondered that. I went to bed last night ruminating on the question. I don’t know that I found the answer, but ironically I read about that same subject in a book about a woman (Diane Downs) who loved having babies, but then paradoxically shot her three kids.

The book goes on to depict her motive for having kids—as she put it, she was “lonely.” Normally, I would advise someone who is lonely to get a dog or cat, but I would hate to see the animal be shot or otherwise mistreated. Oh, sure, there was more to it than just being lonely. In this case, she wanted someone to have control (authority) over.  These reasons only scratch the surface and of course don’t apply to everyone.

Here’s a list a vegan friend put together of why she chose not to have kids…

For me it was:

  • No different than animal overpopulation. If I don’t feel that I can ethically breed my cat, why is it any better for ME to contribute to an overburdened planet? I mean, come on…are my genes really that special?
  • If I want a child that badly, why wouldn’t I adopt one of the countless hurting children looking for a home?
  • Choosing not to be consumed for two decades by parenting allows me instead to be a productive activist, fully, my entire life.
  • I’ve spared my never-to-be-born child the horrors of a world that is quickly becoming uninhabitable (because of human overpopulation, warfare, environmental degradation, etc.).
  • Cost effective! [If a person can barely afford to feed themselves, what business do they have bringing another human into this world?]
  • Finally, there’s no guarantee that a child I raised would embrace my vegan pacifist values. How would I feel if my child became a school bully or butcher or political warmonger or turkey sandwich eater? Devastating

So, why would a male want to procreate in such an overcrowded world? Maybe it’s the desire to have a “mini me” to do your bidding or to go on after you’re gone, thus creating a sense of immortality. But a person would have to really have a lot of faith in the future in order to buy into that.


18 thoughts on “Vegans Should Care About Overpopulation

  1. I want to give you another point of view, very personal.
    First of all I do agree that our planet is overcrowded… and with the years will get even worst. But since Humans are quite selfish but very stupid, as it is proven (especially last week) we will soon enough provide self-destruction. Oh yes, we are so idiots that vegan or no vegan we can reach that goal easily… few more bombs here and there, maybe it won’t be like Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but the consequence versus the defenseless kids and geriatric cases plus the animals are shocking.
    It’s a problem of consciousness… and again alike in the middle Age, there isn’t inquisition or chasing witches, but all this bull shit is because of religious brainwash.
    And they want to take over Europe, after that guess what, they will take over the States…
    Right now isn’t the question of being vegan (ahh, I forget to say that I’m one of them as well), isn’t the question of getting the reason why s.o. want to have kids… is the question of putting some hope around. Hope to save the dying Planet Earth, hope to put a stop to the climate change because of our egotistical and insane behaviour!
    I wanted to have kids since I wanted to teach them the buddhist Path, with is the only rescue… my kids are aware of it and they spread the word… few drops into an Ocean, but at least I don’t complain and cry over myself but I react positively. Each one of us has his own karma, and the law of Cause-effect is quite powerful… Sometime, I’m pretty sure, I have to came back down here and try to accomplish what I started. Have a lovely day (or night… here is time to go to bed).

    • All people hope to teach their future children their own values. There’s nothing uniquely personal about that desire. Statistically, those children are more likely to be serial killers than saviors.

      So it’s best not to breed. If you are irreparably driven to teach your children the Buddhist path, why not adopt? Then at least if they don’t follow that path when they’re adults, at least you haven’t really added a negative impact in the world.

  2. Humans are quadrupling in one century and causing a world-wide mass-extinction. Parts of the ocean will be dead in the next few decades. Even if I did think it was alright to make another human, I would not give my own child the rest of this century. The way to be a good parent is to adopt. There are kids already here needing good homes. Isn’t that a way to be an even better parent? Not just caring for a little piece of yourself, but helping children who are already here, who have already been giving the most horrifying century humans will ever have.

  3. “Choosing not to be consumed for two decades by parenting allows me instead to be a productive activist, fully, my entire life.”
    Parenting is for a lifetime not just two decades. I’m going on 27 years of parenting.

    “…[If a person can barely afford to feed themselves, what business do they have bringing another human into this world?]”
    The fastest growing population segment are the very poor; e.g., in the Philippines or Romania, Europe where the very poor live in abandoned sections of cemeteries. Money earmarked for them never gets to them and the Church is against birth control.

    “…no guarantee that a child I raised would embrace my vegan pacifist values. How would I feel if my child became a school bully or butcher or political warmonger or turkey sandwich eater?
    Even Jane Goodall had trouble with her son who chose to be a commercial fisherman at one point in his life. She didn’t like that one bit.

  4. I agree that vegans should care about human overpopulation. But in my experience, vegans are as unaware as the average person of the importance of the overpopulation issue. For example Cowspiracy, a film widely admired and promoted by vegans, mentions overpopulation only briefly, and asserts that it is not a problem.
    I find it interesting that the graph you often use as an illustration addresses the issue of extinction, as does the Center for Biological Diversity’s aptly named campaign Take Extinction off your Plate. Those who follow a plant-based diet in order to prevent extinction are certainly concerned about population. This would probably apply to vegans who follow blogs such as this, but I don’t think it applies to most vegans.

  5. Not breeding should be common sense, but too many people can’t resist, so they multiply in a polluted world. Would you make babies in a world where war existed? Where an animal holocaust is happening? Under a corrupt and sexist system? Do you like traffic?

  6. Definitely care about this subject!! When I hear about hunting to control animal populations, I always have to ask well when are we going to start controlling the human population?!?! If anything needs to be controlled it’s our population! I support the efforts of NPG! As for hunting, to me it is nothing more than using the animals as scapegoats to fuel and subsidize a multi-million dollar industry and the vile needs of psychos!!

  7. I love all the comments here. I wish I could add something extra, but all I can say is, I wish more people were like the ones who have commented here. There are times that I feel such extra-ordinary sadness at what is happening to animals, the forests, the oceans, rivers and streams… Everywhere you look there is destruction on a scale that numbs the mind. At such times my hopelessness and despair is only matched by my endurance, and knowing that I am needed to do what I can to help.

  8. Well it’s more about having a family and not loneliness.. it’s a lot of work
    I have friends that chose not to have children and others that had 4 … it’s hard to discuss overpopulation with those with 4 as they feel it is their right to do so
    It’s a complicated issue
    I am a vegetarian and I have 2 very conscious choice lifestyle children
    I was a student of Paul Ehrlich’s back in the 70’s and I have understood his overpopulation message since then .. I was also an environmental studies graduate
    In the wild the term ” carrying capacity” is used to describe what the earth can support of a certain species .. we have certainly eclipsed our “carrying capacity ” and overpopulation is an issue that no one even seems to discuss anymore.. the answer is more food and more profits for the Ag and meat industry which is heartbreaking for me and I look at all of it as a terrible case of speciesism and entitlement
    I actually never hear many people discuss overpopulation anymore and I seem to be the one that always bring it up and when I do everyone says ” it’s not going up ‘ and I always reply that no it’s actually going up .. and they say well not in America .. and from there it is a round robin of you can’t legislate morality etc and we will be just like China ..
    it’s such a touchy issue rather than a pragmatic one and it needs the light of day shown on it
    I’m glad you brought this up and needs lots more discussion
    Most of my vegan friends are mostly single women and don’t have children
    So many avenues her to explore the social dynamics
    We should welcome this discussion now !

  9. Oops you forgot the #1 reason not to have kids. It is unethical to force a person to live and die against their will. It’s playing God with someone else’s life. It’s like putting a child on a bus that you know is going to eventually go off a cliff. You know it with 100% certainty. When you create life, you kill life. Every cradle is a grave. It’s wrong. it’s dead wrong. There is nothing more wrong, even meat eating and hunting. The Buddhist above is a selfish a-hole. He thought that he could play God with someone else’s life. He had kid’s because he has a massive ego. There is no other reason why people do it. Life sucks, don’t make things that suck.

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