Is Animal Rights and Welfare a First World Problem? 

Some animals rights activists argue that animal cruelty is never acceptable and that animals must be prioritized at all costs. Opponents to this argument say that being a vegan or fighting for animal rights is a lifestyle that only those who are privileged enough can enjoy and that there are plenty of problems that need to be addressed before the treatment of animals should become a focus.

It’s easy to see where both of these sides are coming from. Of course, we don’t want animals to be abused and killed for their products anywhere. But at the same time, should someone in a developing country be held morally responsible for any mistreatment of animals that they engage in?  

Animal rights and welfare is a first-world problem because many developing countries don’t have the resources to where animal exploitation can be avoided without sacrificing the wellbeing of the people. 

That being said, animal rights activists can still work to improve the conditions of animals in developing countries by supporting humanitarian efforts that tackle the cause of animal cruelty in other countries. 

The Difference Between Animal Cruelty in Developed vs Developing Countries 

In developed countries where healthy vegan food is readily available in supermarkets, animal cruelty is used for our entertainment and taste preferences. Livestock is kept in factories for mass production. This is not the case in developing countries. 

Many families in developing countries rely heavily on livestock to provide for their families. In the African countries, Niger, Madagascar, Malawi, and Tanzania, 44-79% of rural households keep livestock. Livestock in these countries is normally kept on grassland that is unsuitable for edible plants to grow. 

So, in developed countries where meat is made for mass production and the animals are fed food suitable for humans such as corn and soy, it is easy and efficient to switch to using those same crops for human consumption. If you eliminated livestock from developing countries, it would be difficult to replace that food source with plants because the land can’t be converted for vegetable and fruit crops. 

Why you Should be Vegan if you can 

Going vegan not only supports animal rights but it supports other global issues and can help uplift impoverished countries. Animal products are an insufficient source of calories for human consumption. For example, for every 100 calories of plants that a cow consumes only 3 calories of edible meat is produced. 

When you go vegan, you are eating those plants directly instead of secondarily through meat products. With the global population increasing, a vegan lifestyle is one way to help end food insecurity and create a world where we have enough food for everyone. 

Going vegan is one of the best ways to have a positive impact on the environment. Animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, biodiversity loss, and water and air pollution. It is also the second biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Eliminating meat, dairy, and eggs can reduce your carbon footprint by up to 73%. 

A big argument for not going vegan is that there are other issues that are more important to that person. I totally understand where this point of view is coming from, but I believe that veganism can be for everyone, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a big part of who you are. 

Everyone finds different levels of passion in different issues and this is a wonderful thing. There are so many causes to fight for that we cannot all do everything for every issue that we care about. It’s okay if animal rights is not an issue that you are extremely passionate about. But, being a vegan doesn’t take away from other causes. Once you get used to the lifestyle it takes no extra time or money to be a vegan and you can spend the same amount of time and energy on the other issues you are passionate about. 

How you can Improve Animal Rights in Developing Countries 

In my opinion, if you care about the animals being mistreated in developing countries, the best way to help the animals is to help the people and the development of the country. Once the people’s needs are met, these countries will be able to expand the issues they care about to the animals as well. 

There are many ways you can help developing countries improve their people’s quality of life. You can volunteer for organizations that send food to countries with low food security rates. You can donate money to improve water access in countries with low water security.

A more direct way to help improve access to plant foods is to donate to agricultural research organizations. The International Food Policy Research Institute works to find innovative solutions to agriculture. By doing so, more plant foods can be produced, food security can be improved, and more people will have the ability to choose their diets. 

What Does This Mean for the Future of Veganism? 

While being vegan is a first-world luxury, this doesn’t mean that a vegan world is infeasible. All it means is that you cannot blame someone for not being vegan if there isn’t another option for them. And advocating for animals is not always the best way to end animal cruelty; sometimes the best way is to help people so that eventually they will be able to help the animals as well. 

Once people are comfortable and have access to basic necessities such as food, water, and shelter then it is okay to educate about veganism and all its benefits for the people, planet, and animals. And maybe one day animals will no longer be used for their products but first, we need to take care of the people. 

Sarah Eichstadt

I am a student at UW Madison where I study Political Science and Journalism. I have been vegan for over four years and love educating people about the lifestyle and learning more myself. Besides writing, my hobbies include running, cooking, hiking, reading, and any sort of outdoor adventure.

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