The Most Neglected Animal Rights Issue
from No Compromise Issue 4

By a VHEMT Supporter

So what is this issue we need to examine? It's human overpopulation. That stated, I realize why some people might feel uncomfortable discussing this issue.

Some readers might already have three or more children, and the mention of human overpopulation might make them extremely defensive. They might feel unfairly judged, or worse, feel this issue as an attack on their children. I can understand these concerns, which is why I want to make one thing clear from the outset: population control is not about blaming people. Their children were born in the past when most people had no knowledge of population growth and its impact on animals. People with children should not feel threatened. In fact, I don't see why someone with twelve children couldn't be a population control activist - I don't let the fact that I ate meat, eggs, and dairy products for the first fourteen years of my life keep me from promoting veganism now. So if they are not procreating now, what's the difference?

Another reason some people are unwilling to discuss human overpopulation is because of another issue that is inevitably brought up: abortion. Pro-lifers become uncomfortably nervous with this issue because it sounds to them like a license to kill. However, that is not the case. There are many solutions which do not involve abortion, and we should never promote abortion as part of the solution. Any population control campaign that advocates abortion will spend its time debating the ethics of abortion instead of preventing pregnancies. We need to keep people focused on the problem at hand and not get side-tracked by other issues.

The Problem in Human Terms

So what is the problem with human over-population? Well, from a human perspective, the more people we have, the more we exacerbate the conditions of war, famine, nuclear waste, deforestation, urban crowding, pollution, poverty and all other social ills.

How are these problems related to human overpopulation? Take war for example. People are driven to war when they lack the resources or land to provide for themselves. If the United States' population was low enough that it could be sustained by the oil produced within its own boarders, we might have never been involved in the Gulf War. But the United States population is not decreasing, it is increasing by 3 million people every year - 1 million of which is from immigration, and 2 million of which are from births - meaning that we will desire even more resources, and be involved in more wars. If every country had a fraction of their current population, many territorial and ethnic disputes would simply not exist.

We can also see how population effects poverty. Far from being the cornucopia we once thought it was, the Earth has limited resources. As it is burdened with more people, its ability to provide for their needs and wants decreases. Did you know that of the 5.8 billion people on earth today, over one billion of them live in absolute poverty and misery? This means that more people live in poverty today, than used to live on the entire planet less than 200 years ago. The fact that we can't adequately provide basic necessities for nearly one fifth of our species should alert us to the realities of the human overpopulation problem.

The Problem for Animals

Unfortunately the problem of human overpopulation does not stop at humanity's boarder, it also plays havoc on animals and the environment. On a basic level, the more people there are, the more people there will be to eat meat, wear fur, go to circuses and rodeos, hunt and demand animal research. It wouldn't be a stretch of the imagination to figure that if America's population was half its current size, the number of animals slaughtered for food would also be halved. If this were the case, more than 3 billion animals per year would be spared the horrors of factory farming and the slaughterhouse.

Does this mean human overpopulation would not be a problem if everyone became a vegan animal liberationist? Sadly, no. Because just as humans war with each other over land and "resources," we war with the animals over them too. Yet the animals don't have a fighting chance against our weapons, technology, and ravenous ability to consume. If we want some "natural resources," we will take them. The fact that billions of animals will be killed or displaced is inconsequential. "Natural Resource" is just another way of saying the spoils we have plundered from the animals' homes. All that humanity has, we have stolen from the animals. Lush forests, vast prairies, and raging rivers have made way for our lumber, cropland, and dams. There is no humane way to clear cut a forest, or construct a paved road across country, or to obtain the metal needed to make an airplane. All of these things necessitate evicting animals from their homes, destroying their communities, and directly or indirectly killing them. While humans - vegan or not - consume, the human population will continue to be a problem.

Just as the United States - which represents less than 5% of the world's total population - consumes 30% of the world's resources, the human population which is only one species among millions, consumes the majority of the world's resources. If we believe that animal's interests deserve equal consideration, then we must take action now to promote a more equal distribution of resources. Decreasing our consumption is important, but most people are unwilling to give up their cars, homes, books, schools, supermarkets, and other things we take for granted. So if we ever want to see substantial improvements in maintaining animal habitat, it is imperative we decrease our human population.

Every new human brought into the world is a vote for humans and a death wish for animals. This is easy to see if you have ever worked to protect wildlife. When you talk to people who think that goose poop warrants a death sentence for geese, or nibbled gardens means deer should be killed, the need for human population control becomes obvious. Everywhere humans and animal interact, there is a river of animal blood. The more humans there are, the more blood their will be.

And what will happen if we don't take measures to decrease the human population? Will we finally liberate animals from the vivisection labs, factory farms, fur farms, circuses, rodeos and zoos, only to place them in a world of asphalt, glass, and concrete? Will the best we have to offer the animals be the lifeless husk of our once lush world?

And what will we do for the baby turtles who die of suffocation as their homes are paved over? Or the snake crushed by the weight of the bulldozer making room for a new condominium? Or the panther who lost her life in the fire that destroyed her jungle home so humans could use the land to plant crops. We can protest this destruction and maybe delay the inevitable, or we can go to the root of the problem and start fighting human overpopulation now.

Taking Action

So what can we do about it? For starters, we must stop breeding. Some people might think it's fine for couples to have one or two children to help create a population "balance." I disagree. Population balance is not a goal, it's a start. We need a drastic decrease in human population if we ever hope to create a just and equitable world for animals. And the only humane way to decrease human population is to not add to it. It is imperative that those of us who are conscientious and responsible set a good example by not procreating from this moment forward.

Now some people might argue that one's decision to have children is a personal decision. This is true. Procreation is a personal decision. But eating meat, wearing fur, and hunting are all "personal decisions." The fact that our decisions are personal, does not erase the truth that our decisions have moral consequences. When bringing more humans into the world dramatically impacts the animals in a negative way, we - as the animals' voices - cannot be silent.

We need to recognize that human overpopulation is just as much an animal liberation issue as is our campaigns against vivisection. Educating others about this problem is essential. Animal groups should produce literature or publish articles in their newsletters on human overpopulation.

As part of this education, we need to help change long-standing values that promote procreation. Newly-weds should not be harassed about when they expect their first child. Sterility should not be treated as a disease that needs a cure. Women should never be made to feel that they have to give birth to be important.

Instead, we need to support couples and individuals who choose to live child-free. We also need to make operations like vasectomies and tubal ligation more available to young adults. Too often, doctors will refuse to give these operations if the person has not yet had a child. We also need to support legislation that will help family planing projects and humane population control measures in our own country and abroad. People who desire to be parents should be educated on the human overpopulation problem and informed of the thousands of needy children who are waiting to be adopted into loving homes.

One of the benefits of working on this issue is that it is an excellent way to forge alliances between other human rights and environmental organizations that are already taking action to curb human population. This is a perfect issue for all three movements to champion together.

Last Words

Whenever I discuss this issue, I fear I have done an inadequate job. The far-reaching implications of human overpopulation are so enormous that I cannot do it justice. That is why I am asking you to spend the next few days analyzing how human overpopulation affects the problems in the world that concern you. These problems could be anything from traffic jams, oil spills, or hunting to the AIDS epidemic, species extinction, or nuclear power. Look at these issues. Consider how human overpopulation impacts them. Imagine what would happen to these problems if our population was halved. Examine all of the ways human overpopulation exacerbates your problems and those of the animals.

And while you are doing this, examine your personal feelings on the issue. You have a decision to make, are you going to be part of the solution or part of the problem? Why or why not? Do you think it is natural for people to have children? Do you think breeding is one way to ensure that veganism and animal rights will be passed to the next generation? Have you always wanted to have children because you know you will be one of the best parents a child could have? If you have questions such as these, I ask you to assume my identity and guess what my response to them might be. In other words, really work at seeing both sides of the issue.

Finally, after you have taken a few days to digest and evaluate this information in relation to your life, please write down your insights, experiences and concerns about this issue and send them to No Compromise. We will print your comments and hopefully establish a dialogue that will help us determine what we, as a collective movement, are willing to do for this issue. Together, we will ensure that animals are given the justice they deserve.

For more information contact:

Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT)
PO Box 86646
Portland, OR 97206-6270
(an excellent website!!)

World Population Balance
PO Box 23472
Minneapolis, MN 554230