Does being vegan really help animals?

Barbara J. King, an anthropology professor at the College of William and Mary, discusses this question with  three animal activists and vegans: Paul Shapiro of the Humane Society of the United States, Bruce Friedrich of Farm Sanctuary, and Alka Chandna of PETA. King notes [the] convergence in Paul, Bruce and Alka’s answers underscores the view that animal rescue is not as much about filling up sanctuaries with animals saved from slaughter, as it is approaching our entire food system with fresh eyes. As these activists point out, it’s not necessarily about the number of animal lives that veganism saves, but the impact that veganism has on the reduction of the suffering that animals undergo in order to support the food – and, I would add, the clothing, makeup, entertainment, and other – industry.

I am often asked this question:  What impact can one person make on the lives of animals, when you consider the millions of animals that are slaughtered each year for the food industry?  I don’t see this as a game of numbers, but one of living true to one’s conscience and beliefs, and taking responsibility for one’s choices. For me, it really comes down to one very simple question:  If I love animals, how can I consume them?  I simply cannot reconcile these two perspectives.  How can I rail against the killing of animals for their fur, yet wear the skins of dead animals in the form of shoes, handbags, and so forth? How can I be outraged at the thought of dogs and cats being eaten, but think nothing of eating lambs, cows, bulls, pigs, and so forth?  How can I look into the eyes of my two beautiful cats and know that I condone the abuse and slaughter of other animals for the purpose of consumption? Mine is the only impact I have any control over:  its size is immaterial.