Imagine an Earth exactly like ours, but with one significant difference: the use of animals parts for anything is strictly forbidden. Not even the most depraved, violent and insane will break this rule. Things like wool shaved from animals or the dung they produce are allowed to be used as materials (as well as other "dead" materials), but if the animal has to be harmed to obtain it (leather, furs) or it "living" things produced by the animal (milk, eggs) it is a strict no-go. Oil is allowed as well.

Pests are dealt with by either chasing them off (without harming them) or plants that they don't like the scent of. Riding animals are allowed, but not as animals of war.

I wonder though how this would affect the military industry. Would this prevent certain kinds of weapons like bows from being developed? Or would there be fitting alternatives? Given these rules humans get rather inventive with the materials they can use, so the development of materials that are inferior to their non-vegan counterparts would greatly increase.

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    $\begingroup$ Is your ban JUST on animal products? Or does it include being 'cruel' to an animal in any way? For instance, if grasshoppers, pigeons and deer are eating a Bronze Age farmer's crops will he (a) ignore them, (b) try to frighten them away but not harm them physically or (c) stamp on the grasshoppers and shoot arrows at the pigeons and deer? $\endgroup$
    – DrBob
    Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 7:41
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    $\begingroup$ Humans are also animals, so, by that logic no human will harm another. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 18:10
  • $\begingroup$ Vegetarians are allowed to drink milk and eat animal products; vegans aren't $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 23:57
  • $\begingroup$ Not every vegan would agree on it being inacceptable to engage a pest or predator violently. It's what I call the paradox of the vegan flypaper - it can be a bigger problem to use honey from bees (that aren't pests) or gelatin from cows (not pests either) than accepting the flies (pests) die :) Neither should you rely on pacifism associated with the movement - those that view violence as an individual choice, rather than diffusely inherent in a carnist society, can be the coldest MFs if they think they need to be. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 1:00
  • $\begingroup$ You can't start with apes, there are no apes that will not eat meat. Most if not all show active predation. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Aug 22, 2018 at 15:29

6 Answers 6


There would be no military (and probably no humans as well)

You tagged this question as "technology" and "technological development". Actually this is a question about ethics, morals and society development, because these things are what drive and affect the question you are asking far more than just the development of weapons and military.

What you are asking is: what if we had humans with insanely(x) strict preservation-of-life ethics towards animals, but that remain just as callous towards humans?

I would say that — considering how humans have always put the needs of their own species above everyone else's needs (just like every other species on the planet) — humans would not be hostile towards one another either, which eliminates the need for a military. Because why would they be all Fuzzy Bunny towards... well, bunnies... but remain spikey towards their own kin? It does not make any sense at all.

(x) So why is this insanity? It is insanity because this would cause these humans to lose several important sources of food. It is easy for modern humans to be vegans today because there is food science that has made us aware of nutrients, vitamins, trace elements and other things that we need to survive and not die of horrible deficiency illnesses like Scurvy, Beriberi and Starvation. The science of food tells us "Ok, you do not want to eat meat? No problem; these are your alternatives that cover for the things you otherwise would be eating with the meat".

Your tribes of not-hunter-gathers...

Hunting and gathering was humanity's first and most successful adaptation, occupying at least 90 percent of human history

...do not have that knowledge, which makes their existence even more fragile than that of Homo Sapiens and our three/four — now extinct — cousins. And considering how close we — Homo Sapiens — also came to extinction, I would say that adding the restriction on them that "No, you may not kill animals" would probably have wiped them out too.

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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps these humans evolved from a herbivorous ape? A robust australopithecine or Gigantopithecus type creature? Though even then, I can't think of a single herbivorous primate alive today which DOESN'T eat insects and eggs when it gets the chance. $\endgroup$
    – DrBob
    Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 13:36
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    $\begingroup$ @DrBob Just to nit-pick: humans and apes evolved from a common ancestor. :) On herbivorism: true enough, but then we would not be able to migrate very far. Unless of course if we had cellulose capable digestion. Then our need to hunt would drop sharply. This would mean that we could get a strict preservation-of-life ethic, as our revulsion of getting eaten by carnivores would not be overshadowed by a — literally — meaty diet. But why would we then become callous towards other humans and think it OK to use weapons on them, and lose that ethic towards humans while Fuzzy Bunny-ing bunnies? $\endgroup$
    – MichaelK
    Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 14:07
  • $\begingroup$ Many plusses for remembering that being vegan or even vegetarian, was a dangerous sacrifice. Between modern science (nutrition) and modern wealth (having enough food to afford to not eat stuff) it is possible in modern times. But historically, it left people vulnerable. Even societies where it was practiced had safeguards - in India, it was a religious sacrifice and controlling diet as part of that (this food for that holiday, another for a ritual) could help prevent deficiency illnesses; and there were still classes of people who ate meat because they couldn't afford not to and survive. $\endgroup$
    – Megha
    Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 2:18
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKarnerfors: If you're going to nitpick, then -- DrBob's phrasing was quite right. Humans and present-day apes evolved from a common ancestor that was also an ape. (In fact, the common convention among modern biologists is something called cladistics, whereby humans are also "apes". So it's absolutely reasonable to talk about humans evolving from a herbivorous ape.) $\endgroup$
    – ruakh
    Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 2:35
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKarnerfors. Will clarify. I was suggesting that these creatures evolved from an alternate ancestor. So they are 'human' (sentient people) but not Human the species (Homo sapiens). $\endgroup$
    – DrBob
    Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 7:28

Well way back in the Stone Age they wouldn't be able to make any weapon that used animal glue or animal sinew to haft the stone tip to the wooden shaft.

I don't know enough about plant glues to say what ones could be used as a substitute and whether those plants are found all over the world, or only in specific places. Like you only get pine resin where you get pine trees.

Later on in history your infantryman is not going to have waterproofed leather or animal horn containers to keep his gunpowder dry. Pottery containers are heavier and breakable. Wooden, would work, I guess.

And no cavalry, no ox-drawn supply wagons etc (castrating a bull is definitely harming it!) if you are not keeping animals. Which I'm guessing your people are not, since the main benefits of domestic animals is eating them, and that was the first step on the path to domesticating most species. (Plus dogs as hunting partners).

So if there is no animal power, then your world has no:

  • deep ploughs, so farming is less efficient, and can only support smaller populations. (human drawn/pushed ploughs exist but ain't great)
  • no knights, Mongol warriors, US Cavalry
  • no horse-drawn artillery. Any big guns have to be hauled around the battlefield by people.
  • no ox/horse drawn supplies and stores. Again, people will have to carry all the logistical stuff your army needs, from food to arrows to carting the wounded off the battlefield. Obviously this is possible - it never stopped the Aztecs or Incas from conquering all over the place - but it does change things globally.
  • far fewer epidemic diseases. Most of the common ones (measles, smallpox, flu) arose when diseases bounced back and forth across the species barrier from domestic animals to humans. If your humans never domesticate those species, they never suffer from those diseases.
  • $\begingroup$ Vellum was also used as parchment for many centuries $\endgroup$
    – Kys
    Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 20:00

I think it would be easier to answer this question if you'd provide us with a bit more of a background on how this world developed.

The two sentences (A) "The use of animals parts for anything is strictly forbidden" and (B) "Not even the most depraved, violent and insane will break this rule" seem contradictory for me.

If (B) is the case, then humankind must have developed in a way and in an environment that made it so easy for them to survive on non-animal products (and with no animal predators either) that no-one ever even could come up with the idea to do such an absurd thing as to harm or even kill an animal. If (A) is the case, there must be someone who had reason to actively put a ban on animal cruelty, so there must at some point have been people who did so. In this case the combination of (B) and (A) only makes sense if those who banned animal cruelty had the means to alter the aggressors' brains or, at least, ethics.

If only (B), but not (A) applies, from a moral point of view, warfare is possible, because then the general idea would be "Animals have never done us any harm, so why should we harm them - While other humans possibly have and we need to defend ourselves." In this case, the question would indeed be: How would military - or any - technology differ from what we know without the use of animal materials and power.

If (A) applies, the ban on animal cruelty must have happened due to high moral standards that can only be part of a generally pacifist world view, and in this case violence on humans would be just as unthinkable as violence on animals.

However, we might talk about an alien threat here, hitting a human society that has lived a 100% peaceful life for tens of thousands of years, and only at this point has the need to develop something to defend themselves.

So, some background on evolution/history would be rather helpful. ;)


Civilization will be impossible.

Let us presume that humans evolved from a slightly different, completely herbivorous ancestor (say, a relative of gorillas), allowing us to live off of plants alone. Alternatively, they live in an area with an abundant plant that works as a substitute for meat. Perhaps with enough fat to support the development of large brains.

Even with these issues handwaved, the crux of the problem is that farming itself will be virtually impossible.

You say that animals coming to eat the crops can be 'driven off' or repelled by smell, but animals aren't that dumb. Animals' fear of humans is backed up by the threat of being killed or injured by humans. Remove this threat, and pretty soon they'll learn to just ignore (or attack) the silly whiny two-legs. The ones that aren't smart enough to learn will simply develop bolder habits through evolution to exploit the new, convenient food source. Ditto for bad smells.

Maybe, just maybe, you could get around this by keeping an abundance of cats and cat-relatives around the farm, to kill pests. "Pests" will also include animals like, say, sheep and cows, so you'll need some big cats, which means you'll need to figure out a way to keep them from just eating you. But would that be allowed by this society? Seems like a cheat.

No farms means no farming villages developing to sustain said farms. No farming villages means no surplus, which means no rulers controlling that surplus, which means no civilization organized by those rulers. Humans will never grow beyond forest-dwelling fruit-and-leaf-browsers.


Since your vegans aren't able to fight against predators, they will have to develop better hiding and sneaking techniques and strive around as nomads. Why? Once you set up a permanent residence, you will leave more traces, which means it will be more likely for predators to find you. (Bears learnt that there's honey in bee hives... Not compare that to humans in houses! Bonus point: the humans don't hurt, contrary to the bees)

This means at the same time that they won't be able to develop farms, so they will have to get by on what they find on their way. This might work out in some tropical forests, but it would forever prevent them from going into territories with snowy winters since they would probably not be able to survive. (Your question makes it seem that they would try to shoo a pack of hungry wolves with some frozen herbs...)

So requirements for your vegan humans would be:

  • Easy to find easily digestable food
  • Terrain that allows to easily hide
  • Not enough predators to rot them out completely

In conclusion: They would not be different from herbivore apes, living in tropical forests. They might be able to use very basic tools (a stone to crack a nut?), but anything more advanced would at least require the need to forcefully defend yourself from predators (which, in turn, could/would hurt animals).

Your question asks about how this would affect military industry; I'd say there won't be any industry at all.

Military industry would require groups of humans fighting each other (or at least pose the threat of doing so). Why would your vegan humans try to hurt other humans if they aren't able to hurt a predator hunting them? There wouldn't even be a tangible benefit (other than drawing predators to you with the smell of blood, which might erase your whole group).

For other industry, most of them would require developments on top of fire (steam engines, melting metal, cooking/baking stuff) which would put your humans at risk of being found and destroying their habitat (also, it would kill insects flying into the fire!).

It seems unlikely your humans will ever invent something more advanced than stone knives (Or find a reason to do so).


Almost everything we have today can be made vegan apart of medicine sperimentation which could probably be done on enemies... and some acids used in things like phones, computers, Tv's are really hard to make synthetic but still possible.

So my response is YES

Your humans could have started like us as

bacteria>worm>fish>reptile>monkey>human hunters

and at this point create an animalistic religion, people would fear causing harm to animals but have no problem killing eachother.

Then you could transform this religion into a movement or idealism when atheism is discovered , just like what happened to Satanism and Buddism ...

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    $\begingroup$ "and at this point create an animalistic religion". And how do you get the entire world to join this religion, hm? A bit too much hand-waving here. trevor-hopkins.com/fiction/miracle2.jpg And this? " and some acids used in things like phones, computers, Tv's are really hard to make synthetic but still possible"... what the heck are you on about here?! Down-voted for extreme hand-waving and what I strongly suspect is factual nonsense. $\endgroup$
    – MichaelK
    Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 19:43
  • $\begingroup$ Do you remeber from elementary school during history class how Christianity got to be the religion ''choosen'' by half the world ? Between it's steric Acid and there are little to no industries which make it synthetically or from vegetables... also batteries aren't vegetarian too. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 23:27

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