What would happen if today, right now, an American law was passed that emancipated all forms of animal life. The killing and "slavery" of animals was officially illegal. No more burgers, leather shoes, or fur coats. No more hunting, fishing, or trapping. Pet dogs, cat, and fish must all be released as soon as possible.

How would our economy react? The vegan industry would almost absolutely boom, until there no longer is a vegan industry and it's all just considered the food industry. Every existing company that even remotely uses meat would need to do some quick redirection as they are no longer getting animal meats from farms because all the farm animals have been released. The economy would be at least as affected as when American slaves were all instantly emancipated in the 19th century.

Individual people might turn their nose at this new law, but most people would probably follow suit. Certainly big companies like McDonalds and Target would do so as they wouldn't want to advocate breaking the law. What would be their creative response?


closed as primarily opinion-based by AndreiROM, Hohmannfan, Thucydides, cobaltduck, Mindwin Oct 5 '16 at 15:38

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Oct 5 '16 at 16:59
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps this question might be related? $\endgroup$ – Megha Oct 6 '16 at 1:37
  • $\begingroup$ It would help to explain the sort of political climate that brought about such a change. If the law got passed without a radical change in attitudes among the American people regarding animals, the first effect would come within two years, as every Congressman who voted for the law is voted out of office. $\endgroup$ – EvilSnack Dec 25 '16 at 15:24

Answer to an older version of the question asking about global effects

The first problem is clearing up all the animal corpses.

The second problem is the replacement food sources.

Are you planning to just open the barn doors and let the hens out? Thousands of hens with no survival skills just left to starve and be eaten by foxes in the wild?

Letting the sheep run wild across the hills wouldn't be as much of a problem, it would take them some years to die back to reasonable numbers and many of them are left out for much of the year anyway. Remember though that their wool keeps growing and growing. Overheating or exhaustion from carrying the weight would eventually kill them, but not for a while.

The milk herds are going to be a problem, those cows need to be milked every day. how long without being milked before they have serious problems? You'd have to ask a vet, the internet suggests 2-3 days but no sources I trust (mostly vegan propaganda sites).

This leaves the hens and cows being a problem before there's any impact on the food chain.

Starting at the younger end of the scale with the vegan baby removed from parental custody. While I was working in medical circles there was something called a "muesli baby", of which this is an extreme case. Babies can't live on a vegan diet without supplements. Older children and adults on the whole will be fine with a few tablets, though most of the supplements probably aren't vegan.

A large number of people have just lost their incomes and wealth. For some tribes that still measure their wealth in cattle, camels or reindeer, this could be devastating. You've in one blow, taken their wealth, their food, their income, their entire culture and livelihood, turned them into refugees heading into a city looking for a handout to survive. Whether working on the big pacific fishing fleets or hunting with eagles, you've just made a large percentage of the world into beggars. This is not like ending slavery, that was local, at worst national, this is global and affects everyone from wealthy Australian farmers with farms the size of small countries to African tribesmen.

This isn't about crying over shareprices and damaging western economies, this is devastating.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I've edited my question, though I still +1'd this because it's a great answer. $\endgroup$ – LCIII Oct 5 '16 at 13:49
  • $\begingroup$ I'd add that even agriculture harms animals, from pest eradication to loss of habitat. Thus, declaring that you can't harm animals in any way would deal a crippling blow to large scale agriculture, resulting in widespread famine. $\endgroup$ – Oskuro Oct 5 '16 at 15:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Oskuro, I haven't even touched on the ecological damage done by monoculture farming here. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Oct 5 '16 at 15:37
  • $\begingroup$ 'emancipation' is not equal to 'no exploitation'. We could still shear sheep or milk cows since it would probably be considered rent or taxes for "taking care of them". It would just stop slaughter without "justification". "Them cows were trying to kill me; it was self defense!". $\endgroup$ – Mark Ripley Oct 6 '16 at 10:10
  • $\begingroup$ @MarkRipley, you could shear the sheep, but you'd need to get permission from the sheep first, doing it in exchange for food in the long term would probably require a written contract signed by each sheep. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Oct 6 '16 at 10:26

Everything that comes to my mind :

  • B-12 and other artificial supplements will not be inject in animals anymore but directly inside the food we eat.....

  • Medicine crisis, America will need to find new livings things to test medicines on... maybe paid students and other voluntary drug testers will become more common?

  • The crops we produce will not be consumed by animals anymore and result in an economic boom due to free soy and other grains to sell all over the world.

  • There will be potentially enough food to feed the entire world for free but The United States of America will choose to sell the food instead.

  • Leather will stop being sold and replaced by leatherette and silk will be replaced by other polymers.

  • There will be dead animals everywhere around as farm animals can't survive anymore in the wild, and this will cause a chain of extinctions all over the continent, unless we find a place to put all those billions of farm animals.

  • Mcdonland and others won't go down, they can perfectly use vegetable blood to create artificial meat that tastes exactly like real cow meat, it is already done, but by other companies.

  • Obesity will decrease extremely probably instead of 70% of Americans only 0,5%-1% will be overweight.

-this will also decrease the medicines needed to cure obesity

-this will decrease the money the government spends on keeping alive those dumb people that destroyed their bodies and are now just parasites of society that spend the rest of their lives in hospitals because they were not smart enough to eat healthy or exercise.

-overall death rate will decrease extremely, this could be a problem unless people decide to have fewer children.

  • We are going to need new filters... many industries use animal bone charcoal to filter their products, in some countries it is even used to filter water, But I have no idea if it happens in America too.

  • A-B cup breast bras will sell more, milk is an excrement produced by animals soon after their pregnancy(or solicitation on males) so it is full of estrogen... thought this hormone isn't directly related to boob growth it does have some passive effects on the breast of both men and women.

-Due to smaller boobs on women plastic&aesthetic medical operations will become more common, many women will feel less attractive or confident with smaller breasts.

As you see, there are many benefits of giving up animal farms though there will be also some disastrous effects that eventually will be balanced out anyway. If you want the perfect society without side effects then change the story of humanity and make it completely animal free, cause as for now transforming the society into full vegan will be really hard, probably impossible.

I have forgot about some ecological effects but other users covered that part...

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ +1 Wasn't expecting an answer highlighting the potential positives. $\endgroup$ – LCIII Oct 5 '16 at 14:38
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Why will lack of meat mean less obese people? In my country it is cheap carbohydrate and not cheap animal protein which is providing most of the calories. If you get fat eating fish and chips, it is not the fish flesh that's to blame! $\endgroup$ – DrBob Oct 5 '16 at 14:44
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ ever heard of saturated fats or cholesterol ? Plus protein is a building block not an energy source, it has nothing to do with obesity, the only time someone will ever get energy from protein is when they are starving to death and the body has nothing else to eat. $\endgroup$ – user27795 Oct 5 '16 at 14:50
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @user30785 Nothing prevents people from deep-frying vegetables. $\endgroup$ – JAB Oct 5 '16 at 15:12
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @user30785 yes, I've heard of cholesterol - its what our bodies use as a building block to make testosterone and oestrogen (the sex hormones). And saturated fat is not more energy rich than polyunsaturated fat, so you won't get skinny by switching your diet from 1kg of monosaturates to 1kg of polyunsaturates. Will be a health effect though - thanks - off to add an edit to my answer. $\endgroup$ – DrBob Oct 5 '16 at 15:18


A return to the glory days when the average person was a criminal

There are very few real crimes in the world, mostly it's only people doing things that a government has decided they shouldn't.

Now they've banned something that the vast majority of people think they should be allowed. Welcome to a new era of acceptable organised crime and smuggling.

NASCAR could down and go back to its roots, back on the road. It's time to start moving contraband again. Small quantities at high speed, ready to outrun the law. Whether buffalo poached on the great plains or smuggled over the border from Canada, meat freezer packed under the floor of car boot and driven cross country.

People don't really support the drug smugglers, while they may pass the dutchy, but like the alcohol smugglers of prohibition, the meat runners will be heroes to many, an act of defiance against the government.

It's very hard to ban something that nobody else has banned, while you'll damage your own economy by removing that industry, the black market will mean that your neighbours' related industries will be booming.

  • $\begingroup$ By what measure are you judging a crime as real? Is a crime only a "real" crime if it's something that the majority of people agree should be a punishable act (which could then get into a tyranny-of-the-masses mess), or do you have another definition? I'm assuming you also reject religious commandments as being legitimate determiners of real crime given those are no different from legislative acts in the sense of points of authority providing regulations. $\endgroup$ – JAB Oct 5 '16 at 15:18
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @JAB, a real crime is one that does harm to another. Theft is a real crime, as is murder of course, possession of weed is not. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Oct 5 '16 at 15:36
  • $\begingroup$ The idea of using souped-up hot rods to outrun police while smuggling cattle in the backseat is pretty amusing, I'll give you that. $\endgroup$ – HopelessN00b Oct 5 '16 at 15:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Separatrix: and in the case of this question, we have changed the boundaries of what the phrase "harms another" applies to. If legally animals have rights, our society now has to enforce protection of those rights. If they don't, it results in those sort of laws no one pays attention to; usually referred as "blue laws". $\endgroup$ – Mark Ripley Oct 6 '16 at 10:16
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @MarkRipley, in this case we've changed the legal definition but not yet the cultural definition, that's going to take a lot longer. It took many years to make drink-driving unacceptable, this is going to be much tougher. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Oct 6 '16 at 10:29

As I see it many people would not accept those laws, this would result in crime rates skyrocketing because people keep on eating animal products. Police would be even more overstrained as they are right now. Jails would be full of meat eaters, too full to take in rapists or murderers.

In some regions meat eaters would band together and civil war would erupt.

On first glance this answer can be seen as off-topic but civil war would mean a major disruption of economy to I'm back on track.


It would dramatically increase the search for in-vitro meat and animal-free milk. Currently neither are affordable, but suddenly those products become a priority not only for the small group who likes to eat meat but doesn't like the associated cruelty and environmental destruction, but for the vast majority of the human population.

Within years, artificial meat and milk will have replaced animal-based meat and milk, and soon after, people will think back to the time society was based on industrial-scale cruelty only with an emotional distance.

Meanwhile, vast amounts of land become available for useful purposes. The destruction of the Amazon rainforest ceases almost completely. Climate change slows drown dramatically.

Note that emancipation of animals does not imply humans cannot benefit from other animals any more, or defend against attacks by animals. Where there is a mutually beneficial relationship, humans and other animals can still cooperate. Bee-pollination is a clear example of that, as long as we don't steal their honey. Defensive measures are still allowed: we are allowed to defend when our body or property is under attack by humans, therefore we can do the same when under attack by animals. That means that protection against animal-born diseases are not affected: if the actions of a worm are lethal to us, then emancipation of the worm will not reduce our right to expel it from our body. Somewhere in-between, we can still help beavers to build their dam somewhere where the resulting pond doesn't get in our way.

Like any large-scale change, the transition will be a bumpy ride, or perhaps a scary rollercoaster. But once we get beyond that, it will be a world that is more compassionate, more sustainable, and overall simply more just.


America doesn't have monkeys (apart from all the zoo and pet ones your law has just released onto the streets) but you should expect this type of food theft and the things thieving gulls get up to will go through the roof. Feral dogs and cats, foxes, raccoons, coyotes and so on will all get in on the act. Only, unlike the lady with the stick in the first video, no-one will be allowed to hit the animals, because that would be assault.

Farmers will take a hit to their income. The ones specialising in dairy or eggs will go bust. The ones specialising in arable will no longer be able to kill crop pests, so their yields will go down. When DDT was first introduced, American farmers hailed it as a miracle. This is a reverse of that miracle. Meanwhile, no farmer will be able to import beehives to pollinate his crops, so if the local bees can't do the job, he's doomed. Bye bye alfalfa crops.You've not quite gone back to 19th century farming techniques because you've still got machinery doing the hard labour, but farming is going to be a lot more high risk (e.g. colorado beetles can wipe out your potato crop) for poorer rewards.

The pesticide industry, pet food industry, etc go bust.

Working animals are no more. Disabled people can't have guide-dogs, hearing-dogs, assistance dogs. Customs officials and the bomb squad can't have sniffer dogs. Mountain rescue people can't have search dogs.

Law enforcement will have tons of its time wasted arresting or cautioning people for animal related crimes. That well known phrase "Why don't you go and prevent REAL crimes?" will be uttered not when folk are pulled over for speeding, but instead when folk get taken to task for accidentally standing on an ant or swatting a fly or hitting a rabbit with their car.

(Some) lawyers will make oodles of money, because of all the ridiculous lawsuits, appeals and counter-appeals which will spring up. Mrs Miggins sues the President for not removing every insect from the White House lawns before the lawnmowers cut the grass. "He willfully allowed the murder of hundreds of caterpillars and aphids!"

Also the debates will go on for YEARS about why is it legal to imprison or kill a human who kills a human and a human who kills an animal, but not to imprison/kill an animal who kills a human or kills another animal.

Oh and you can't control any disease which has an animal vector. Malaria, rabies and bovine tuberculosis are here to stay.

EDIT INSPIRED BY ANOTHER ANSWER: There will be both good and bad health implications. Removing meat, eggs and dairy takes virtually all the monosaturated fat from the human diet. This will be good for everyone's heart - no more clogged arteries. However,. it will be bad for everyone's immune system, since polyunsaturated vegetable fats are immunosuppressants, while monosaturates are immunoboosters (Reference: The Fats of Life by Prof Caroline Pond,Cambridge Uni Press. So the heart surgery part of the economy will dwindle slowly, but the manufacturers of medicines for coughs, colds and flu will take an immediate boost.

  • $\begingroup$ ''The killing and "slavery" of animals was officially illegal. No more burgers, leather shoes, or fur coats. No more hunting, fishing, or trapping. Pet dogs, cat, and fish must all be released as soon as possible.'' passivelly killing someone isn't murder, your entire existance and mine have caused in a passive way a lot of deaths...many people are dead and dying now cause we are alive, yet we are innocent. $\endgroup$ – Charon Oct 5 '16 at 14:56
  • $\begingroup$ @Charon - I don't understand your comment. Can you please clarify? $\endgroup$ – DrBob Oct 5 '16 at 15:00
  • $\begingroup$ it was refferend to the animals killed by cutting grass $\endgroup$ – Charon Oct 5 '16 at 15:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Charon Thanks, understand now. It was the "many people are dead" bit which confused me. $\endgroup$ – DrBob Oct 14 '16 at 13:50

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.