The “circle of life” justification rests on the belief that we are still somehow part of nature, and that we must kill and eat other animals in order to survive, while risking the same being done to us. This is a world away from our reality where we buy our shrink-wrapped food from convenience stores and are unlikely to come across a saber-toothed tiger in the fresh produce aisle.
For animals in the wild there is little choice. They eat what they need to survive, and for some, that is other animals. But we are not part of this. We don’t need to eat meat to survive and are actually healthier without it. Plus, most of us are not prepared to kill animals ourselves but pay someone we will never meet to do it for us. And even if we were, we have neither the speed nor the razor-sharp claws and teeth required to do this. So, no, we are not really part of this circle of life; how we get meat, milk, and eggs is entirely different.
We lock sentient beings in cages, crates, and filthy barns. They are artificially inseminated, endure many mutilations, and are selectively bred to have large litters. They are engineered to put on weight fast, unless they’re an egg-laying hen, in which case they’re bred not to put on weight, as that would be a waste of food. They are fed artificial feed, often transported from the other side of the world, have their breeding cycles manipulated with hormones, and the length of their day managed through artificial lighting. Some are even inseminated through surgery. It’s not possible to imagine anything less natural than the animal farming industry.
Those poor creatures are not part of the “circle of life,” and nor are we. For us, at least, this is liberating. We can choose what we eat and how we treat others. We can choose compassionate foods that are good for our health, reduce deforestation, species loss, climate breakdown and pollution, and are better for other people, too. Crucially, we can use our own freedom to liberate others from suffering. We may not be part of the circle of life but we are all connected, and our choices matter.