Imagine you are the owner of a small bakery. Every day, you make say, 50 cinnamon raisin bagels, 50 plain bagels and 50 onion bagels. You notice that at the end of most days, there are no cinnamon raisin bagels left. There are around 10 plain bagels left. And around 25 onion bagels left. So every day, you have to dispose of 10 plain bagels and 25 onion bagels, wasting a considerable amount of ingredients and therefore, money.
So, you decide to respond to the lack of demand by decreasing the amount of plain and onion bagels you bake. Now, every day, you bake 40 plain bagels and 25 onion bagels. As a result, you may occasionally have one or two left over, but never as many as before. Using the money saved, you make more cinnamon bagels, as these are clearly more popular. You now sell 70 cinnamon bagels a day.
Now, imagine that instead of being a small bakery, you are a large supermarket. You stock the shelves each day with 20 cartons of soya milk and 300 cartons of cow’s milk. Every day, the soya milk is completely sold out, but around 50 cow’s milk cartons remain, and must be disposed of. So you start to stock 250 cartons of cow’s milk instead, and stock 40 cartons of soya milk. But a few weeks later, the soya milk is still consistently sold out, and you’re having to throw out more cartons of cow’s milk. So you change the stock again, accordingly.
The supermarket is ordering less cow’s milk from their milk provider. So the milk provider, in turn, buys less milk from individual dairies. The dairies will eventually lower milk production, so that they aren’t wasting resources, money and milk.
The soya milk company, however, increases production to meet increased demand. They might even bring out a few new kinds of soya milk as they see a trend evolving in the market and want to capitalise on it.
By buying fewer animal products, we are absolutely having an effect on how many animals are being slaughtered and exploited, because in a consumer capitalist system, supply is intrinsically related to demand. Every person who choses not to buy bacon is sending a clear message to the supermarket: order less bacon. This starts a chain reaction which ends up resulting in fewer pigs slaughtered.
Of course, in reality the system is more complex. In an effort to raise dropping sales or shift products nearing sell by date, supermarkets will put certain products on promotion. The government gives subsidies to the dairy and meat industries to prevent farmers from being victim to supply and demand. But at the end of the day, the effect is the same:
buying less meat means less is produced.
And that is how veganism works.