Some people think antinatalism only applies to human procreation. It is true that, by and large, antinatalists discuss human procreation because, after all, we are human and our concerns are mainly human concerns. Humans generally talk about other humans. Still, antinatalism does not only pertain to human procreation. It is about all sentient life. The ethical proposition of antinatalism is that sentient procreation is wrong, because sentient beings experience suffering and the creation of that suffering is unnecessary and wrong.
Granted, other species will not be moved by logical arguments or emotional appeals. It is not primarily about those animals themselves that we talk about, but about the humans who force procreation on animals for human purposes, most importantly livestock. As in the case of children, it is important to put the blame in the right place: children are not responsible for being born and are not at fault for annoying you, it is the parents who brought them into this world who should be blamed. Blaming cows or chickens for their own reproduction would be silly. Humans are responsible for a great deal of that reproduction, and we should put the blame on them, at least for that amount. The rest can be chalked up to that most “special” of special kids, evolution, smashing its toys together for millions of years until something works.
All the antinatalist arguments also apply to the forced reproduction of animals from other species. If there is no reason for humans to exist, there is even less reason for them to exist, since their purpose in life would be contingent on ours. If we have a duty to not create suffering, then we have a duty not to create their suffering as well. If the context of our lives is too bad to bring more lives into it, then how much worse is it for animals who are condemned to imprisonment until execution?
This has led many antinatalists to the position that vegetarianism is the only ethical position. By eating other animals, we contribute to their suffering. I agree that factory farming is evil and greatly contributes to suffering. However, it is not at all clear that vegetarianism is the only ethical solution. Millions of mammals die under the threshers every year. There is no diet under our current food supply system which does not create suffering in massive quantities (depending on what range of species you believe experience suffering). While this is a minor factor, vegetarianism also entails some human suffering, in that some people simply cannot stay on a vegetarian or vegan diet and stay healthy, a phenomenon called “failure to thrive.”
Would a vegetarian diet, widely adopted, be superior to the omnivore diet? Yes, but mostly due to the end of factory farming. I am not trying to argue that all diets are equally wrong, but merely that vegetarianism does not have the high moral ground that is generally assumed. Some antinatalists seem to believe that vegetarianism or veganism entail zero suffering. This is a laughable, conceited premise.
The infliction of suffering on sentient animals is a collective problem, and collective problems cannot be resolved by individualistic solutions. Recycling cannot save the environment, and being nice to your children does not eradicate childism. It may, in some cases, make you a good person, but it does not help address any collective problems. As radicals, we must attack the root of the problem, not trim some leaves. Our treatment of animals is based on the premise that other species are inferior to humans, and that they, like everything else in nature, are resources to be exploited. Antinatalism must most importantly lead to the awareness that the way we treat animals is not just wrong, but part of a system of prejudice, a global hierarchy constructed by religion and capitalism, where animals and the environment sit at the very bottom. It is that prejudice, and its expression in manufactured suffering on a worldwide scale, that we must address. People’s diets are of little relevance.
The antinatalist position is simple: the forced procreation of other species, including livestock and pets, is evil. Any industry or institution which relies on the forced procreation of other species should be dismantled. Note that, while this would dramatically reduce meat production, this principle does not imply that all eating of other animal species must stop. For one thing, it would not stop hunting. While I do not support hunting in general, except for subsistence, antinatalism in itself does not provide an ethical objection to it.
It remains to be hoped that the technology of artificial meat will put a final period over the whole issue, as long as it becomes widespread and easily affordable. At that point vegetarianism will hopefully become definitely established as the modern diet.