Who has a better quality of life: A farm animal or a wild animal?

So a farm animal has access to veterinary care, it’s fed and kept safe from predators. Yes, it will eventually be slaughtered, but it would be more humane than being chomped on by a predator or starving to death.

Wild animals OTOH, live a longer life, but live in constant danger, deal with disease, tics, parasites, etc…


For livestock, I’d argue most females do experience a better quality of life. With males, only a tiny minority have long term prospects. The majority are castrated and experience a few good years then are sent to an early death.

I don’t think you can compare them, and I also don’t think you should.

First, every species of wild animal has a different typical life cycle. Wild cattle vs wild chickens.

Second, farm animals have extremely different lives even within species, depending on whether they are designed for milk, eggs, meat, wool, etc. and particularly, whether they are male or female. Industrial farming has greatly increased the overall ‘necessary cruelty’ of raising domestic animals for food purposes, but that doesn’t have to be the case, we just want our cheap food more than we care about animals we don’t see.

Third, these kinds of comparisons inevitably tend to sentimentality about ‘wildness’, emotionalism, anthropomorphizing, and then to extreme actions of the type associated with religious zealotry. I have many – many – stories of such actions, which cause great suffering.

I have spent my whole life with animals, mostly domestic, and with people who have to do with them. It is very hard for many humans to grasp what animals are *about. * We too are animals. We have far more in common with other animals than we recognize. But that doesn’t mean they are people. They are not. What are our responsibilities to them? There is no easy or simple answer to that question. There are no either/ors. There is no eden. We are enmeshed with other animals, irrevocably. Those are the things I know.

Using the viewpoint of a human, I’d say a wild animal. Freedom and all that.

But if using the viewpoint of an animal, I’d suspect animals would prefer the farmed lifestyle. Secure food supply, safe from predators, that’s all they’d care about.

True except for the years part. Only steers might live more than a year, but rarely reach two.

And yet, if you try to give it to them they constantly try to escape.

Those animals aren’t so much trying to escape their lifestyles as much as simply wanting to graze in that patch of grass over there on that side of the fence or take a long walk/follow a smell, etc. Not a lot of them actually bolt for the forests or wildlands to meet up with their wild cousins. Those that do often end up on their wild counterparts’ menu.

Plenty of domestic animals do actually keep hanging around even when they get out of their enclosures.

Are we even sure that animals have complex emotions like “worry”?

I don’t think that is true.

Animals raised to be eaten will have short lives. A bull will be castrated while still a calf and slaughtered between 12 and 22 months old.

Wild animals generally do not live longer, except compared to the livestock that gets slaughtered at an early age.

Farm animals have little or no chance in the wild. For example, farm cattle are very different from their wild equivalents; they are slow-moving and ponderous, and don’t have the survival instincts regarding predators.

It is hard to say when it comes to quality of life. Wild animals that are not predators are very nervous all the time, and with good reason. A farm animal does not have this stress, and gets regular food, but is it really happier, even under ideal (farm) conditions? I dunno.

Ignoring eons of breeding that have made domestic animals a whole different, I don’t know, paradigm is the word that come to mind, but it’s the wrong form. Different something. Anyway, ignoring that, you still have two different kinds of animals, basically.

You have, very loosely, the food animals, and the work animals.

Being a herding dog, a horse that belongs to a rich girl who rides competitively, or an actual, genuine, free-range laying hen, is not a bad life. The hens do get cooked when their eggs dry up, but they’ve already lived way longer than their wild ancestors. The horse and dog get to retire and be cared for.

Milk cows and horses and oxen used as beasts of burden are less lucky, but probably experience way less discomfort than wild animals. Same for wool sheep.

The lives of animals raised for slaughter are just beyond appalling. I’d rather be a stillborn anything than be an animal born for slaughter.

Sure, but you totally discount the degree of the losses of new borne and juveniles in a wild population. 'Cause if the majority of newborns aren’t dead from misadventure, disease or predation by the time their mother has her next progeny you have an unsustainable population explosion.

In a wild herd under active predation a simple leg injury which would heal in a couple of weeks even without intervention may well be a death sentence.

The vast majority of farm born steers will live to slaughter age, the economics of farming depend on it.
The majority of wild born cattle would die or be killed before they get to that slaughter age.

It’s not Watership Down out there in the real life burrows…

I don’t dispute what you say, survival in the wild is tough, but I don’t think we’d have any kind of wild cattle if they didn’t live longer than 22 months on average.

Need to be careful with the interpretation of “average” when the distribution is highly skewed.

Take the example of sea turtles who can live to a substantial age.
Females lay large clutches of eggs, sometimes over 100 per year , and many times in their life and yet a barely significant number (low single digits) will return to the beach on which they were born and produce the next generation.
The average age of sea turtles is quite low because the vast majority don’t survive the first year.

Similarly the increase in the average age of humans is less due to modern medicine allowing adults to live longer than in reducing the incidence of infant mortality.

If nearly all the wild cattle lived to be 22 months (as with domestic cattle), there’d be a whole lot more wild cattle.

Not mine. They try to get into my house. Even the damn horse.

This too though varies like you mentioned above in your post with different types of animal. There are some places and types of farming that don’t produce a very nice life for the slaughter animals for sure, but many types of farming do provide decent lives for slaughter animals.

I have a small family farm friend, who among other things raise a few turkeys and geese every year for food. They literally just walk around the farmyard all day in their little groups guarded by the farm dogs. Eat grass or bugs, have shelter, and do what ever they want for a year or so (including harassing visitors like me… turkeys are assholes that follow and peck at you.) Then one day they get pinned down and off with their heads in a few seconds and that’s the extent of their suffering. Old fashioned farming like this still exists all over the world. A beef cow that spends 1.5 years in the pasture then a few months munching out in the feed lot doesn’t live a bad life either.

As others have mentioned the ultimate fate of most animals in the wild is to die from either predation or disease, so to say that domestic animals are different because many or most of them get killed isn’t valid.

And also yes, the average age of many wild animals is quite low due to the number of deaths of the very young. A stable population basically has each female over her life producing two offspring that reach maturity and breed successfully themselves. But most animal species have far more than 2 offspring in their lifetimes. So when 80% of your babies never get old enough to reproduce themselves, and you only live 15-20 years yourself, yes the average age of your species can be quite low.

I didn’t say domestic animals are different because they are slaughtered. I said-- or anyway, meant, that domestic animals are different because they have, as species, been domesticated, and for the most part, cannot be returned to the wild. A few can. Horses apparently can-- that’s what a mustang is. A pig can, if it is returned as piglet and a boar family cares for it. In this singular case, it develops like a boar, looks like one, and behaves like one.

But no other animal does this. Bison are the closest things to wild cattle, and cows cannot model from their behavior. The true wild cow, the auroch is extinct.

Some dogs may be able to run with wolf or coyotes, but only dogs of large breeds. Wolves and coyotes see small breed dogs as prey. If a dog is closer in size to a wolf’s natural prey, it will prey.

Coyotes will eat cats, but many domestic cats do just fine “in the wild”, especially if they’ve been raised by a hunting-canny mother. (some domestic cats are dumb as doorknobs. it varies a lot.)

Commercially raised chickens (both meat and egg birds) and container-raised hogs have a pretty horrible life. Beef, lamb, and pastured chickens and hogs do okay, though.

To the op
I don’t think you’ve ever been on a livestock farm.
Very few food animals live the life you think they do. Most are kept in cages barely bigger than themselves…

Taking the “freedom” aspect out of the equation; do you think most inmates have better lives than others? They have “3 hots and a cot” and access to medical care…