Capitalism is an economic system based on three things: wage labour (working for a wage), private ownership or control of the means of production (things like factories, machinery, farms, and offices), and production for exchange and profit.
While some people own means of production, or capital, most of us don’t and so to survive we need to sell our ability to work in return for a wage, or else scrape by on benefits. This first group of people is the capitalist class or “bourgeoisie”, and the second group is the working class or “proletariat”.
Under capitalism everything is viewed as a resource from which to generate profit. From trees and oil; to humans and animals. Profit is determined by the amount of money that can be made from selling said resource compared to the amount of money put in to extract that resource (i.e. how much it costs to cut down a forest compared to how much you can sell the timber for). Since profit is the major driving force behind capitalism a lot of emphasis is put into maximizing profit at the cost of the environment, workers and animals.
Because animals are viewed as a resource their welfare comes second to securing the maximum amount of profit available. This leads to poor living conditions, inhumane treatment, industrialized processes (factory farming) and more “efficient” slaughter methods. As the market grows the demand for animal products becomes greater and as such more and more animals are reared and slaughtered in larger and larger complexes. The recent emergence of “super” dairy farms or abattoirs are a direct result of capitalism’s drive for greater and greater profits.
Capitalism relies on infinite growth and an endless supply of resources in order to function. We live on a finite planet and as such the resources which we can extract from it (oil, wood, mineral etc.) are beginning to run out. Recent attempts to create a “sustainable” form of capitalism are aimed merely at maintaining the current system for future generations of capitalists to make profit off of, rather than to protect the Earth, it’s environment or it’s human and animal inhabitants.
Capitalism is one of the main reasons for animal exploitation within our society as it places the pursuit of profit over life. Animals are merely resources to be turned into profit for human capitalists. As such it would be necessary to abolish capitalism in order to achieve animal liberation.
Attempts to reform capitalism in order to benefit animals is counter-productive as past examples have shown that capitalism is very adept at adapting itself according to consumer demands. While small victories in animal welfare have created slightly better living conditions for the animals who are inevitably going to end up being slaughtered; this has led to an increase in animal consumption as it removes some of the guilt people feel from consuming another animal.
Even if we were to end the consumption of animals and create a completely vegan world, capitalism would still exploit animals by placing a value on their life much in the same way that it does to humans.
Capitalism also exploits human animals in much the same way it does animals, albeit with a lot less ferocity. If we are serious about animal liberation then we need to include humans into our critique. As capitalism exploits humans it would not be enough to simply end the consumption of animals within capitalism but to abolish it completely.
By creating a world where production is based on the needs of the community, not profit we would create a world where animals are not needlessly exploited by humans. As long as the demand for profit exists then animals will be exploited in order to generate wealth.