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Do Vegetarians Kill More Animals Than Meat Eaters?

Do Vegetarians Kill More Animals Than Meat Eaters?

Editor’s note: This post is a Care2 Favorite. It was originally published January, 2013. Enjoy.

People become vegetarians for a wide range of reasons, not the least of which is in opposition to the idea that we have the right to kill and eat other sentient beings. A recent article published by an Australian scientist, however, contends that those who choose to eat all-plant diets are actually responsible for the death of more animals than those who eat them.

Shocked? Indignant? I have to admit, I read the article’s title, “Ordering the vegetarian meal? There’s more animal blood on your hands,” with some surprise as well. Still, the author makes some points that forced me to think about aspects of the vegetarian vs. meat-eater debate in a new light.

Written by Mike Archer AM, Professor and member of the Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at University of New South Wales, the article starts off by acknowledging that our current agricultural system causes a lot of undue harm to animals. Those who feel this is unfair and inhumane find an obvious alternative in a plant-only diet. Certainly when compared to a factory farm or commercial slaughterhouse, a field full of tall corn seems positively benign.

According to Archer, this couldn’t be further from the truth. He cites Australian statistics that suggest producing wheat and other grains kills at least 25 times more sentient animals per kilogram of useable protein. He goes on to say that a plant-based diet causes more environmental damage, and a great deal more animal cruelty than farming red meat.

Agriculture to produce wheat, rice and pulses requires clear-felling native vegetation. That act alone results in the deaths of thousands of Australian animals and plants per hectare. Since Europeans arrived on this continent we have lost more than half of Australia’s unique native vegetation, mostly to increase production of monocultures of introduced species for human consumption. If more Australians want their nutritional needs to be met by plants, our arable land will need to be even more intensely farmed. This will require a net increase in the use of fertilisers, herbicides, pesticides and other threats to biodiversity and environmental health.

Of course, Australia is slightly different than many other parts of the world. First, it’s an island so space for agriculture is already limited. Second, almost 70 percent of the continent is covered in wild, and in many cases, protected rangelands. While these lands must be razed and highly processed in order to grow plant crops, they are perfectly suited for cattle grazing, which provides almost no disruption of animal inhabitants.

Raising a cow on the rangeland instead of plowing it up for crops does eventually result in a death, Archer concedes, the death of the cow. Raising plants on that same acre of rangeland kills small mammals, snakes, lizards, mice and other animals. He describes a terrible scene in which predatory birds follow Australian farm plows in flocks, feeding on the carcasses of dead field animals left in its wake. And that doesn’t even begin to account for the destruction caused by unnatural irrigation, fertilization and the heavy use of pesticides.

By Archer’s reasoning, protein obtained from grazing livestock costs far fewer lives per kilogram: it is a more humane, ethical and environmentally-friendly dietary option. What do you think?


Related Reading:

Go Vegetarian Or The World Will Go Hungry

Why It’s Ethical To Eat Meat

The Ethical Dilemma Inherent In The Weekday Vegetarian Plan


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4:34PM PDT on Jul 5, 2015

"Cattle water requirements and consumption depend on a number of factors,including air temperature, humidity level,water temperature, milk production,pregnancy status,physical activity, growth rate, animal size, breed, diet type,moisture level in the diet, salt intake,and dry matter intake. Lower evaporative losses of water from cattle in high humidity conditions can slightly lower water intake requirements. Diets high in protein,salt,minerals,or diuretic substances that increase urination can
raise water requirements of cattle."
Any way you look at it beef have the highest resource requirements and contribute the most to climate change. A responsible choice is to switch from beef to greener meats if environmental concerns are important to you. Vegetarians/vegans that choose not to eat meat are kinder to the environment and to animals.

4:09PM PDT on Jul 5, 2015

"The exact figures are from 400 gallons to 18,00 depending on the conditions in which the cows are raised", sums up the point quite well, thank you.

4:01PM PDT on Jul 5, 2015
"Rather than informing management practices, such findings have ignited controversy between advocates of rotational grazing (and the ranchers who believe it works) and ecologists who argue that increasing stocking rates come with no ecological benefit. Holcheck, author of the above review, wrote in his conclusions, “History shows that it’s human nature to believe a good story rather than pursue the truth,” adding his claim that only reducing stocking rates could help rangelands recover from decades of abuse. He even attributed financial losses experienced by ranchers in the 90s and growing conflict between ranchers and environmentalists to high-risk management strategies involving high stocking rates."

4:00PM PDT on Jul 5, 2015

Gerald, RE: "Douglas can be filed in the complaint because he continually refers to violent colonist invaders." LOVELY! As you know I'm also referring to Gerald's 1st Nation ancestral heritage, when the huge white oak, butternut (which Gerald grows so succulent), other nuts, green & fruit trees as well as all other Polyculture Orchard species providing all the protein amino acids, starch, minerals, enzymes, Essential-Fatty-Acids, vitamins from close to the richest lands & waters where our ancestors flourished. Anthropology shows our ancestors surrounded with huge trees 150 years old on the average, ate & needed little if any meat.

However after reading Gerald's missive, is he suggesting, 1st Nations should apologize to the priests, nuns & ministers of the Residential Schools who were only trying to kill the First Nation spirit within? As well is Gerald asking 1st Nations to apologize for the pollution which the wonderful civilized colonists now find ourselves submersed in, because it wasn't mentioned in any of the treaties (land contracts)? Or as Gerald states earlier, when colonists were cutting down the hardwood butternut, oak, other nuts & fruit trees for export to Europe, was it only for a possible disease infestation? Gerald, you win some kind of prize.

3:50PM PDT on Jul 5, 2015

The exact figures are from 400 gallons to 18,00 depending on the conditions in which the cows are raised. Pork even though it is not as resource heavy as beef is prone to many bacterial diseases and difficult to raise without using antibiotics and we know the problems that arise with having to feed antibiotics to animals. What about the nitrates that cause more health issues because bacon is so high in fat!?
“Cattle that grazed according to Savory’s method needed expensive supplemental feed, became stressed and fatigued, and lost enough weight to compromise the profitability of their meat. And even though Savory’s Grazing Trials took place during a period of freakishly high rainfall, with rates exceeding the average by 24 percent overall, the authors contend that Savory’s method “failed to produce the marked improvement in grass cover claimed from its application.” The authors of the overview concluded exactly what mainstream ecologists have been concluding for 40 years: “No grazing system has yet shown the capacity to overcome the long-term effects of overstocking and/or drought on vegetation productivity.”

3:48PM PDT on Jul 5, 2015

No one has been called a “Mercenary for Hire”. No comment has been made about your religious beliefs/creed or your race. There is documentation of the violence in the past of people that came to this Country against the indigenous people that lived here. If you want to open that can of worms I think that the evidence strongly supports that there were crimes committed against the people that lived here and were not directed at you but a general comment that is well known in history.

3:17PM PDT on Jul 5, 2015

Contd; Darlene, I want to focus my complaint on slander against my Creed Rights and discrimination inciting hatred against my Rights of Association, Ancestry and Place of Origin!

• Creed
• Sex
• Sexual orientation
• Gender identity
• Gender expression
• Age
• Marital status
• Family status
• Disability
• The receipt of public assistance (housing only)
• Record of Offences (employment only)
• Reprisal (section 8)
Association (section 12)

Calling us murderers publicly is crossing the line, also referring to slaughter which would be more appropriate to what happened to humans in Rawanda. Douglas can be filed in the complaint because he continually refers to violent colonist invaders. Does that not incite hatred because of Place of Origin?

Don't you agree?

3:01PM PDT on Jul 5, 2015

Darlene are you having an identity crisis? It is Douglas J. who called us mercenaries. Now the past few days, he says we are “Paid Trolls” Doug is inciting! WHY are you answering for him?

He always refers to the loss of forest done by colonial violent invaders!

Darlene B. @ 1:24pm PDT on Jul 5, 2015
There has never been a comment about anyone being a "Mercenary for Hire" or of invaders cutting down chestnut trees - trees yes, but not in particular chestnut trees. This is a comment that is adding fuel to the fire and lighting a flame.

Douglas J. @ 7:02pm PDT on Jul 4, 2015
Darlene, RE: ""There is no clear evidence that livestock grazing can significantly enhance soil carbon stores... the very same extractive system of colonial violent cutting of North-American, Amazon, Central American, African & Australian rain forests which we have today.
50 - 60 million of veggies are improving our health & the biosphere... The unsustainable meat-industry, despairing at the growing movement to plant-foods, hires 100s of trolls to prey upon popular web-sites like Care2. Trolls prey upon multiple websites using the same tired & sometimes swearing or violence-threatening.

Darlene you have valid work experience dealing with people who incite hatred, racism etc.
They prohibit discrimination on the following grounds:
• Race
• Ancestry
• Place of origin
• Colour
• Ethnic origin
• Citizenship
• Creed
• Sex

2:26PM PDT on Jul 5, 2015

Darlene contd; Okay, so I have good news! before you go all vegan on me, Pigs are much more efficient! You only need to eat .3kg of these bad boys to get 1000 calories, and they only produce 8kg of CO2 per pound (pigs don't fart as much methane, I guess? Actually they require less feed and less water to make meat). So you produce about 3kg of CO2 if you eat bacon and bike 20 miles, which is still better than a car. Moral of the story: eat bacon and buy a bicycle. Or you could eat potatoes and veggies and be really good for the environment, but let's be realistic, Americans aren't gonna eat much less meat, so at least they can substitute pig in there.

Transportation - Jason Munster's Energy and Environment Blog‎
1 Sep 2014 ... Even clean-burning natural gas power plants produce NOx, just as a ... day I checked, San Bernardino, CA, had 137 micrograms per cubic meter. .... First, let's figure out how much energy it takes to melt this much ..... Okay, so I have good news! before you go all vegan on me, Pigs are much more efficient!

2:23PM PDT on Jul 5, 2015

Darlene this fellas opinions; Good news! The maths this time are super easy! Also, great news! You can eat bacon and then bicycle and it is better for the environment than driving a car!

Burning a gallon of gas gets you about 20 miles and produces 8kg of CO2. Let's assume you weigh 175 lbs and bicycle 20 miles. Most calculators show you burning about 1000 calories to do this. Let's further assume you eat potatoes to get that energy. Potatoes are about .2kg CO2 per kg potato, and a kilogram of potato has about 500 calories that we can use (it has many more, but we can't consume them all perfectly). So you need to eat 2kg of potatoes in order to gain 1000 calories and then bicycle a mile. This equates to .4kg of CO2, or literally only 5% the emissions of a car.

Let's go to worst-case scenario. You eat only beef (note that you will likely die young) which makes way more CO2 in its production than potato (just picture how much cows fart, and that they produce a very strong greenhouse gas). Luckily cow is very energy dense, and you only need to eat .6kg to get 1000 calories. Unfortunately, a cow makes 29kg of CO2 equivalent per kg of meat, and 1000 calories produces 20kg of CO2 equivalent. So you are pumping the equivalent 20kg of cow farts into the air to get those 20 miles (more seriously, it is probably like .5kg of cow farts, plus some CO2, cause them cow farts really are strong greenhouse gases).

Okay, so I have good news! before you go all vegan on me, Pigs are muc

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