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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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3:26PM PDT on Oct 9, 2015

Darlene....if you haven't got your message across in 16626 post all you are doing is regurgitating things said thousands of times from both sides.

Your comment about name calling and not contributing to this article seems to be meant to say to any new members here that WE are the destructive ones and haven't contributed equally as much as you or ?? have. is that right, Darlene? NO omnivore has told this thread about their contributions to agriculture, growing crops of our own if able, animal welfare, our earth in general and how what you say would fit in worldwide, diets, health, etc. ????

Are you the only one with something to say? It is just that you have said it thousands of times. You are right, we are wrong and we don't contribute to this thread.

Are you proud of the 'dog meat" references ? We KNOW there is horror in the world and all animals are NOT treated well. We do what we can and you do what you need to do. You have pushed more people away with your type of posting than we ever could. We are "name callers" if we don't agree with you.

2:57PM PDT on Oct 9, 2015

If you have any positive solutions please share them but supporting this article is part of the problem not part of the solution.

2:56PM PDT on Oct 9, 2015

I see the game of name-calling and personal comments is starting again rather than dealing with the topic at hand. I critiqued a blog that Sandra posted - if she took it personally I can't do anything about it. I have been very clear that to me the Paleo diet is meat centric and not a diet to be recommended is today's reality of cruelty to animals, the environment and health of eating too much meat. I questioned the wisdom of a Mother going from a raw vegan diet to a PAleo diet especially for a child. I have stated dozens of times that if a person has health issues on a vegetarian or vegan diet to eat meat and to never put the health of a child in jeopardy. I don't know how clearer I can be. I question the truth of this article that vegetarians and vegans kill more animals than meat-eaters and I have presented the evidence as to why this statement does not hold water. A person would have to be on a grass fed diet, eliminate all grains and legumes and how many people are eating this way? I advocate a more balanced diet including grains, maybe you eat grains Eileen/Mary/ NoName? then you are killing even more animals according to the meat-eaters, so take it up with them. This article is not productive nor deals with the reality of cruelty to animals in factory farming, the harm to the environment caused by raising cattle and pigs and the harm to health that most people are exposing themselves to by eating factory farmed meat, processed meat and processed grains. If you have any

2:38PM PDT on Oct 9, 2015

Al.... Darlene likes to twist words and ignore what omnivores post unless it is to tell us we are wrong about the diets that work for us as INDIVIDUALS !!

Doesn't matter how many times we tell her that we eat way less "meat" than we did even 10-20 years ago. She sees all meat as beef or pork and we DO eat fruit, veg and grains

She NEVER takes responsibility for the often bad information that doesn't come from her but she is a master at "Google"..

She has trashed Sandra L in almost every post Sandra has left. Sandra knows more about diet and nutritional needs than most dietitians I have known in my career. Sandra has overcome major health issues that she has shared here and now does what is right for her and her family. Darlene says repeatedly that she is wrong and listen to her with her complete lack of scientific training. She says Lynda is all wrong too even though Lynda followed a vegan diet and became extremely ill. Now Lynda does what works for her and keeps HER healthy.

This is really not even about the animals for her. It is about being right and important.
We ARE responsible and caring citizens of this earth.

1:30PM PDT on Oct 9, 2015

Al: You are starting to sound a lot like Frank with the liar and despicable person routine. I have clearly said that eating meat will never be criminalized. The word "murderer" has been used for picking vegetables and blood on your vegetables. Is that appropriate to say? Animals have to be killed to be eaten - it is a reality. I am an omnivore that CHOOSES not to eat meat. And I do so for the love of animals, my health and the health of the environment. If you want to eat meat, do so, but please stop trying to justify eating meat by the bogus argument that vegetarians kill more animals than meat-eaters. The only way that happens if a person that eats meat eats only grass fed animals, and eliminates all grains and legumes from their diet and on this diet 1/2 pound to 1 pound of meat is recommended - that is a lot of meat. When I ate meat I never ate 1/2 pound of meat a day. A more balanced diet of less meat and meat replacements like whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits is a more balanced diet and that involves finding better agricultural practices than the reckless way that grains and legumes are grown and harvested at the moment and to stop using so much herbicides and pesticides. This will help our health, the environment and animals. Why protest against that!?

12:48PM PDT on Oct 9, 2015

Christopher wrote: - "Darlene, They prefer using the word slaughter, not murder. It's a very sensitive topic."

And you're an insensitive minority vegan (so Darlene says, I don't believe though) - so..........

12:44PM PDT on Oct 9, 2015

Darlene - Goodbye Darlene. Why - because I am quite convinced your life is leading you in one direction only. The pity is, that whilst you are going there, you may effect the lives of others in a bad way, with your so called culinary knowledge. We will all go to another place one day. I just hope I never meet you there. Do your worst.

12:38PM PDT on Oct 9, 2015

Darlene - you HAVE to be called on this: "Lynda: Did you read my posts that said I am having issues with getting emails since Sept 28th but thank-you for reposting these quotes so I can speak to them. What I note as well that these are not my words - they were a quote to support the illogical argument that vegetarians kill more animals than meat-eaters. As well the time you posted was incorrect it was 6:37. I read every comment made on April 18th, 2015. Do you think you debate fairly? You took these words out of context - did not show they were part of a larger quote, you did not note these were not my words and you gave the incorrect time plus instead of acknowledging that I shared I had problems with my email and you called it laziness to look up the quote. Now that I have the information I reposted the entire quote:"

You are a liar and a despicable person, along with others (in a very small minority), of small minded "animal rights/vegetarian" extremist (you know the others). You are not worth the time of day. You are only showing your own lack of worth with your anti Omnivore mantra. You use the word "murder" (and it's derivatives) solely to vilify meat eating peers (you are an Omnivore). Shame on you and shame on all those that would endeavour to change the world order by creating another "eating group" (Herbiominivore or Omniherbiovore). Praise to all the vegetarians who live their lives without turning into Darleneovores. Goodbye Darlene. Why - because I am quite co

6:49AM PDT on Oct 9, 2015

Oops! apologies for not posting the entire quote the first time!

Thank you Brian for your balanced thoughtful comments on realistic solutions to the cruelty we have created by factory farming and bad agricultural practices. This is where our energy has to be focused - to get balance back to our diets and stop relying on meat as the centre of our diets, plus to get our healthy fruits, vegetable, grains and legumes back through respectful agricultural practices that work with the wisdom of our Planet.
I agree Christopher - not wanting to acknowledge the intentional killing of animals. I think the concern is eating meat will be criminalized as “murder” which is the legal word. I don’t think that will ever happen and it is up to people to make their own choices. What I don’t understand is ignoring the realities of what it means to continue to depend on meat - the cruelty involved - that a good solution is to eat less meat or no meat at all.

6:44AM PDT on Oct 9, 2015

“Marlene Zuk, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Minnesota, has a different gripe. In her new book, “Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us about Sex, Diet, and How We Live,” she rips apart many of the contemporary notions about our Paleolithic ancestors. “I didn’t write a diet book,” she says, “and I don’t want to tell people how to eat. But I do want people to understand evolution.””

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