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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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11:35AM PDT on May 5, 2015

Douglas, I accept your apology. We all have different experiences, possible struggles with health from environmental exposure, maybe Occupational Disease from work exposure building Air Emissions Projects for societies benefit and the environment. Even so your printer paper and butt wipe could be produced in a more environmental & favourable way.

Maybe it was exposures building Nox Scrubbers & Electrostatic Precipitators at those demon coal plants, or the Oil Refinery to fuel that automobile you must transport yourself in occasionally. Maybe the copper mine for the wiring in your house to power your plastic cased computer, benefits of Oil, OR the aluminum cased one where some Co-workers were poisoned and died from thallium, eg. used in rat poison, from exposures at an Aluminum Smelter.

Buddy Brian appreciates aluminum, for his Solar Panels, and maybe even computer cases. But there seems to be some aspiration here & wilful blindness, that vega = angelic. I would surmise some of your allies do not even know what a broad fork is?

Ref: Douglas J. @5:58am PDT on May 5, 2015
Gerald L. RE: "when counter knowledge is shared to rebuff your wise friend Darlene." We welcome your warnings & advisements for any herbs, drugs or practices suggested, but let us always hope they are offered with the humility of imperfect knowledge & systems. All systems of science & thought have limitations & faults including vegetarians, vegans, omnivores, iatrogenic-ca

11:01AM PDT on May 5, 2015


9:57AM PDT on May 5, 2015

Frank I agree that changing and eliminating our cruel unsustainable meat industry will not eliminate corporations. Corporations only care about money, but at least it would be better for the poor animals that are tortured and killed in our cruel factory farms. Corporations are slowly jumping ship into wind and solar power because they realize that they are the future of energy generation. So having corporations jump ship into growing plants instead of killing animals to eat, and using solar, wind, and geothermal power to generate electricity, instead of dirty fossil fuels will never eliminate the avarice for money that all corporations practice, It will benefit humanity by showing we care about our environment and the wellbeing of animals.

I have a tower hydroponic garden in my backyard. I grow vegetables without soil, and pesticides. If more people could put solar panels on their homes, generate their own power and grow their own vegetables, we could on a grass roots level undermine the cruel polluting meat and dirty fossil fuel industries. If everyone drove an electric car, we could put these dirty oil companies out of business. Unless we all make changes at individual levels, change will never come.

9:11AM PDT on May 5, 2015

There is absolutely no future in cruelty.

8:14AM PDT on May 5, 2015

The future is coming...

6:29AM PDT on May 5, 2015


5:58AM PDT on May 5, 2015

Gerald L. RE: "when counter knowledge is shared to rebuff your wise friend Darlene." We welcome your warnings & advisements for any herbs, drugs or practices suggested, but let us always hope they are offered with the humility of imperfect knowledge & systems. All systems of science & thought have limitations & faults including vegetarians, vegans, omnivores, iatrogenic-caused illness (3rd after cancer & heart-disease) etc. With humility, we can explore these issues together & benefit from each other's wisdom, your own being significant.

5:45AM PDT on May 5, 2015

Frank H. RE: "What is so pathetically sad are the Vegan shills who think that by going Vegan, corporations will somehow go away." Actually most of our program is to re-valorize 'corporations' (Latin 'corp' = 'body'), 'capital' (L. 'cap' = 'head' = 'wisdom' = 'experience') of all stakeholders (Founders, Workers, Suppliers & Consumers) & 'companies' (L 'com' = 'together' + 'pan' = 'bread') literally 'breaking bread' together or what these originally integrated indigenous concepts were meant to be. Recognizing & welcoming the contributions of all stakeholders progressively across the course of a lifetime from youth to elder enables all to participate. Veganism in polyculture orchards only helps us to do this in collaboration with all of life.

3:13AM PDT on May 5, 2015

What is so pathetically sad are the Vegan shills who think that by going Vegan, corporations will somehow go away

No, they'll change to meet the new demand.

I can see the new corporations (really just the old corps getting new name changes buying "organic farms" - WTH are they, really? - up and rebranding) now:

Vegan Farms: Leaders in Monoculture (to maximize profits for the Veganist Prophets) and GMO foods

Old McDonald's Farms: A fast food outfit, selling deep fried VEGETABLES in vegetable oil.

Yeah, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I want to break up corporations and their power, but going Vegan isn't going to do that. That is a fool's wish. But then again, note the fools on this thread who believe it as they certainly are not thinking at all

3:09AM PDT on May 5, 2015

contd; or threaten folks on the information web with possible law suits here's Dr. Joseph Mercola MD celebrating Tumeric / Curcumin the main ingredient of Curry for its potential healing properties towards cancer & much more.

Remember always, Do-not-trust the world at your feet. Gerald & Frank will tell you who you can trust. Do not learn anything about the living or natural world. Turn on your TV, Kick-back with Coke & Chips, Read what you are told to read, Trust in Big-Pharma, Lie-down for Chemo, Radiation & the Knife as scheduled, Work for the Military-Industrial-Complex, Join the military, Kill a few foreigners, when you get furloughed pick up a few dollars by trolling the web for a corporation or two & breathe a sigh of relief that; You are an American or Canadian colonist, Proud & Free!!!

Douglas, some of your friends at Kahawake seem to have an attitude about colonists!

Ref: Mohawk Council Of Kahnawake‎
"The one place in Canada where racism is still tolerated: native reserves" . ... the 1984 Mohawk Law on Membership and 1981 Moratorium on Mixed Marriages.

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