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

 

Image via Thinkstock

22944 comments

Christopher P.
Christopher P.9 hours ago

https://youtu.be/2092XYl1vcM

Christopher P.
Christopher P.9 hours ago

Okay, Mary. Keep up the good work.

Darlene Buckingham

I am going to do more thinking about guilt and shame around this issue of becoming a vegetarian or vegan. Guilt and shame are not healthy emotions and it has to be dealt with. Guilting and shaming is never going to result in a good outcome. This is an important issue that has been uncovered in this debate and warrants more discussion and looking into it. I don't see it as sharing awareness of animal cruelty as guilting and shaming people but I can see this is what happens to some people and it does have to be looked at. I think respect goes a long way to talking about difficult subject matter but maybe guilt and shame have to be talked about more in feelings arising when faced with the cruelty to animals and the mixed feelings of continuing to eat meat. I accept it is difficult for me to not eat animals but I don't feel shame or guilt. If I had to eat meat again for health I would do so understanding that self care is important but I would still eat as little as possible to maintain my health. Personal honesty is difficult and challenging to any human being. I hope for the sake of the health and well-being of life on Planet Earth we continue to talk about complex and difficult decisions faced by all of us and we can move forward.

 .
.9 hours ago

Any members still here I wonder if you noticed that darlene and christopher STILL have to turn their posts into THEIR agenda.
You end up looking so very petty !!
Guess what darlene, I have been doing MY "activist" work for years too !!!
I don't resist anything you do, just your methods !!!
welcome to the darlene and christopher blog that it would appear "Elvis has left the building"

Darlene Buckingham

Christopher: Clearly that is what Mary does, looking for the 'gotcha' moments, not understanding the heart and spirit of this debate is to help animals, not win awards , pats on the back. I alway do thank people for doing this work as it is often done without thanks. I know many activists that have been doing this type of work for many years and never give up no matter how difficult it is to raise awareness and change the world for the better. Big changes are often met with big resistance and it does take persistence and consistency to stay the course.

Darlene Buckingham

Christopher: It is difficult not to shake ones head at the comments made by Mary. I don't like looking at the cruelty, it is difficult, but I absolutely do think it is important to continue to share these images and this information. Interesting how people see this as shaming them for what they are doing rather than shedding light on something that they can change. I never looked at it I was shamed into not eating veal sandwiches rather than I did it because I did not want to eat animals that were raised in such cruel conditions and I wanted this practice to end. Nobody needs to eat veal or foie gras is another example of terrible cruelty to animals.

Christopher P.
Christopher P.9 hours ago

Gotcha?

 .
.9 hours ago

Thank you christopher !!! I'm sure the animals appreciate your "pat on the back" too

Christopher P.
Christopher P.10 hours ago

Mary:

"I will continue actually SEEING a difference in the things I am able to contribute to.
No, not just animal rescue (although that is a big part). Spay / neuter programs, stop declawing pet cats, Vancouver Aquarium transparency, organic local farms and markets, wetlands,eagle nestings, etc."

"Do you want special recognition...Good girl !!!"


Christopher P.
Christopher P.10 hours ago

Darlene: "You don' seem to want to look at the cruelty which is an important part of raising awareness. I did not stop eating Italian veal sandwiches which I found found to be delicious until seeing the cruelty involved in raising veal."

Mary: "Read MY posts and then see how darlene and christopher interpret them...
Do you want special recognition for giving up "Italian veal sandwiches?". Good girl !!!"