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

23694 comments

Brian F.
Brian F.15 days ago

It's very sad that animals are treated so poorly in our polluting factory farms and CAFO's.

Darlene Buckingham
Darlene Buckingham1 months ago

Mary has been saying on another forum that the only reason I am not commenting any more is because there is no pushback. I rested on Dr. Suzuki's comment:
http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/science-matters/2016/05/eating-less-meat-will-reduce-earths-heat/?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiTkRSa05EWmpNbU5tWmpnMiIsInQiOiJhVlhNS2RYSE5zeHpzODNKNmZaa3QwZlFvT1wvZjM3ZExSMUlJRklISjFNVmJYc3V1T1paQzBKdld6djJcL05FaVlocU16ZkhsXC9ybERFOFpWZTE0YkVZVnIzSzJPN2lmZVczbkxZeFNzaFpWV05BZmp3cEtHSjJ4anhmNlJRSkhWdiJ9
'A study by scientists at the U.K.’s Oxford Martin School found global agriculture-related emissions could be cut by a third by 2050 if people followed simple health guidelines on meat consumption, by 63 per cent with widespread adoption of a vegetarian diet and 70 per cent with vegan. The authors found adopting healthier diets with less meat and animal products could also reduce global health-care costs by $1 billion a year by 2050.

Although switching to better agricultural methods and encouraging local consumption could also reduce emissions, those are topics for another column. In the meantime, we can do our part by at least cutting down on meat, especially red meat, or by taking the more significant step of adhering to a vegetarian or vegan diet.'

If everyone now agrees on this position and is not rebutting this that is a victory for animals!

Brian F.
Brian F.1 months ago

Noted

Brian F.
Brian F.2 months ago

Much of our food that is produced on industrial farms comes into contact with RoundUp, because farmers blanket the fields with this chemical to control plant growth and eliminate weeds. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, farmers sprayed 2.6 billion pounds of Monsanto’s glyphosate on U.S. crops in the past two decades alone.












Its use has become so widespread that glyphosate has now been found in breast milk, urine, beer, wine and even cheeses. Quaker Oats recently was pulled into the fray when a group of consumers from New York, California and Illinois filed a class action lawsuit because traces of glyphosate were found in the company’s supposedly “100 percent natural” oatmeal.















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Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/over-half-a-million-signatures-delivered-to-the-epa-to-protect-us-from-monsanto.html#ixzz49ij2S3Uw

Brian F.
Brian F.2 months ago

In Orlando, Fla., a nonprofit is turning people’s lawns into organic farms. FleetFarms asks homeowners to “donate” their lawns so a group of volunteers can build a farmlette — a small urban farm — in its place. The land donors get to pick part of the produce for their own consumption and the rest is sold to a local restaurant, delivery food service, and available for purchase at the weekly Audubon Park Community Market. The vegetables are transported by bicycle to further lower the carbon footprint. Imagine if this could be scaled up dramatically. Many food deserts exist in inner city neighborhoods in cities in the USA, and growing vegetables pesticide free on lawns or other available unused land, could help low income people acquire healthy fresh vegetables, that are pesticide free.
http://fleetfarming.com/

Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/innovative-projects-bring-organic-produce-to-low-income-communities.html#ixzz49CqvIODc

Darlene Buckingham
Darlene Buckingham2 months ago

http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/science-matters/2016/05/eating-less-meat-will-reduce-earths-heat/?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiTkRSa05EWmpNbU5tWmpnMiIsInQiOiJhVlhNS2RYSE5zeHpzODNKNmZaa3QwZlFvT1wvZjM3ZExSMUlJRklISjFNVmJYc3V1T1paQzBKdld6djJcL05FaVlocU16ZkhsXC9ybERFOFpWZTE0YkVZVnIzSzJPN2lmZVczbkxZeFNzaFpWV05BZmp3cEtHSjJ4anhmNlJRSkhWdiJ9
'A study by scientists at the U.K.’s Oxford Martin School found global agriculture-related emissions could be cut by a third by 2050 if people followed simple health guidelines on meat consumption, by 63 per cent with widespread adoption of a vegetarian diet and 70 per cent with vegan. The authors found adopting healthier diets with less meat and animal products could also reduce global health-care costs by $1 billion a year by 2050.

Although switching to better agricultural methods and encouraging local consumption could also reduce emissions, those are topics for another column. In the meantime, we can do our part by at least cutting down on meat, especially red meat, or by taking the more significant step of adhering to a vegetarian or vegan diet.'

Darlene Buckingham
Darlene Buckingham2 months ago

It is more important than ever to speak up for animals.They are in trouble and so are humans. The more we can help each other the better it will be be. The mocking stance is not helping solve the Planet's real problems. Not everyone will give up meat but everyone has to be made aware of how this cruelty to animals is impacting the energy on Planet Earth including our own health. Let's stop once and for all factory farming, experimenting on animals and using animals for entertainment and amusement.
Peace.

Darlene Buckingham
Darlene Buckingham2 months ago

For those that do not want to kill animals and learn about different ways to thrive without having to eat animals I support that fully as well and encourage people to take a look at how much meat they are eating and if they can choose more plant based meals. That too is food security as many vegetarian and vegan foods are easy to store and prepare. That is another important topic to teach people how to be more efficient in the way they cook and eat in today's world, especially NA that has become dependent on fast and processed foods.

Darlene Buckingham
Darlene Buckingham2 months ago

Christopher: We're not worthy of an answer or to make a comment on Sandra's posts. Wow. I should expect another Flagged! It would be easy to say that she is not for trophy hunting and stick to the topics but that is not a worthy question apparently. This is a difficult topic and one that finding answers is not easy. Hunting is a tradition where I live and hunting done respectfully to feed families is good for self-reliance and food security. What I don't like is the hunters that buy all the most expensive equipment and turn hunting into a week-end of partying and drinking as they kill animals. Hunting without respect for the death of the animal and not using the animal properly is to be discouraged. It would be great if Native people taught the ways of their ancestors and how they hunted with respect for the animals and gratitude the the animal helped their family to survive. This is what has been lost, is the reverence for animals lives and to only eat what is needed. Taking selfies with dead animals is disrespectful. Most people today don't say thank-you or even think they are eating animals they are so disconnected from their food and what it takes to bring it to the table. This is an important topic of cruelty to animals and returning to right relationship and gratitude for animals lives. For those that do not want to kill animals and learn about different ways to thrive without having to eat animals I support that fully as well and encourage people to take a look at how

Christopher P.
Christopher P.2 months ago

Animal cruelty Victim shot with arrow...

http://www.wxyz.com/news/goose-injured-by-arrow-neighbors-in-south-lyon-hoping-it-gets-help

http://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/how-to-identify-animal-abuse-and-neglect-and-what-to-do-if-you-suspect-cruelty/