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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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3558 comments

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10:24AM PST on Jan 31, 2015

Rainbow: We have had unusually cold winters the last few winters. We don't over winter anything and pick everything in the fall because it does get so cold here. That is our choice and that could change. WE grow lettuce and herbs inside to provide fresh greens through the winter. I am sure we kill insects when we turn the soil but that is part of the cycle. Profits are not everything to people who want to live a good life. Emphasis on Profits have led to creating an imbalance. There is no such thing as perpetual growth and that is what corporations/governments want so they are part of the problem just as much as religion is. Social injustice prevents people from having access to birth control and education and agains creates poverty or excessive wealth which is creating imbalance. There are huge problems with factory farms,monoculture and GMO's and I am surprised that others on the forum other than myself are not challenging you on this statement. Overpopulation, overcrowded cities are symptoms not causes. The root cause is lack of understanding of how to live in balance with planet Earth and putting ethical considerations first before profits. Who knows the size of population the Earth could support if we were living in balance which right now we clearly are not.

9:17PM PST on Jan 30, 2015

“Poorer countries have higher birth rates so reaching the poor and giving them tax incentives to have less children would be a solution but can the poorer Countries afford to do this?”

Jurisdictions with more religiosity have higher birth rates, regardless of economy. Like here in the religious south. Redistribution of wealth won’t stop that.

Can poor countries afford NOT to do this? If you can’t afford a child what reason do you have breeding in the first place? When I was in Mogadishu I saw women take our rations, then calmly break their baby’s neck and dump it in a hole. Then eat their baby’s portion. They can’t care for themselves, let alone a child.

“but have we really addressed how we are going to grow our food in the future and how to get away from factory farming, monoculture and GMO's?”

Yes we have. And it’s redundant because it won’t stop and it isn’t as bad as you think.

“These companies that engage in these farming practices are not going to want reduced populations but greater populations so they can make more profits are they not?”

Any company wants to make more profits and less population means less consumers. You think any company [even those who propagate your ideas] are any different?
Furthermore, you’re focusing on the symptoms, not the cause.

9:16PM PST on Jan 30, 2015

“It is not just religious nuts that are responsible for "breeding" but also lack of education and social injustice.”

Really? When was the last time “lack of education and social injustice” intentionally spread religious propaganda, blocked sex education, contraceptives and abortion?

“Rainbow: I have been looking at tax incentives to childless couples in Australia but I can only find info on the concerns with low fertility rates so the Australian government would want more population.”

I don’t recall where I read it [nor the country], but because of growing population they were giving tax incentives for not having children. Need to find that article.

9:14PM PST on Jan 30, 2015

“Rainbow: We have temperatures as cold as minus 38. How do you keep the ground from freezing?”

A gardener who doesn’t know how to keep the ground from freezing. How sad. Polyurethane sheets [or foam] keep heat in and moisture out. After it snows you clear the snow, remove the sheets and keep tilling. It will keep the soil oxygenated and moisture from seeping through.

“We have enough wild plants around that our gardens are not decimated by pests and we do not use any chemical fertilizers We dig out our gardens so we don't kill the toads and frogs.”

Wild plants ATTRACT pests. And regardless of the fertilizer used if you dig the ground you will kill these critters. Telling me you have never turned earth before.

8:27PM PST on Jan 30, 2015

Darlene B.
2:22pm PST on Jan 30, 2015
Dennis: Avoiding the question about GMO's!?
Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/do-vegetarians-kill-more-animals-than-meat-eaters.html#ixzz3QMyxGt23

No Darlene not avoiding.. Just not interested in your intellectual dishonesty. Not interested in your narcissism .. There can be no common ground between us. Not while you indulge in such antics. There can never be an honest discourse as long as you keep moving the goal posts.. There will be no honest dialog between us. As you seem intent to be right because you say you are right.

Maybe in Darlene world that is all fine. In the real world where the rest of us live. Such intellectual dishonesty and narcissism makes you part of the problem. Not part of any solutions.

5:34PM PST on Jan 30, 2015

Suba: Rainbow: We do agree that sex education and birth control are solutions that will make life better on planet Earth but have we really addressed how we are going to grow our food in the future and how to get away from factory farming, monoculture and GMO's? These companies that engage in these farming practices are not going to want reduced populations but greater populations so they can make more profits are they not?

5:05PM PST on Jan 30, 2015

Rainbow: I have been looking at tax incentives to childless couples in Australia but I can only find info on the concerns with low fertility rates so the Australian government would want more population. Poorer countries have higher birth rates so reaching the poor and giving them tax incentives to have less children would be a solution but can the poorer Countries afford to do this? Redistribution of wealth is going to have to be part of the solution as well. Another big hurdle to get over.

4:54PM PST on Jan 30, 2015

Rainbow I died laughing. "Vegan choriomeningitis" is certainly fitting!! Never seen that episode, & I wonder what gave them the idea for the name.

4:49PM PST on Jan 30, 2015

Yaaay Common ground!! :)

"What kind of incentives would you suggest to encourage people to have tubal ligations, vasectomies? How would you propose to impose penalties on those that choose to have children?"

-Possibly a considerable bonus much like the refundable tax credits currently provided for all kinds of actions including having children

-A "breeders tax" much like the yearly taxes on real property, motor vehicles etc. or a penalty much like what's currently imposed on people who choose not to get health insurance.

4:49PM PST on Jan 30, 2015

Mary: Since we are talking about the subject of "breeding" as a solution to stopping factory farming, monoculture and GMO's I am interested in her solutions. That is what I am interested in the most - solutions and were we as human beings can find common ground.
Rainbow: Your suggestion makes sense to give tax incentives for those that do not have children but governments like populations they can tax so are not governments also part of the problem just as much as religious fanatics?

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