How many animals does a vegetarian save?

A vegetarian spares the lives of a certain number of animals each time he or she chooses to forgo meat for vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes and nuts. These animals, of course, are not necessarily ones who continue to live because a vegetarian chose not to eat them. The way a vegetarian saves animals is by reducing the demand for meat and causing fewer animals to be born into a harsh life owned by the meat industry, where callousness abounds and mercy is scant.

Exactly how many animals does a vegetarian save each year? Given the scale and complexity of animal agriculture today, this number is impossibly difficult to determine accurately. But, it is possible to estimate a conservative range—in this post, I will attempt such an estimate for a vegetarian in the United States.

Sources cited
  1. Humane Research Council. HRC Study of Current and Former Vegetarians and Vegans. (link, accessed March 15, 2015)
  2. US Census Bureau. Population Estimates. (link, accessed March 15, 2015)

First, a few preliminaries. To determine the number of animals saved by a vegetarian, we need at least two numbers: the total number of animals killed for food consumed in the US in a given year and the size of the US population during that year. But, estimating the number saved is not merely a matter of dividing the total number killed by the size of the population. Suppose there are only two people in the US: one regular meat-eater who eats 100 animals each year and one vegetarian who eats no animals. A reasonable conclusion is that the vegetarian saves 100 animals per year. But, if we merely divide the number killed by the population size, we will unreasonably conclude that a vegetarian saves only 100/2 = 50 animals per year. So, we have to divide the number killed by the size of the meat-eating population, as expressed in the following formula.

Number saved by a vegetarian =   Total number of animals killed
Population size × ( 1.0 − v )

where v is the fraction of the population that is vegetarian or vegan.

According to a study of current and former vegetarians and vegans conducted by the Humane Research Council, about 1.94% of the US population is vegetarian or vegan. Based on this study, I will use v as 0.0194. (Because of rounding, the results of additions and multiplications reported in this post may not be exact.)

In the following, almost all of the data for the number of animals killed is for the year 2013. Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, I will use the resident population of the United States on July 1, 2013 (mid-year) as 314,886,749.

But wait. Don’t vegetarians also cause animals to die?

Yes, indeed. Even a vegan diet causes a certain number of deaths and some amount of suffering. Mice, moles and other small animals die in the cultivation of grains and pulses on modern farms. They get run over by agricultural equipment such as tractors or they die as a consequence of the disruption of their land. Many small animals also die from poisoning by pesticides.

Sources cited
  1. G. Matheny. Least Harm: A Defense of Vegetarianism from Steven Davis’s Omnivorous Proposal. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 16:505-511, 2003. (link, accessed March 15, 2015)
  2. M. Bittman. Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler. The New York Times, January 27, 2008. (link, accessed March 15, 2015)

But, the animals we eat do not just exist in isolation waiting for us to eat them. They eat grains too. In fact, almost all the animals we eat are ones kept caged by us inside desolate barns and kept fed by us on grains we grow just for them. We grow soy, corn, wheat, barley, sorghum and other grains on vast tracts of land—all of which also cause large numbers of deaths. Meat consumption remains an inherently inefficient process in which we grow far more crops to feed to the animals we eat than we would need if we ate the crops directly ourselves.

So, while the cultivation of crops to feed a vegetarian does kill some animals, far more animals die in the cultivation of crops to feed the animals we eat. This post makes no claim that vegetarians do not cause any deaths of animals. This post is about how many animals a vegetarian saves—the same question as how many fewer animals have to die for a vegetarian.

Land animals

Sources cited
  1. National Agricultural Statistics Service, USDA. Poultry Slaughter 2013 Summary. February 2014. (link, accessed March 15, 2015)
  2. National Agricultural Statistics Service, USDA. Livestock Slaughter 2013 Summary. April 2014. (link, accessed March 15, 2015)
  3. Economic Research Service, USDA. Livestock and Meat International Trade Data. March 2015. (link, accessed March 15, 2015)

The number of land animals slaughtered in the U.S. or imported minus the number exported determines the U.S. supply of meat in the market. Table 1 below lists these numbers. The table does not include cows used for dairy, hens used for their eggs or the male chicks killed by the egg industry because we are trying to find the number of animals saved by a vegetarian, not a vegan (a whole other topic for another post, another time).

Two annual reports produced by the USDA serve as our sources for the number who are slaughtered or condemned before slaughter: the Poultry Slaughter 2013 Summary report and the Livestock Slaughter 2013 Summary report. The import and export numbers come from the data on international meat trade made available by the USDA. In this table, conversion from carcass weights or pounds of meat to numbers of animals is based on data in the same two slaughter reports mentioned earlier.

Table 1: Number of land animals slaughtered
for the U.S. supply of meat in 2013
Slaughtered in the U.S. Imported into the U.S. Exported from the U.S. Total slaughtered for U.S. supply of meat
Chickens 8,648,756,000 1,665,945,556 6,982,810,444
Turkeys 239,386,000 30,874,886 208,511,114
Ducks 24,575,000 24,575,000
Cows 32,566,000 4,859,244 3,414,302 34,010,942
Calves 788,600 788,600
Pigs 112,147,900 9,206,628 24,150,661 97,203,867
Sheep 2,412,200 2,509,072 104,913 4,816,359
Goats 689,200 689,200
Bison 57,200 57,200
Total 9,061,378,100 16,574,944 1,724,490,319 7,353,462,725
Sources cited
  1. C. Bono, et al. Dynamic Production Monitoring in Pig Herds III. Modeling and Monitoring Mortality Rate at Herd Level. Livestock Science, volume 168. October 2014. (link, accessed March 15, 2015)
  2. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, USDA. Mortality of Calves and Cattle on U.S. Beef Cow-Calf Operations. APHIS Info Sheet: Veterinary Services. May 2010. (link, accessed March 15, 2015)
  3. National Agricultural Statistics Service, USDA. Hatchery Production 2013 Summary. April 2014. (link, accessed March 15, 2015)

Mortality from other causes: A large number of animals in our factory farms die even before they reach the moment of slaughter. They die of untreated illnesses and injuries, rough transportation, and various skeletal and other problems caused by intense genetic selection for excessively rapid growth. Many of them also die during or after their use as breeders. Some die in research experiments serving the meat industry. Some live long enough to get to the slaughter plant but are condemned by federal inspectors during the required ante-mortem screening because they are too sick, injured, or otherwise unfit for human consumption.

In the following, for the most-used land animals, I will use conservative but documented estimates of the deaths in the meat industry from causes other than their slaughter for meat.

In a recent study of modern pig farms published in 2014, the authors report that the average pre-weaning mortality rate of piglets is 14.6% and the average post-weaning mortality rate is 1.9%, for a cumulative mortality rate of about 16.22%.

The pre-slaughter mortality numbers for bovines come from a 2010 USDA report on U.S. beef operations. About 3.5% of calves die before weaning. An additional 1.5% die after weaning, for a cumulative pre-slaughter mortality rate of about 4.95% for cows.

In the case of chickens, we know from the USDA’s 2013 summary of hatchery production that a total of 9,057,461,000 chicks of the type used for meat were hatched in 2013. But, from Table 1 above, only 8,648,756,000 reached slaughter. This yields 4.51% as an estimate of the percentage of chickens in the industry who die from causes other than their slaughter for meat.

Table 2: Number of deaths of land animals
for the per capita U.S. supply of meat in 2013
Total slaughtered for U.S. supply of meat Mortality rate from other causes Total deaths for U.S. supply of meat Total deaths per capita Number saved by a vegetarian
Chickens 6,982,810,444 4.51% 7,312,789,639 23.2 23.7
Turkeys 208,511,114 11.17% 234,720,246 0.7 0.7
Ducks 24,575,000 2.12% 25,106,000 0.1 0.1
Cows 34,010,942 4.95% 35,618,160 0.1 0.1
Calves 788,600 3.50% 817,202 < 0.1 < 0.1
Pigs 97,203,867 16.22% 116,026,359 0.4 0.4
Sheep 4,816,359 4,816,359 < 0.1 < 0.1
Goats 689,200 689,200 < 0.1 < 0.1
Bison 57,200 57,200 < 0.1 < 0.1
Total 7,353,462,725 7,730,640,365 24.6 25.0

According to the same report on hatchery production, we know that 269,476,000 turkeys were hatched in 2013, but the number slaughtered in the U.S. in 2013 was only 239,386,000. This yields 11.17% as an estimate of the percentage of turkeys in the industry who die from causes other than their slaughter for meat.

For lack of better data on the mortality rate of ducks, I use the ante-mortem condemnation rate of 2.12% by federal inspectors inferred from USDA’s Poultry Slaughter 2013 Summary report. This is a conservative estimate—surely, many more ducks die before they reach the moment they are so unfit for human consumption that federal inspectors remove them from the slaughter line.

A vegetarian saves more than 25 land animals each year.

We kill over 7.7 billion land animals each year for our food. Using the formula mentioned earlier, we find that a vegetarian saves over 25 land animals each year, almost 24 of who are chickens. The following pie charts depict the numbers of these animals in the proportion we eat them.

Number of land animals killed annually
for the average American consumer (total: 24.6)
Number of land animals killed annually (excluding chickens)
for the average American consumer (total: 1.3)

Sea animals

Sources cited
  1. National Marine Fisheries Service. Fisheries of the United States: 2013. September 2014. (link, accessed March 15, 2015)
  2. National Fisheries Institute. Top 10 Consumed Seafoods. (link, accessed March 15, 2015)
  3. Counting Animals. The fish we kill to feed the fish we eat.. March 16, 2015. (link, accessed March 16, 2015)

Aquatic animals we eat come to us through at least four different means: commercial landings (caught in the wild, brought ashore and then sold), aquaculture (farmed aquatic animals), imports and recreational fishing. The sum of these minus the exports yields the total that enters the U.S. supply as food. The most recent compilation of this data can be found in the Fisheries of the United States (2013) report, released by the Fisheries Statistics Division of the National Marine Fisheries Service. Based on this data for 2013, but excluding US-produced aquaculture and recreational fishing, the National Fisheries Institute has released numbers on the per capita consumption of sea animals by United States residents.

US-produced aquaculture data are not yet released for 2013, but we can reach a reasonable approximation using the 2012 data from the Fisheries of the United States (2013) report. With this adjustment to the data from the National Fisheries Institute and using the conversion factors and the methodology employed in my post on the fish we kill to feed the fish we eat, Table 3 below estimates the number of sea animals killed for direct consumption by the US civilian resident population in 2013. The consumption is reported in terms of live weight, the weight of the whole animal while alive. The “other” category in the table reports fish caught during marine recreational fishing.

Table 3: Estimated number of sea animals killed for direct consumption
by U.S. civilian resident population in 2013
(all weights are in live weight, except for mollusks which are reported in the weight of meat excluding the shell.)
Weight of U.S. supply (in 1,000 pounds) Estimated mean weight (in pounds) of an individual animal Number killed for U.S. supply Number killed per capita for U.S. supply Estimated number saved by a vegetarian
Shrimp 2,551,782 0.0641 39,807,794,750 126.42 128.92
Salmon 1,684,849 9.70 173,740,227 0.55 0.56
Tuna 1,383,297 17.37 79,618,770 0.25 0.26
Tilapia 1,322,200 1.16 1,142,361,645 3.63 3.70
Pollock 1,178,038 1.46 804,566,972 2.56 2.61
Pangasius 674,483 2.20 305,940,472 0.97 0.99
Cod 563,253 5.80 97,049,900 0.31 0.31
Catfish 835,307 1.12 742,919,347 2.36 2.41
Crabs 839,117 1.97 426,187,947 1.35 1.38
Clams 121,102 0.20 618,834,834 1.97 2.00
Sardines 62,977 0.22 280,634,044 0.89 0.91
Scallops 74,390 0.05 1,487,800,000 4.72 4.82
Oysters 104,188 0.17 628,025,008 1.99 2.03
Lobsters 242,603 1.72 140,841,238 0.45 0.46
Other 239,011 1.41 169,689,000 0.54 0.55
Total 11,637,588 46,906,004,154 148.96 151.91
Sources cited
  1. A. Mood. Worse Things Happen at Sea: The Welfare of Wild-Caught Fish. 2010. (link, accessed March 15, 2015)
  2. A. Mood and P. Brooke. Estimating the Number of Farmed Fish Killed in Global Aquaculture Each Year. July 2010. (link, accessed March 15, 2015)
  3. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. FAO Yearbook 2012: Fishery and Aquaculture Statistics. June 2014. (link, accessed March 15, 2015)

In Table 3 above, the mean weights of the individual fish are derived from the mid-point of the estimated means compiled in two reports produced by fishcount.org.uk: one on wild-caught fish and one on aquacultured fish. The mean weights used in the table are appropriately weighted by the estimated proportion of each species of animal used in our diet. For example, the mean weight of salmon in Table 3 is based on the mean weights of farmed Atlantic salmon and the mean weights of the most-caught Pacific salmon: pink salmon and chum salmon. As another example, the mean weight of tuna is similarly based on the proportional mean weights of the most-caught species of tuna: skipjack tuna, yellowfin tuna, bigeye tuna and longtail tuna. The assigned proportions rely on US production data reported in the Fisheries of the United States: 2013 document and on the total global fisheries production reported in the FAO Yearbook on Fishery and Aquaculture Statistics (2012).

Shrimp are sold categorized by the count of heads-off shrimp per pound, ranging from extra small at 61-70 count per pound to extra colossal at under 10 count per pound. The relative sales numbers of these categories are not recorded by any regulatory body, but the 26-30 and higher counts are among the most popular. The weight of the shrimp I use is conservatively estimated at 26 heads-off shrimp per pound, with a live weight to heads-off weight conversion factor of 0.6 (as also used in the Fisheries of the United States: 2013 document.)

Number of finfish eaten annually
by the average American consumer (total: 12.1)
Number of shellfish eaten annually
by the average American consumer (total: 136.9)

The mean weights of shellfish (shrimp, clams, crabs, oysters, lobsters and scallops) are similarly obtained based on conservative (high) estimates of the weight of individuals of a species, weighted by the proportion of each species that enters the US supply. For example, the mean weight of clams is based on the mean estimated weight of Manila clams, Atlantic surf clams, quahog and ocean quahog clams and softshell clams, in the approximate proportion in which they enter the US supply (as reported in the Fisheries of the United States: 2013 document.)

The average American eats about 12 fish and 137 shellfish per year.

As Table 3 makes apparent, in terms of the number of individual sea animals, we Americans eat the most of shrimp (about 126 shrimp per person per year). Besides about 129 shrimp, a vegetarian saves more than 12 fish and more than 10 shellfish.

The fish we kill to feed the fish we eat

It is important to not forget the wild fish we catch, then kill and process into fishmeal (ground up dried fish) and fish oil to feed to the fish, the shrimp, the pigs and the chickens we eat. Yes, we feed wild-caught fish products to the pigs and chickens we eat! In fact, according to the International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organisation, 20% of the world's production of fishmeal in 2010 was used to feed weaning pigs and an additional 5% was used to feed day-old chicks in the poultry industry.

Sources cited
  1. C. J. Shepherd and A. J. Jackson, International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organization. Global Fishmeal and Fish-Oil Supply: Inputs, Outputs and Markets. Journal of Fish Biology, volume 83, pp. 1046-1066. 2013. (link, accessed March 15, 2015)

The sea animals we kill to feed the pigs, chickens and aquacultured animals we eat is treated in detail in another of my posts: the fish we kill to feed the fish we eat. The aquacultured animals in the American diet who are fed fish products include shrimp, salmon, tilapia, pangasius, catfish and crabs. As derived here, American consumption of aquacultured fish and shrimp demands the capture and death of 45,513 million to 92,313 million wild-caught sea animals each year! Assuming a US resident civilian population of 314,886,749 in 2013, the number of wild sea animals captured and killed to feed the aquacultured animals eaten by the average US consumer is between 144.5 and 293.2 per year. While some of these animals are also used to feed pigs and chickens, it is the feeding of aquacultured animals that drives the demand for the wild-caught “feed fish”.

Between 144 and 293 wild sea animals are captured and killed annually to feed the aquacultured fish and shrimp eaten by the average American consumer.

I reproduce here the pie chart which depicts the proportions of their numbers (amongst those species of which more than 150,000 metric tonnes per year were captured in 2012 worldwide).

The number of wild-caught sea animals killed to feed
aquacultured animals eaten by the average American consumer
(Total: Between 144.5 and 293.2)

Bycatch from wild-caught sea animals

The numbers we have calculated above do not include bycatch, the fish and the crustaceans we unintentionally catch and then throw back into the sea dead or dying. Dolphins caught in tuna nets and turtles hooked by fishing gear have garnered well-deserved attention, but large numbers of less popular fishes and crustaceans routinely encounter commercial fishing gear and end up hauled on ships and discarded. According to a comprehensive study published by the FAO and based on surveys of marine fisheries, about 8% of the total catch of sea animals is discarded dead and not brought ashore.

Sources cited
  1. K. Kelleher, FAO Fisheries Department. Discards in the World’s Marine Fisheries: An Update. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper 470, 2005. (link, accessed March 15, 2015)
  2. S. Eayrs. A Guide to Bycatch Reduction in Tropical Shrimp-Trawl Fisheries: Revised Edition. 2007. (link, accessed March 15, 2015)

But, this bycatch rate is not uniform across all of the species of sea animals we capture. The most destructive are shrimp trawlers, which use enormous nets towed by ships to indiscriminately capture all species of animals in their path. According to the FAO study, 62.3% of the catch of shrimp trawlers is discarded. Most of these discards are small fish and crustaceans who are dragged along in the net unable to escape. They also include larger animals like turtles, stingrays and even sharks.

The impact of American consumption of sea animals is particularly harsh, given that shrimp is the top sea animal, both in terms of their numbers and the edible weight, that Americans eat. Because of the unusually oppressive impact of shrimp trawling and the high shrimp consumption in the United States, in this post I will compute the bycatch numbers for shrimp separately from the bycatch numbers for all other animals.

Based on estimates derived here, we know that 1,114 million pounds of wild-caught shrimp are eaten by American consumers (the rest being aquacultured shrimp). This suggests an estimate of the total bycatch from shrimp trawling for American consumption at 1,114 × 0.623 / (1 − 0.623 ) ≈ 1,844 million pounds.

As mentioned earlier, the estimated weight of the shrimp we eat is about 0.0641 pounds. It is a reasonable assumption that the mean weights of the species of animals unintentionally caught by shrimp trawlers are approximately the same or larger than the mean weight of the shrimp we intentionally catch to eat. Given that shrimp trawlers drag along animals of all species indiscriminately, the mean weight of the bycatch animals can be estimated as the mean weight of all sea animals we catch equal to or larger than the size of the shrimp we eat. Using the same sources as earlier, this mean weight ranges between 0.075 and 0.165 pounds. The total number of animals caught in the bycatch from shrimp trawling for US consumers, therefore, is between 11,156 million and 24,466 million. The per capita bycatch number for American consumption of wild-caught shrimp, therefore, is between 35.4 and 77.7.

Again from this study, the average bycatch rate for sea animals other than shrimp is about 6.03%. Using aquaculture production data derived here and from capture production worldwide reported in the FAO Yearbook on Fishery and Aquaculture Statistics (2012), we can infer that about 10,670 million pounds of fish and shellfish other than shrimp are wild-caught annually to serve American consumption (5,641 million pounds of which are “feed fish”).

In capturing sea animals to serve the consumption of an average American, between 46 and 104 wild sea animals are unintentionally captured, hauled up and then discarded dead or dying.

The mean weight of sea animals unintentionally caught during commercial non-shrimp fishing can be reasonably estimated as the mean weight of all sea animals intentionally captured by commercial fisheries but who are larger than shrimp. Considering only the species of which 150,000 metric tonnes or more were caught in 2012 and using data from the FAO Yearbook on Fishery and Aquaculture Statistics (2012), this mean weight lies between 0.082 and 0.2058 pounds. The number of individual animals in this bycatch, therefore, lies between 3,325 and 8,346 million. The per capita number lies between 10.6 and 26.5. Adding this to the bycatch from shrimp trawling, the average American causes the unintentional capture of 46–104 sea animals who are discarded dead or dying.

Summary

Table 4 below summarizes the proportional impact, in terms of numbers of animals, of the American consumption of animals.

Table 4: The estimated numbers of animals killed for direct and indirect consumption of animals by the U.S. civilian resident population in 2013
Total number killed
(in millions)
Number killed per capita Number saved
by a vegetarian
Land animals 7,731 24.6 25.0
Finfishes 3,797 12.1 12.3
Shellfish 43,109 136.9 139.6
“Feed fish” 45,513 – 92,313 144.5 – 293.2 147.4 – 299.0
Bycatch 14,481 – 32,812 46.0 – 104.2 46.9 – 106.3
Total 114,631 – 179,762 364.0 – 570.9 371.2 – 582.2

From the table above, a vegetarian saves 371–582 animals each year. Using the mid-point of the ranges in the table above, the pie chart below depicts the proportional numbers of animals killed in service of the American consumption of meat.

Estimated numbers of animals killed for direct
and indirect consumption of animals by the average American
(Total: 467.5)

Yes, a vegetarian saves at least an animal a day! As large as these numbers are, the larger scandal is not in how many animals we eat but in how much suffering we impose on them during their lives and during slaughter. On factory farms for chickens and pigs and on factory farms for fish, the animals live a dreary existence weighted by both physical and mental suffering. The vegetarian, by withdrawing her contribution to this grim industry, saves her conscience too.

A vegetarian saves between 371 and 582 animals per year.

Comments

Tracye Bennis-Sine

Interesting! I'm glad to see you've considered semi-vegetarians, and those who eat a lot of vegan or vegetarian food because they know so many veg*ns. As a vegan, I know this applies to some people in my life.

One thing I have wondered is if lacto-ovo vegetarians eat more eggs and dairy products than the average meat-eater, because they replace the meat with other animal products. I'm sure this varies from individual to individual, and is, thus, hard to calculate. I encourage anyone adopting a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet to make sure that meat is replaced by beans, seitan, tofu, and other plant foods, keeping the amount of eggs and dairy the same as before - or, even better, lower - if they want to meet or exceed the numbers mentioned.

Harish

Thanks for the comment, Tracye!

I do not know if vegetarians tend to eat more eggs and dairy than meat-eaters. If there is credible data available on it from any recent scientific polls, it will be easy to incorporate it in the formula I use. But, we will need data not on exactly not how much eggs/dairy a vegetarian eats, but on how much eggs/dairy a vegetarian eats in place of how much meat.

B.A.

Interesting blog!
I'd like to mention that these numbers are VERY conservative. These numbers do not include:
1. wild animals killed by habitat destruction for grazing land and feed-growing land
2. wild animals killed by pollution and diseases from animal farms
3. animals culled on farms (runts, male chicks, etc.)
4. animals that die incidentally on farms
5. animals that die during transport
6. downed animals disposed of at stockyards or "low-quality" animals disposed of at slaughterhouse intake
7. animals killed by pesticides used on feed crops and by the harvesting of feed crops
8. human animals killed by slaughter accidents, animal-derived pathogens, or animal farm pollution, or who could have been saved by eating grain we instead fed to animals

I would love to see attempts at adding some of these to the calculation!

Noam Mohr

I'm surprised you didn't use the more thorough calculation at http://AnimalDeathCount.blogspot.com, especially since you quote J.S. Foer's "Eating Animals" but not the this source of his numbers therein. This source doesn't account for semi-vegetarians, but it does include far more considerations than you have, including imports/exports, US fish numbers, bycatch, animals that die from causes other than slaughter, and so on.

Kenny

Fabulous article, thank you.

One question - you're talking just about vegetarians in the U.S., correct? Just want to make sure of that.

Sincerely,
Kenny

Harish

Yes, Kenny, I am only considering the US in my analysis. I am sure the worldwide numbers would be different.

Betty R

Wonderful! It's true that a vegetarian will get other friends and family to give up some meat :) I don't cook meat at my house very often (I think I have purchased meat about 5 times since August 2011) so my husband usually gets burgers/etc from restaurants. My daughter is almost two and she doesn't like meat at all! and we don't consume cow's milk and very few eggs. The only things we do still consume every now and then is cheese and butter (I alternate between that and margarine/veg spreads). I am not 100% Vegan but this article makes me want to try a little harder! Thank you so much I love it!

wendy

What about vegans? No chickens or cows suffering - that's saving animals too. I'd like to see those numbers, just saying.

Rub

I think the numbers are way off, if my calculations are right. in order for a human to consume what you are saying you need to be eating over 150 animals a day. Even if you were eating small animals like doves or shrimp, that is still to much of a number. I love meat, but I eat steaks once or twice a week, I eat a burger every other day or so, and snacks throughout the day. I don't think any human being consumes as much meat as this posts likes to say.

Liz

Thank you for this, I really enjoyed reading! Sometimes I feel disheartened and feel like I'm not even making an impact by refraining from eating animal products, this really helped to quantify things. :)

Anna

Thank you for writing this. I wanted to tell you that I posted some of the information you provided in a debate on the following page: http://www.care2.com/causes/the-invisible-and-the-innocent-10153000000-victims-of-the-u-s-food-industry.html#new_comment. However, I didn't cite your page as my source because of the title - the people with whom I'm debating would have immediately dismissed the information as propaganda. In retrospect, I should have asked for your permission first. I did forward the link for your page to another vegan.

CAW

Isn't the number of animals saved offset to some degree by the number of animals killed to support the increased intake of plant-based foods?

This is the oft-raised retort that vegans still kill animals incidentally through harvesting plants. So meat-eater kills X animals (directly and indirectly in raising feed) and Y animals indirectly. Vegan kills X - X animals (for a total of zero animals relating to meat) and Y +(some number that reflects the increased calories from plants). It would seem your estimate (while conservative for other reasons) is inflated by ignoring incidental kills.

I just wanted to make the argument before a meat-eater did so as to nip it in the butt.

CAW

. . . an afterthought: If the incidental kills to grow feed grossly outweigh the incidental kills to grow plants consumed by the vegan, then your number might be even more conservative still. So I shouldn't say your number is inflated; it just doesn't account for incidental kills (when it probably should at least talk about it).

Rhea

Thank you for this article. I had been thinking recently about the number of animals saved by going vegetarian or vegan.

We always hear the number 95 and I was thinking how that number would be even greater if the person was a big eater. I, myself, began my vegan journey pushing 270 lbs. with the majority of my meals being meat-based. Given how much I and my husband would eat in one sitting, I imagine we might be saving almost twice the number of the average person (which one day we hope will balance that high number we ate if only karmically).

Michael

Thanks for the honest effort, Harish. I don't like including shellfish, because that, I think, just distracts from the issue of suffering. Although not "vegan," eating a clam is very much like eating a plant. (And eating "vegan" foods like wet-grown rice kills plenty of vertebrates.) Personally, I'm wary of mentioning fish, especially such large numbers -- do people really believe they eat ~4 vertebrate fish every week?
Finally, I would like to caution against the idea of focusing on how "great" vegetarians / vegans are. Many vegans I know don't need ego help; they cut themselves off from the public (and thus hurt animals) with their sanctimony and moralizing. None of us are perfect, and we can all improve -- we can all do more for the animals.

craig musselman

your caluculations are overly simplistic in other ways too.

in addition to the hundreds of animals killed by the plow to make your bread say, vs a cow eating in a pasture on hay like in canada which kills few.

you forgot all the spraying of pesticides that go on your healthy vegetables (most vegetarians are not organic) since they demand "pretty" food.

But there are many other environmental tragedies that vegetarians are commiting due to lifestyle choices. Theoretically I could walk to the farm where my steak was raised so very little transport pollution, whilst your bananas and other tropical fruits on which you depend, currently organic or not involve vast fossil fuel use, and their organicness if any is a result of MASS poison kill-offs of entire islands of most small creatures. For instance St. Lucia is almost entirely devoid of life smaller than a cat due to historic poisoning. No birds, butterflies, etc.

On top of that meat is almost all mechanically harvested (corn grain etc) whilst your pretty fruit and vegetables involve flying exploited minorities thousands of miles from their countries to hand pick ever thing you put in your mouth...so the alberta tarsands, middle east wars, etc are chalked up to YOUR death column too...so they can have oil to transport all your fancy fruits and vegetables.
If you eat plants to be healthy, so be it, but if you are in any way saving animals...you might as well enjoy your burgers, you are causing more deaths than you could imagine.

Harish

Hi Noam, I did not know of your analysis (let's call it the ADC analysis for AnimalDeathCount) until I saw your comment on this post. This weekend I was able to look through your data and it was very interesting for me to see how someone else was approaching the same problem.

It is obvious that much hard work has gone into the ADC analysis. A difference between my post and the ADC analysis is that my post comes up with 219 finfish and the ADC analysis comes up with a much smaller 43. I think 219 is a closer estimate of the actual number because the ADC analysis does not consider two significant facts: (1) 84% of our seafood is imported, and (2) half of that is a product of aquaculture.

Since 84% of our seafood is imported, the international catch of fish reported by UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (used in this post) is a better representation than the U.S. catch (used in the ADC analysis) of who is killed for our seafood.

The second fact that 42% of what we eat is an imported product of aquaculture is not considered in the ADC analysis. Each pound of, say, farmed salmon we eat is grown using at least 8 smaller fish (1.5 pounds) killed and ground up to make fishmeal fed to the salmon. This multiplicative factor significantly expands the number of fish we kill for our food and should be applied to all of the aquaculture products we eat. While fishmeal fed to fish is considered in the ADC analysis, it is applied to a much smaller quantity of seafood we eat (and not 42% of it as in this post).

If these two facts are accommodated into the ADC analysis, the numbers of finfish estimated by the ADC analysis and this post would get much closer.

Harish

Anna, thank you for sharing the data from this post. It is perfectly fine if you did not link to it. I completely understand your concern re: propaganda.

CAW, thank you for your comment. I updated the post today with import/export data for land animals and took the opportunity to add a mention about how vegetarian agriculture kills far fewer wild animals than animal agriculture. I had received the same feedback privately from others as well.

Michael, the number of fish we kill for our food is not the same as the number of fish that pass through our lips. So, yes, we do not eat ~ 4 vertebrate fish every week, but we kill ~ 4 vertebrate fish every week for what we eat.

Tracye Bennis-Sine

This doesn't answer the question of whether lacto-ovo vegetarians eat MORE eggs and dairy than non-vegetarians, but it is interesting further reading for anyone who hasn't seen it:

http://measureofdoubt.com/2011/06/22/why-a-vegetarian-might-kill-more-animals-than-an-omnivore/

It lays out the animal foods that kill the most animals per calorie, and the least. It does not include all animal products, such as fish, goat, lamb, etc., but it includes most of the American favorites.

In summary, eating chickens and eggs kills the most animals per calorie, of those foods being considered; dairy kills the least.

Harish

Hi Tracye, thanks for the link. The article on the Measure of Doubt site compares eggs to beef and then inexplicably jumps to the conclusion that a vegetarian kills more animals than a meat-eater. It lists but conveniently ignores the chicken eaten by meat-eaters and its very high death count per calorie. For a credible and thorough evaluation of the number of animals killed per calorie, there is no better analysis than at the Animal Visuals site below:
http://www.animalvisuals.org/projects/data/1mc

But yes, it is certainly possible for a vegetarian to kill more animals than a typical meat-eater by eating an insane number of eggs.

Steve

This is terrific stuff. Add statistics on the amount of resources used in feeding the animals and getting them to market (feed + fuel to get feed to the animals, other costs of meat production, etc etc) this is even more compelling. I once read something about it taking 100 lbs of grain to produce 1 lb of meat (or something along those lines; forgive my laziness here).

Jade

Thanks so much for this. I appreciate how comprehensive it is, and the fact that you include sea creatures. As a vegan since 1989 and a vegetarian since 1988 I hadn't really thought of it in terms of saving lives. I had hoped that my commitment reduced suffering and environmental damage, but I had never researched any statistics.

Also, I appreciate your inclusion of the effects of those who have reduced their consumption of animals flesh. None of my friends are vegan and only one is a vegetarian, but many now eat animals much less than they used to.

I completely disagree with the comment made by Michael. Shellfish are animals and as such have rudimentary nervous systems. Therefore they do experience pain. Being boiled alive must cause them pain.
And to make a sweeping claim all that vegans uniformly "cut themselves off from the public (and thus hurt animals) with their sanctimony and moralizing" is a ludicrous, untrue, and disrespectful thing to say.

Jano Kupec

Hi Harry, very nice article!
One more thing to add to the equation pops into my mind: grass fed animals. What percentage of cows in the US are grazing on pasture lands? How much milk/meat can be "produced" solely by grazing? What would grazing change in the numbers above (i suppose it would increase the number of (wild) animals saved by vegetarians, and decrease the number for vegans - but by how much)?

I thought about this some time ago, but never got myself to analyze that thoroughly. IMO, it's an interesting thing to consider.

Jano Kupec

Gary

Craig:

- Most meat-eaters also eat fruits and vegetables.

- Most grain in the US is fed to farm animals, so the average meat-eater is contributing to much more plowing and pesticides.

- One can choose conventional or organic vegetables; one can choose imported or local vegatables.

- Studies repeatedly show that farm-to-plate transportation makes up only a small percentage of energy use and environmental impact. In short, vegan beats local - but why not do both? Nearly all meat comes from factory farms which use tremendous amounts of water, fuel, and land (indirectly, for feedcrops). Grazing displaces native wildlife, and ranchers, with the aid of the US government, kill even mre wildlife. 70 percent of rainforest clearing is attributable to grazing and feedcrops.

- Nearly all animals raised for food are killed as babies or young adults, and are bred to overproduce flesh, milk, or meat. At least the animals killed by plows (a figure which is largely unknown) might be of any age and had a normal life up until then.

- Even places like Polyface Farm, exalted in Food, Inc., use animals bred to grow at hyper-fast rates (causing pain and suffering) and require inputs such as hay and supplemental feed that make them much less efficient than most people think.

- Yes, farm laborers may be exploited. Again, carnists also eat vegetables and indirectly eat most of the grains in the developed world. Slaughterhouse workers are similarly exploited, and it is one of the most dangerous jobs in the country. Recent studies also show that the mere presence of slaughterhouses drives up the crime rate in surronding areas.

So there are lots of potentially complicatng factors. Harish has done a very thorough job investigating the core numbers. I doubt he has "forgotten" anything but chose to focus on central factors since that in itself is quite complicated and lengthy. If we are going to look at additional factors, let's not cherry-pick only the ones that support our lifestyle. If we're concerned about harming animals, let's first stop intentionally harming them, and then let's work on ways to minimize our unintentional impacts, e.g. from plows. No doubt, if we put our minds to it, we can make progress in that area, too. But we can stop raising animals just to kill them immediately.

Harish

Thank you, Gary, for the very comprehensive comment. It is a great response to some of the questions posed and arguments made in defense of eating meat.

Jane Tiberioq

Love your site. I also love animals and I have a site that has current issues that need signatures, and a lot of education for people about animals. I love it if you would check it out and pass it on!
http://www.thepetitionsite.com/146/198/194/we-want-the-certified-raised-and-handled-program-for-animal-welfare/

Dion J

So a vegetarian saves 406 animals per year?
Where exactly are these saved animals kept?

Pablo

Michael - there are scientific studies showing that not only do fish feel pain, but it's also likely that prawns, shrimp, and other decapod crustaceans also feel pain - or something similar, so I think many would agree they should remain in this type of calculation. I'm less familiar with similar work with bivalve molluscs.

Daniel

Very many animals die from dairy and egg farms each year so you can't use the amount of animals that die for "food". Your numbers do apply to vegans though.

Harish

Daniel, I suppose you meant to write "vegetarians" instead of "vegans"? Yes, these are numbers calculated for vegetarians, not vegans because I do not take into consideration eggs and dairy in this post. But, vegans are vegetarians too, so these numbers do apply to vegans as well (just that a more accurate number for vegans will be slightly larger).

Bettina

Hi Harish,

Thanks for crunching these numbers. Do you think you'd be calculating how many animals eating vegan (not living vegan) would save?

I'm about to launch a try vegan / vegan lunchbox month, so I'm curious.

Thanks!
Bettina

Harish

Bettina, it's great that you are trying out a vegan lunchbox month! A vegan reduces the suffering of animals by quite a bit more than a vegetarian (because egg-laying hens probably endure more prolonged and intense suffering than most farmed animals). But, the number of additional animals saved by a vegan is small (likely less than 2) on top of the 400 or so animals already saved by going vegetarian. These calculations, however, do not take into account less direct impact on the animals such as wild animals killed in producing grain for the animals.

VolodyA! V Anarhist

Hi, it's a great analysis, i especially liked the fact that you tried to keep it conservative, it's better to know the minimum in this case rather than going the advertising route and saying that vegan saves "up to" some number. Great job.

Also i would like to thank you for keeping all the troll posts here, like the people who argue that vegans don't care about environmental issues or that eating some animals is like eating a plant. The stupidity our their arguments actually go to further our goals. Keep up the great work.

Neal

Hi Harish. Great article. Well done for all your hard work in reasearching the numbers. My only question is in relation to a comment you made...

"the number of additional animals saved by a vegan is small (likely less than 2) on top of the 400 or so animals already saved by going vegetarian."

Wouldn't the lives of all the male calves from the dairy industry make a bigger difference between vegetarian and vegan than you suggest?
Dairy breeds are mostly unsuitable for the beef market so these are just 'by-product deaths' which vegetarians cause (by supporting the dairy industry) but vegans don't.
The number of male dairy calves killed each year must surely be considerable?

Harish

Neal, Here is a rough calculation to answer your question. There are no more than 10 million dairy cows in the US. If each of them produced a veal calf each year, the total number of calves killed is 10 million. Assuming each cow is milked for an average of five years, the total number of cows killed per year is 2 million. So, dairy causes the death of up to 12 million animals per year. With over 300 million people in the US, that is less than 0.04 animals per person per year. Using the analysis method used in this post, a person not eating dairy saves at most about 0.04 additional animals per year.

Neal

Dion J asked...
So a vegetarian saves 406 animals per year?
Where exactly are these saved animals kept?

They are not 'kept' anywhere. They're saved from being forced into the world to start with, not made to live a miserable life and finally not made to die against the consciouse will to live that they have developed by that time.

The best way to think of it is 'miserable lives, and then unwanted deaths' for which vevetarians/vegans are not responsible in contrast to carnists who are.

Neal

...of course I should add that in the case of non-farmed animals (most fish, molluscs etc), they are 'kept' where they naturally exist; in the wild.

Amy

I think you have over simplified this, and perhaps even made a mistake in your choice of dialect. You are not 'saving' animals, you are simply not eating them. Until you are actively making a difference in the life of an individual, then stop tooting your horn and puffing your chest.
I'm a vegetarian and I would never say that refusing to eat meat is saving an animal. How about you volunteer at an animal shelter? Become a foster parent to a rescue dog. Donate to a horse rescue, a greyhound rescue, ANYTHING! Your 'activism' is lazy and pretentious.

Amy

"They're saved from being forced into the world to start with, not made to live a miserable life and finally not made to die against the consciouse will to live that they have developed by that time."

holycowforreal?!
Whoah man. The meat industry does not magically stop killing as many cows just because you're not eating it. Don't say it is supply and demand, because companies like McDonald's make sure that isn't a problem. Get real.
Acting like an overly emotional extremist isn't going to convince intelligent people to stop eating meat.

Kim

@Amy...Wow...you are really a nasty woman. This page, and the person that gathered this information, is not on a mission to harm anyone or anything. Do you think that you are so brilliant that you are the only one who realizes what goes on with the horrific animal farming that takes place in this world? Guess what? You are not. As far as activism...how do you know what anyone on this page does or does not do in regard to degrees of activism. We could be out all day, everyday taking steps to better the lives of the creatures that we inhabit this Earth with. As far as, "acting like an overly emotional extremist"...why don't you just stop flat out being a complete b*tch. Especially to the small percentage of people who actually do care. What a miserable being you must be to emit such hate and negativity. One can only imagine how nasty a person to be around you truly are if your unpleasantness is so apparent from just a comment on a post.

Eric Triffin

Besides the animals people are saved! If at least 5 people could eat from the feed necessary to produce one portion of meat, then every time I did not put meat on my plate I was able to invite 5 other people to eat who would otherwise have had their last meal. In 60 years of not eating meat I have thereby allowed over 300 people/years of life to be lived!

Fran Luck

I find your numbers to be totally abstract and not at all placed in the context of the way the killing-of-animals industry actually works. I myself do not understand this fully, but it seems obvious to me that there has to be some kind of tipping point in unsold 'animal portions', BEFORE such a vast industry would respond AT ALL--ie: start to raise less animals for slaughter, or catch less fish--resulting in the saving of animal lives. Unless you can present evidence that such a 'tipping point' has been reached, it is not realistic to say that being a vegetarian (or vegan) has had ANY effect on the killing of animals--i.e., has saved ANY animal lives.

I'm not saying it is not possible to save animal lives by becoming vegetarian--but that it would have to be done on a massive scale in order to have an impact (in other words be an organized movement/campaign instead of a collections of individual lifestyle choices). And it would have to be monitored for effectiveness. Then your numbers would be more than abstract arithmetic calculations without any connection to reality and how the system works.

Fran Luck

In reply to Kim: Calling Amy a bitch and saying she is negative because she refutes this hypothesis, insults both animals (a bitch is a female dog) and women (what would you call a man who made the same point--even in the same way? Certainly not a bitch--which shows how sexist you are being).

I just sent a post that made pretty much the same point as Amy--about doubting that the meat/fish industry actually responds in the way that the author implies that it does. It is an important point and I'd like to see the writer of the blog give it a serious response. Thanks.

Harish

Fran: Vegetarians are a large enough group that they are collectively beyond the tipping point where the meat industry would notice the reduced demand. This reduced demand has actually reduced production (see here). This is the reason that the industry sometimes vigorously fights efforts like the Meatless Monday campaigns.

The meat industry does react to reduced demand and the only debate is about the extent to which it does react and how quickly it is able to react. This depends on the type of animal product. It is hard for the dairy industry to react quickly to reduced demand and kill fewer animals (because cows are milked for five years) but it is much easier for the chicken industry (which processes new chickens every forty-five days). In general, reduced demand does reduce production but not by the same amount as the reduction in demand. For example, using elasticity data for animal products, agricultural economists Norwood and Lusk calculate that a vegetarian reduces production by about 70% of the amount he/she chooses not to eat.

Andrea K

Thank you Harish for taking the time to research the numbers and lay them out so well here. The calculation is inherently very complex and you did the best job one could do without over complicating it - ie. you stated that you're making some assumptions (for example not including the number of wild animals killed by harvesting grain most of which is used for animal feed).
It's an excellent overview, well thought out. I've been looking for such a calculation.

Enid

Harish - I was looking for a calculation like this because I'm writing a thesis for my Master's in Humane Education. So thank you very much for your hard work. I've been vegan since June 1996 and I have to believe that a certain amount of animals (land and water; I never ate birds who fly) have been saved (or not born) because of my commitment. And unlike the comment made above that vegans and vegetarians demand pretty food, I just want food that's not laced with pesticides or GMOs (as I'm sure most, if not all, of us want). I'm annoyed by people who attempt to make an argument that continuing to eat animals is ok. If only to stop destroying our planet (the land and water supply), people should seriously consider moving to a plant based diet. And since we're all connected simply because we live on the same planet, the grains that are used to raise animals for food could be used to feed people in the developing world. We are a global world and no longer do we have the excuse that we have nothing to do with someone living across the world.

Marta

Vegetarians don't save chickens or beef or bees because they die at the end of their productive life because of vegetarians.
They eat theirs "products" (milk, cheese, cream, ice creams...), eggs and honey and at the end they die as well.

Vegans save lifes, vegetarians don't save some ones.

Marta

When I say "beef" I mean to say cows, veals and so on.

Even if vegetarians don't eat them they send them to the slaughter.
Male baby chicks are killed as well for having eggs and bees for having honey.

Robert

You can calculate the number of animals you save on http://vegetariancalculator.com but they only count 202 animals saved per year.

Melanie

I think a lot of people confuse the difference between number of animals eaten and number of animals saved. Since animals are often fed to other animals, there is a multiplying effect.
The calculations do not reflect a perfect model, but it is a good point to start the discussion from. Different people may agree or disagree as to whether animals fed to other animals should be included, for example.
Also, some people want to count the animals killed by the plows and pesticides for grain production, the vast majority of which, I understand, is fed to animals to produce meat.
With the recent campaign to ban the Meatless Monday program at the US White house, it is obvious that industry is threatened by the growing meat-reduction and vegan movements. That said, export markets are flourishing, thanks to increased prosperity in countries like China and even India.

H.R. Heilander

If my diet were crickets, a proposed protein source for the future, I would put an end to about 150 little souls per meal.

So by eating beef burgers or roast chicken, I save the lives of probably 150,000 animals per year.

When we eat Yogurt, we kill most of the 2 billion little bacteria animals per serving. So if you could avoid one serving of bacteria, you would save about 2 billion animals more than a strict vegetarian who did eat that one serving of yogurt.

So let's put our own personal slaughter numbers into perspective. If we are to be vegetarians, "saving lives" is a dumb way to measure it.

Jeremy

Agree with H.R. Heilander. Also isn't the premise that one is saving the lives of animals by refraining from eating meat a bit flawed? The animals which are most commonly consumed are raised for consumption, if demand drops wouldn't that just mean production would drop (ie the animals would never be born in the first place) as well? It's not a if demand for beef drops 20% then 20% of cows would be allowed to freely roam the countryside and procreate at will.

Silly Man

Jeremy: Saving lives, in this context, means suppressing demand for meat, consequently reducing production and thus preventing them from being born into a life of intense suffering and eventual brutal death.

Mike

Vegetarians save ZERO animals per year.

(a) vegetarians do not suppress demand and thereby save animals - the animals they didn't eat just go to waste.

(b) for every animal you don't eat, I'm going to eat three.

Harry

There is of course a major flaw in this argument, and that is that a vegetarian is not saving any animal at all. A farmer is not going to look at a cow and say "A vegetarian doesn't want to eat you therefore I will not kill you.

Farming, the food industry and in this case the meat industry is driven by supply and demand. It costs a meat farmer a considerable amount of time and money to raise an animal for meat. he is therefore not going to keep more animals than he can reasonably supply to market. If half the world went vegetarian, farmers might then farm with half the animals they used to keep. They would then kill any surplus animals or unwanted young that are born, and gradually their herd would reduce. So less meat animals would be farmed, but vegetarians aren't saving these animals because they were never concieved in the first place. You can't save something that doesn't exist. And if they have been concieved, then the farmer would have to kill it because he is not going to grow it just to watch it die of old age.

Incidently people seem to forget that most prey animals in the wild are killed by other animals that then eat them. It is not wrong or immoral to kill an animal to eat. everything does it, including us.

Very few wild prey animals live a long, stress free and happy life. Most will die either in the first year, or after a few years, and they will almost certainly die a suffering death, either through starvation, accident, disease or predation. In fact predation is usually asociated with all of the first three. So after suffering a broken leg, or disease, it then has to suffer the torment of being eaten alive. Sadly it is how life works

In fact it would be hard for anyone to dispute that a cow in a farmer's care has a happier and less stressfull life than a wild cow. It is supplied with rich food, shelter, kept free of parasites, and doesn't have to spend its life looking over its shoulder the whole time for predators.

Jack

This is a joke. How many animals are slaughtered by razing the fields to farm the vegetarian diet? WAY more than you save. But I guess you think mice and rabbits aren't the same right?

Brianna Holloway

This is a pretty good article. It definitely has me thinking about my choice of meats.

Ankur

It is a great article Harish! But perusing through the comments you get the idea of how different people are. Vegans think Vegetarians are no good, its hard for a regular meat eater to give up meat and they get defensive. The numbers are an eye opener and make you realize how significant the impact is on the resources and the environment. If watching a video of baby seal being clubbed to death or being skinned alive doesnt stop you from wearing fur/leather, seeing birds downed for feather doesnt leave a lasting image on your heart and you are still pulled to grab that down coat on sale, no number will ever be significant enough for you. It has to come from the heart. I have made my peace with the fact that humans are capable for great evil. I just pray and ask forgiveness from all the animals that have suffered beacause of us.

Vincent

Im sorry but I think these numbers are not actually conservative at all. I wish it was the case that this was true because I would feel much better if I knew I was saving an animal a day but in reality, me being a vegetarian does not make a difference.

The reason is because whether or not I buy meat, the supply is not effected. Meat producers do not plan their output on exact figures, they use estimates and generalizations. Supermarkets EXPECT to throw out of date food away. They do not reduce the ammount of meat they purchase unless they notice a SIGNIFICANTLY large ammount of food being thrown away.

So the reality is that an individual vegetarian makes absolutely no difference.

Anaimals being killed reduces in thresholds. When demand reduces by a certain ammount, then a change to supply is made. Working out how much this threshold is would be difficult,and of course the more concentrated the vegetarians are the easier it is to affect supply because if 10 people go vegetarian in a village of 100 people, then they will of course have an impact on meat consumption, but if 10 people go vegetarian in a city, the meat suppliers wont even notice.

Trying to work out how much an individual saves is really not worth it because it makes no sense.

What would be interesting is trying to work out an estimate for how much animals are saved by the collection of all vegetarians and vegans. Then we could get some realistic numbers as to how we are making a difference collectively.

Dimitar Dobrev

An amazing article. Didn't really have time to read the comments, but wouldn't it be interesting to calculate how many acres of land vegetarians "SAVE"... you know... AMAZON rainforest land and so forth. Go in peace.

Graham

It amuses me to think that you probably wrote this article originally to boast about how righteous vegetarians and vegans are because they kill fewer animals than omnivores but when the evidence is scrutinized properly it appears that your unnatural choice of diet is causing 25 times more animals to die. You probably think that baby mice that starve to death waiting for a mother that has been killed by a plough are not as important as a cow but it's just as much a living creature in my opinion. If you believe in God then you must realise that these lives don't go unnoticed. I suggest you donate some blood to save a few human lives to redress the balance.

Kacey

I am severely confused. The US population is significantly higher than the number of animals killed. That being said, how are you getting a number greater than 1 through your formula?

Kacey

Allow me to restate; the table's totals read far less than "8.1 billion". Where did the 8.1 billion come from?

Gaz

interesting how the vegetarian lifestyle apparently 'saves' so many animal lives. What about the lives that are not saved by being a vegetarian?
Vegan is the only way you 'save' lives.

Jessica

Many of the comments are very interesting.

As a Buddhist, I must think about (pray over) my meals, each and every one of them. I have seriously attempted to be, both, vegetarian and vegan. Unfortunately, with my constitution, going without any animal products for long becomes seriously detrimental to my health. So, I have learned to be forgiving. I have learned to be frugal and thoughtful in what I consume.

If we decided to show our children how food is raised and brought to the table, I can imagine a world in which they would grow up to consume fewer animals.

Instead, the focus becomes to demonize meat-eaters. We blame them for the misery in the world. That, in itself, is also violence. If we want the violence to end, we must begin with compassion.

Andrew

None. They kill more animals than they save by forcing the destruction of habitats in order to create enough crops that the vegetarian diet is catered for.
That's what I thought anyway.

Emma

At end of the day saving a animal a day is not really enough we need to be saving every single one an animal understands what the farmer is doin and it's not enough in my eyes if everyone was vegetarian it would be a better world thats what I have to Say. Its not right that an animal has to be killed for human consumption and they say we are a nation of animal lovers just take time out and think how the hell cam you be when you are eating an animal use your brain meat eaters. If you have a brain or even a heart which you don't.

Bradley

Interesting article. Im trying to figure our a minimum impact maximum efficiency diet. I think grain harvesting really has to be considered as well as stuff like nuts and rice. Currently i try to only eat local organic vegetables, hemp protein (i think theres a little death there but need the protein) and nuts (also probs a little death there), and nice oils like coconut and hemp, supplement a bit 2. Grass fed beef eaters may cause a lot less pain than bread eaters if they only eat a small bit every now and then, but complexity of consciousness needs to be considered. I read a cows brain has the same brainwaves as a 2 year old human. There may be some justification in places like australia where theres so much grazing land that is not suitable for crop growing, however if organic vegetables arent readily available in an area, i would probably attempt to move. Probably good to move out of cities and into coutryside if possible or grow your own veg in the city. People who think individual impact makes no difference should need to take control of their lives and meditate more! People who eat eggs are probably doing much more harm than grass fed beef eaters in terms of suffering unless from a specific source. If your a veg eating battery eggs your probs wasting time ethically. I think a good site called ahimsa has slaughter free eggs and milk in the uk. Being gluten free is nice for the mind 2 as stops inflammation in the body, so do try cut those grains out if you can! you adapt so quick youd be surprised. Make sure you take b12 and use iodine salt. i like to take creatine and vit d2 in the morning. Hemp oil has good omega 3 otherwise check out some algae sources of EPA and DHA. much love Xx

bradley

Actually i looked more into nuts production, seems theyre all hand picked so really nuts>hemp in terms of suffering, as hemp requires combine harvestors... the omega 3 in hemp is attractive tho... it produces about 4tones of oil/protein per acre.

Bradley

I think some overestimates are made for mice killed in fields, yes the numbers drop significantly post harvest, but mostly probably due to them finding a new more secure habitat i found note of one study : " 33 field mice were fitted with radio collars and tracked before and after harvest. The researchers found that only 3 percent of them were actually killed by the combine harvester (amounting to one mouse). An additional 52 percent of them (17 mice) were killed following harvest by predators such as owls and weasels, possibly due to their loss of the crop cover. It is unknown how many of these mice would have been eaten by owls or weasels anyway.-------Tew, E. and Macdonald, D. W. "The Effects of Harvest on Arable Wood Mice Apodemus Sylvaticus," Biological Conservation 65 (1993): 279-83-

Kelly

I'm healthy as an ox. I have been been a vegetarian for over 25 years. I take vitamins and love animals. I know about animal control, but I know you don't need to eat your friends to be healthy. If anything you are destroying your body with unclean and bad energy and chemicals from the animal you consume. This is truth.

Orhan

'They kill more animals than they save by forcing the destruction of habitats in order to create enough crops that the vegetarian diet is catered for.' (Andrew) (and many other comments in the same direction)

That is an interesting view and could be true. The problem is that, non-vegetarian diet causes more destruction of habitats in order to create enough crops for feeding the animals (which are going to be slaughtered).The animals you eat do not grow on trees, they eat vegetables and drink water.

Greg

Arguably a meat eater who is paleo (range fed beef (no grains) and organically grown vegetables) causes less death than the average vegan who eats grains.

If you are going to include shellfish in the numbers (They are arthropods - you also need to include insects, spiders etc - if you do this the vegetarians/ vegans almost certainly lose.

The reality is that these sorts of calculations are specious rubbish made to make sanctimonious vegans and vegetarians feel morally superior to the rest of us - Grow up - trying to prove your moral superiority is a game for the insecure who feel they need to justify irrational choices.

If you are vegetarian because you believe it is better for your health all power to you - I don't eat grains for the same reason. But just skio the moral superiority line

the guy that thinks this i bullshit

vegetarians kill more animals than real humans

Jason

Along with my friends, tonight we at about 100 buffalo wings. So, figure with 4 'wings' per bird (upper part, lower part, two per bird), collectively we killed approximately 25 chickens. Go us!!

Rachel

The amount of animals killed is based on supply and demand, the more people who consume meat the more animals are slaughtered.

Leigha Hancock

This is such a good reason

Aryan Nihilist

Ironically, the rise of the slaughterhouse and mass meat production means that the individual can eat basically as much meat as he/she wants with a clean conscience. In the old days, people did "buy local", so if a man ate a copious amount of meat his butcher would probably start upping the production. No more, no longer. All you who are reading this shouldn't act on this, though. Maybe you'll collectively have a significant impact on the meat market. ;-)

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