"Vegetarians kill more animals during harvest”
There is a chasm of difference between the incidental death of a few creatures during the harvesting of plants, and the intentional deprivation of liberty, torture and ultimately slaughter of 50+ billion animals we eat per year (recent estimates reach up to 150 billion annually).
The anti-vegan brigade have gone as far as to suggest that more animals die from plant-based diets than from the intentional slaughter of animals for meat. This lie was perpetrated and made mainstream by IFLS, a viciously anti-vegan animal tester who shared a widely debunked and ridiculed article on her blog which started this whole debate. Despite scientists screaming from the rooftops that there is no evidence to support this claim, the myth persists.
Firstly, let’s look at plain fact. There are statistics that totally disprove the theory that vegetarians kill more animals than meat eaters.
A) This link compares how many animals die in the production of certain foods per 1 million calories, the estimated calories the average adult consumes per year. The numbers range from 250 animals killed per million calories of chicken, to less than two animals killed per million calories of grains. This includes animals killed in harvest, and you will notice that more animals are killed in harvest for meat than for plant foods.
B) Livestock eat more plant foods than humans. There are only 7 billion humans, but there are hundreds of billions of livestock in captivity today when you include those bred for their bodily excretions (cows and chickens). 40% of all plant foods we grow on this planet are fed to livestock. From wheat alone, 16% of it what we grow is fed to cattle. Take a look in that link at how many animals are killed during harvest to make 1 million calories of beef. If anybody was to be concerned about killing animals during harvest, they would never eat meat, because more animals are killed to feed each livestock animal than they would be if you directly ate plant foods yourself.
It is plainly obvious that 150 billion animals killed for food + the animals killed during harvest to feed these animals far outnumbers the small percentage of animals incidentally killed during plant harvesting. I don’t have a number for how many animals vegans would contribute to killing, but that’s because the number is so insignificant nobody considers it worthy of measuring. What we know is you can probably count the number on one hand, even if you overeat more than your 1 million calories. We also walk on sidewalks and probably squash ants incidentally, where’re the pitchforks and torches hunting us down for those crimes?
Secondly, let’s look at the implications of this moral argument.
A) 99% of animals bred for food come from factory farms. To the “I only eat grass-fed” community, you read that correctly. 1% of animals available on the market are free-range. 97% of cattle are fed with grain, including those labelled as “pasture-fed” or “free-range”. Most of this statistic comes from the developed world where we don’t keep our own animals, yet consume far greater amounts of meat due to the industrialisation of our food industry. All animals, factory farmed or not, are transported in the same conditions and killed at the same slaughterhouses (followTamara Kenneally Photography for photographic evidence in Australia.)
For mice living in corn fields there is no de-beaking, tail docking, branding, shredding, forced impregnation, neutering or any of the other standard daily practices that occur when animals are bred for their flesh. When you compare pork to beef in the first link you will see less animals are killed per calorie, but pig farms have massively higher rates of cruelty and torture in worse living conditions than cows typically endure. Dairyand eggs also have lower death tolls, but certainly have higher levels of suffering. The animal turnover is lower because they are forced to live for two-five years (depending on the species) as mistreated factory farm slaves, with all their children taken away from them, before finally being killed themselves.
So while vegans may contribute to the death of a handful of animals during harvest each year, not one of those small critters are raised in factory farms. This means the reduction of cruelty is compounding, and a disproportionately greater amount of animal suffering is prevented per life saved through a plant-based diet than a vegetarian or meat-inclusive diet.
B) Intention is everything. A vegan aims to minimise any and all harm inflicted upon animals. We withhold from preventable acts of cruelty. It’s also an ongoing learning process where not one of us is perfect in our consumerism, because we still operate within the confines of modern society as it is. I do not buy any food, beauty, clothing or cleaning products that I know to harm animals, but I do accept medication when I need it knowing that current government regulations require animal testing on most drugs. I full-heartedly disagree with animal testing and I boycott it whenever possible, but I do not commit self-harm if it cannot be avoided regarding my health.
Such is the same with harvesting plant foods. We need to eat healthy, nutritious food which grows in the ground. In a perfect world we would revert to the old way of subsistence farming where we grow what we eat, and eat what we grow. This would greatly reduce the chances of animals being caught in harvesting machines. Unfortunately for an increasingly urban global population, this is becoming less of a norm and people like me have to buy their fruit and veg from where they can. So I shop mindfully and I make all purchases with the intention of reducing harm to all animals, people and the planet in general. I take personal responsibility for the footprint I make on the Earth and I aim to reduce it. I accept that I will step on ants, and that animals may be killed in the production of my plant foods. I am mature enough to acknowledge the harm my lifestyle causes, are you?
Vegetarians do not kill more animals than meat eaters. Vegans do not kill more animals than vegetarians. Killing animals is not better for animals than not killing them. The best way to not kill animals, is to not kill them.
We should not tolerate ridiculous, hate-fuelled myths people use to justify violence and environmental destruction.
Animals don’t belong in bellies just like heads don’t belong in asses. Let’s pull yours out and move on with our lives beyond this mind-numbing argument.