Why being vegetarian can kill more animals than eating meat

The most common justification I hear for vegetarianism is “It’s wrong to kill an animal for food.” Of course there are other motivations, such as health, religion, environmentalism, preventing suffering, and trying to score with liberal chicks — but the moral wrongness of killing an animal for food is the probably the most common, at least in my experience.

Consequently, I’ve found it surprising that people so rarely acknowledge that vegetarians do kill millions of animals for food.  If you buy eggs or milk or cheese, it’s true in theory that the dairy cows and laying hens don’t have to be killed in order to supply you with those products, but in practice, they are. A modern factory farm isn’t just going to let their animals die of old age; they kill them at whatever point the farm considers to be the most profit-maximizing. For dairy cows, that’s usually at age 3-5, out of a natural 20-25 year lifespan. For egg-laying hens, it’s usually after one or two laying cycles. And since the males of the laying species are useless to the egg farmer, they’re killed right after they hatch.

But surely eating a vegetarian diet must kill far fewer animals than an omnivore diet, right? Well… sort of. I’m sure that a typical vegetarian kills fewer animals than a typical omnivore. But it’s certainly possible to be a vegetarian and kill more animals than an omnivore, and in fact, I’m confident that many vegetarians fall into that category.

The culprit is eggs. While you only need to kill one single steer to get about 450 pounds (405,000 calories) worth of meat, you’d need to kill about 20 chickens to get enough eggs to match that number of calories. So if you’re a vegetarian who eats a lot of omelets, you’re likely responsible for more animal deaths than someone who chows down on burgers and steaks but doesn’t like eggs.

I’ve scrounged up data on the typical amount of meat, eggs, and dairy that we get out of a modern farm animal, and combined it with data on the calorie counts of those foods. That allowed me to calculate the number of calories of food that we get out of each type of animal, or more to the point, the “lives-per-calorie” statistic for each food. The results are below, with the foods ordered from “kills the fewest animals per calorie” to “kills the most animals per calorie.” (All numbers are approximate, of course, but they’re from as recent and reliable sources as I could find. Detailed citations are at the end of this post.)


*The yield for a laying hen over its lifetime is actually about 550 eggs, but I’ve divided it by two because approximately one male chick is killed for each laying hen.

The lives-per-calories cost of eggs is so many times higher than that of beef that even a small amount of eggs outweighs the life cost of a larger amount of beef. So let’s say you’re a vegetarian and you go out to lunch with your omnivorous friend, where he orders a burger and you order an egg-salad sandwich. The two eggs in your sandwich are only 150 calories, compared to the 300 calories in his beef patty, but the eggs cost almost 9 times as much life as the beef.

Of course, as I said earlier, these calculations are only concerned with the question of taking animals’ lives. They don’t take into account the amount of suffering the animal experiences. That would change the calculations somewhat, but I suspect the overall verdict would remain similar if you were looking at suffering-per-calorie – or, if anything, things would look even grimmer for egg-lovers. Laying hens arguably lead some of the most miserable lives out of all livestock, spending all their time crammed into cages with less space than half a piece of paper, having their beaks cut off, and being starved to induce molting. (Although the male chicks would count less if you’re looking at suffering-per-calorie, since their lives are so short.)

These calculations also don’t take into account impact on the environment. Raising beef is pretty clearly the worst industry in terms of things like producing greenhouse gases, breeding antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and requiring huge amounts of farmland just to feed the cattle. So there’s still a good case for choosing eggs over beef in the sense of minimizing your environmental impact, but that doesn’t change the fact that you’d be making a tradeoff: killing more animals to hurt the environment less.

Citations:

According to the USDA, the average dairy cow produced 21,000 lbs of milk last year, and according to several sources, the average dairy cow is culled from the herd after about 3 years, so I multiplied 21,000*3 to get the average amount of milk produced over the lifetime of a dairy cow. It takes about 1 gallon of milk to produce 1 lb of cheese, and there are about 8.5 lbs of milk per gallon, so I divided 63,000 lbs by 8.5 to get the 7,400 lbs of cheese figure.

The figures on beef and pork come from the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture.

The average number of eggs per laying hen per year comes from the USDA, and I multiplied by two because that’s the most common figure I found for the number of laying cycles. The average weight of a broiler chicken I got from the USDA’s annual Poultry Slaughter publication.

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171 Responses to Why being vegetarian can kill more animals than eating meat

  1. hugh says:

    Yup. Chickens are smaller than cows and eggs are smaller than steaks. Good job. A vegetarian should definitely give up eggs and dairy — especially because, as you point out — those industries tend to be even more grotesque and inhumane than the cow flesh and pig flesh industries. Thank you for the reminder.

    • Alan Dawrst says:

      Why dairy? Based on Julia’s numbers, eggs are 1000 times more important. If you can do both, that’s great, but milk is essentially a rounding error if you’re thinking about strategies for convincing others, risk of personal relapse, etc.

    • Paul John says:

      DOES THIS MAKE SENSE?

      “you’d need to kill about 20 chickens to get enough eggs to match that number of calories”

      HOW CAN DEAD CHICKENS LAY EGGS???????????

      • Astrid says:

        Dude, pay attention and read the article. Look, I was really angry too, but she’s got a good point

      • Vini says:

        I think she believes that using an egg is like killing an unborn chicken. Totally ignoring the fact that the eggs we eat are UNFERTILIZED eggs, meaning it’s like drinking a womann’s menstruation, not a fetus.

        …I just killed my desire to eat eggs for a while…

      • astrod says:

        Think, honey. Re-read the post and think…IIt should make sense then.

      • dustin says:

        Lol omg you guys are dumb. It says they kill them after 2-3 egg cycles. which means after making that many eggs. 20 chickens would have been killed. Come on read the articles and dont pick out what you want to hear.

    • raisa says:

      way to go man speak the truth

  2. As a former vegetarian, now vegan, cheese was the hardest thing to give up, followed by eggs. The solution, of course, is veganism.

  3. Barry says:

    There are those who say that eating whales is the most humane way to harvest calories. I am not one of them.
    I would like to see a mention of the lives per calorie for humanely raised laying chickens, and also a translation into grams of protein. But this is all quite interesting.

    • Julia Galef says:

      It’s absolutely true that buying eggs from humane farms lessens or removes the problem of suffering. But there are still some vegetarians who think it’s wrong to take an animal’s life, no matter how well you treat it. (I’m not one of them, but I know they exist.)

      • Marvin J. Schissel says:

        Evidently some vegetarians think it’s cruel to kill animals for food; they claim that they are vegetarians because they love animals. But plants also have lives. I think people are vegetarians not because they love animals, but because they hate plants.

      • raisa says:

        i agree i would not eat my dog because i took good care of it

  4. djgregor says:

    Interesting post! I like the analysis.

    Oh, I think your calculation for egg yield per life is slightly off. 550/2 = 275, not 225.

    I love the blog–keep it up!

    • Julia Galef says:

      Oops! Thank you. I fixed the number, and updated the other calculations — now the number of chickens required to equal the calories of one steer is 20, not 24, and the egg salad sandwich costs 9 times as many lives as the burger, not 11 times.

  5. DaveD says:

    Did you account for the lives of calves for dairy?

    • Cory Albrecht says:

      That’s a good point, as to produce the milk the cow has to give birth to a calf ever year which may be used as veal (ether sex), another dairy cow or a beef steer, and the rare male for a breeder. When a cow reaches the end of her economically justifiable life she is turned into beef (IIRC things like sausage, hotdogs and other processed meats) so that should be added to the calculations, too. However, I’d doubt that the extra less than half a million calories would tip the scale. Also, I’m blocking on whether egg layer chickens similarly get used for meat after their egg-laying days are over.

      • From what I’ve read, egg layer chickens are not used for meat after their egg-laying days are over because they are different breeds of chickens and don’t produce enough meat. This is the case in Australia, anyway.

  6. anonymous says:

    Using statistics to address a humanitarian issue is as effective as leaving anonymous comments on a blog post: not very convincing, either way.

    • Cory Albrecht says:

      So then, were this issue important to you, you’d find this information of zero use in deciding what and how much of what to build your diet from? This data allows us to make effective choices or to know what the results of our choices are, as Julia mentioned in her article. Unless you are the all-animal-killing-is-wrong variety of vegan, I don’t see how this data would be ineffective or useless for you.

      So what data would you find effective, Mr/Ms Anonymous, in making this decision?

  7. siodine says:

    Is killing a chicken the moral equivalent of killing a cow?

    • Cory Albrecht says:

      Depends. For some it would depend on the level of sapience of the animals in question – basically an extension of the reason why most people feel it’s wrong to kill humans, cetaceans and great apes. For others the answer is “yes” because the taking of any life is bad, regardless of the organism.

      It really depends on where you draw the line on the continuum of alive, alive and sentient (i.e can feel pain) and alive and sapient (thinking, reasoning). As an example, there is some controversy over whether crustaceans feel pain or their reactions are merely automatic stimulus response arcs, and I have knows a few vegetarians who eat lobsters because of the decision that they don’t feel pain so eating them is ethical, but eating a chicken is not.

      • siodine says:

        “For others the answer is “yes” because the taking of any life is bad, regardless of the organism.”

        I don’t see how that’s a logically coherent position because their definition of “bad” seems arbitrary. I think this position is one of Julia’s major premises, and that she left it unstated. If that’s the case, all the conclusions she made in this article aren’t adequately supported. If she agrees that taking any life is wrong, then her argument makes sense, but she didn’t support the most important premise. If she thinks taking some form of life – based on some criterion – is less wrong than others, then she must think killing a chicken is the moral equivalent of killing a cow. And if that’s the case, why?

      • Julia Galef says:

        @siodine — My post doesn’t make any argument about the wrongness of taking life. It’s merely responding to the people who ARE saying that taking animal life is wrong, and pointing out that if their goal is to avoid taking animal life, then they should be aware that some vegetarian-approved foods actually take more life than meat.

      • As I pointed out, half in jest, to a vegetarian friend: wheat seeds are alive, that’s why they don’t go rancid as soon as whole wheat flour does. So you kill a lot of living things to get flour. Then the baker (I bake bread) adds living yeast, persuades it to multiply into millions of individuals, and then slaughters them in a hot oven!

        The deepest thinking on this subject is Albert Schweitzer’s “Reverence for Life” which comes in near the end of his magisterial “Civilisation and Ethics”

  8. Will Newsome says:

    One can potentially save significantly more animal quality-adjusted life years by donating to the right charities, evangelizing veganism to vegetarians, evangelizing grass-fed beef to meat eaters, et cetera. Not to say that vegetarianism and veganism are lost purposes, but if one is willing to adjust their entire lifestyle to achieve a goal of intrinsic value, one should probably do a lot of research on how best to achieve that goal. For those that find vegetarianism or veganism too inconvenient, or find that it makes bigger altruistic projects harder to focus on, as I have found, then I hear that a few bucks goes a long way at e.g. Vegan Outreach. (However, non-obvious meta-optimizations are probably still a LOT more valuable than donating to the obvious charities. Slogan idea!: Effectively affecting the world requires non-affective thinking.) For a lot more of the kind of math that Julia does here, see: http://www.utilitarian-essays.com/ . I found this essay to be particularly interesting: http://www.utilitarian-essays.com/veg-and-wild-animals.html .

    • Alan Dawrst says:

      Thanks, Will! Yes, Julia’s table looks a lot like this one:

      http://www.utilitarian-essays.com/suffering-per-kg.html

      Julia didn’t show fish, but based on my numbers, pescetarianism could be worst of all.

      And Will is right that a few hundred dollars donated to Vegan Outreach can probably offset your own personal meat consumption:

      http://www.utilitarian-essays.com/dollar-worth.pdf

      That said, switching from chicken/eggs/fish to beef/dairy gets you >95% of the way to veganism already.

      Thanks for the great post, Julia.

      • Julia Galef says:

        Thanks, Alan! As you know, I love your essays.

        @Alan, and Will — I’ve wondered before about the argument that donating to a vegan cause can be substituted for abstaining from animal products. I think it makes sense, but with the caveats that (1) I think it’s much harder to quantify the expected effect of donating $100 to a vegan organization, while it’s relatively easy to quantify the expected effect of forgoing 10 chickens you otherwise would have eaten… and (2) Other people think it looks hypocritical to donate to vegan causes without being vegan, and even if that’s not rational, our goal is to influence people, right?

      • Alan Dawrst says:

        Julia’s second point is a good one: “Other people think it looks hypocritical to donate to vegan causes without being vegan, and even if that’s not rational, our goal is to influence people, right?”

        Yes, such a position isn’t necessarily rational, but some might be outraged at the idea. Perhaps this “trade” of money for animal-eating is best done silently. But then I suppose one can’t campaign publicly for more people to adopt the strategy. (Maybe on blogs like this one it’s less of an issue, though.)

  9. Epistaxis says:

    When I stopped eating meat, I didn’t substitute 12 eggs or 3.2 pounds (pounds!) of milk for every pound of steak.

    • Julia Galef says:

      Actually, if you look at the numbers in my table, a single egg costs more, in terms of animal life, than a whole pound of steak:

      Lives cost by one pound of beef:
      0.002469 * (900/1000) = 0.0022221
      Lives cost by one egg:
      0.048485 * (75/1000) = 0.003636375

      • Epistaxis says:

        I eat fewer eggs and drink less milk than I did when I was a carnivore.

        But now I’m inspired to cut back even more.

      • I think Epistaxis should note that many vegetarian end up eating eggs and dairy mostly in hidden form. Most vegetarian faux meat products have egg either as binder or protein source. Most vegetarian are also not too careful about not consuming bread or other products made with egg or dairy. You can easily eat more eggs than you realize if you don’t specifically avoid them.

    • Julie says:

      This is exactly what I was thinking when reading this.

      The fact that factory farms, which I avoid whenever possible, kill egg-laying hens at certain ages is not the same as purposely buying a chunk of dead cow. Eggs are only created by live chickens, in the same way that you can only get ground beef or steak from a dead cow.

      Also, here’s one thing that is left completely out of the argument from most of these people: you do not NEED to KILL a chicken to get an egg and you don’t NEED to KILL a dairy cow to get milk. You do NEED to KILL a cow to get a steak.

      I eat maybe 2-3 eggs per week at the most. So, taking into account the male chicken death, I kill one egg-laying hen every 18+ years. If you only count females, it’s about 37/38 years. My egg consumption in a lifetime is probably not more than 6-7 hens (counting male deaths from Julia’s table) if you take into account eggs that are in other products, not just eaten outright. That’s much more acceptable to me than one cow required to die for every slab of beef someone eats.

      • Dawn says:

        I wonder if you would feel the same if YOU were one of those 7 or 8 chickens……

      • Julie says:

        From what I have read, the average life of a chicken is usually 6-8 years. Being generous, in the 37 years (females only) that my consumption would “kill” one egg-laying hen by the table’s suggestion, more than four chickens would have died of natural causes. So, in my lifetime I will have “killed” less chickens than would have died by then naturally anyway. I think that’s pretty good. Especially for someone who three years ago claimed that they’d never give up meat because it’s so tasty.

        I’d also like you to know that the eggs I do eat are cage-free and vegetarian-fed from the local organic foods store.

        I guess the answer to your question would be that dying of natural causes would be great.

        And attacking people who are honestly trying to have as little impact on animals as possible, and being conscientious about the few products that they still consume to make sure that they’re as low-impact as possible, is exactly why people still eat meat without a care. Because of vegan/vegetarians who treat them like crap instead of trying to explain why it’s so important to take any step in the right direction. Even just giving up one day a week of eating meat is a good start.

      • Hear hear, Julie. Well said.

      • cece says:

        Exactly what I was going to say. I’m a vegetarian my self and soon to ve Vegan in the process. Also majoring in nutrition, so I know there’s obviously a right a wrong way to live this lifestyle in trustest form. Point is you don’t have to kill a chicken for an egg but to get that piece of steak on your plate you know that cow was slaughtered along with a cruel short life. Egg laying chickens still live a horrible life and that just other reason to turn Vegan. You can also eat organic cage free/ cruelty free eggs as well. I’ve heard they don’t kill lay hen chick because the meat is not the same but still all and all for animals sake its best to go Vegan, most certainly eating dairy and cheese doesn’t not out weigh eating meat. In the end being vegetarian make a better and bigger healthier impact on animals and the environment. Your whole argument had a lot of flaws considering your main evidence to suppport your argument was not a fact or given every time somebody eats an egg.

      • Sean says:

        Not only is your math off, but you do not kill a single cow to get a single slab of meat. If you read (and comprehended) the article, you would have understood that a cow’s life yields more calories (therefor food) than a single chicken’s.

        By substituting your usual calorie consumption with eggs, you are causing more sentiment beings to die. This of course does not take into account of suffering, but most vegetarians do not go through the trouble of avoiding factory farms. You cannot expect the author to have dismissed this article because YOU go to a farmer’s market.

        Just because you only eat a certain amount of eggs per week does not change the chicken’s lifespan. If everyone else went down to your “2-3 eggs per week” (Which as an omnivore (do I really have to call myself that?) I eat less than that) it would not cause any changes in the data above, it would simply mean less chickens. The chickens would die at the same rate.

        One of the major assumptions that Vegetarians make (from a philosophical point of view) is that everyone’s lives are equal. This means a Human’s life is equal to a cow, which is equal to a chicken, etc. By maintaining a vegetarian lifestyle (as the article points out) more lives are being killed.

        Just because I have time for it, your math is off because 2.5 eggs per week is ~130 eggs per year.
        The hen’s life is worth 275. You don’t care about males so it is 550. 130/550 is .23 We can round that to .25 for argument’s sake. That means you “kill” 1/4th of a chicken every year. You kill a chicken every 4 years, not 18+. Not only should you go back to school, but you should reevaluate your reading skills.

        One last thing, as a male I am offended by your insinuations that only female lives count. Sounds to me that with your adoption of vegetarianism you also took on some other majorly flawed idealistic ideologies such as feminism.

  10. Phil Goetz says:

    I’m more perplexed by the difficulty that, if we didn’t eat large animals, they would have no life at all. Effectively all the pigs, chickens, and cows in the world today exist to feed us. If we didn’t eat them and their products, they would never have been born. How is reducing the market for beef, and sentencing future cows to oblivion, any better than killing cows that are here today?

    • Eric Robinson says:

      By that argument, any mature human not currently acting to have children is sentencing those unconceived kids to oblivion. Therefore, if you’re not having sex right now, you are morally in the wrong.

    • Julia Galef says:

      First, I don’t think it makes sense to equate “not creating a creature” with “killing a creature,” as you have.
      And second, I think the lives of factory farmed animals are sufficiently miserable that it’s arguably worse than not existing.

      • Julia, your response here is exactly what I was thinking when I read Phil’s comment. Thank you for this thought-provoking post. Makes me feel a little bit less good about replacing chicken on my kebabs with halloumi cheese though. Although it’s non-animal rennet cheese, there are the commercial realities of the lives of the cow and its calves to consider. It gets very complicated, doesn’t it?

      • Sean says:

        Cally, your comment says that when you read the original post, that you were thinking the same thing.

        When someone agrees with you, that is not “thought-provoking.” I don’t even…

    • It’s even more bizarre than that, Phil. I can think of few entertainments more obnoxious than inviting a party of wealthy Brits to the moorlands of Scotland, bringing their shotguns, and then employing some of the native folk (as ‘beaters’) to scare grouse into the air so the guns can shoot them.

      But if the grouse moors were not preserved for this kind of activity, the Red Grouse and the Black Grouse would be extinct for want of habitat!

  11. Sean Faircloth says:

    why does the headline say vegetarian and then talk about eggs? Isn’t the headline a red herring? Or a red egg? or something? Vegetarians per se wouldn’t eat eggs. To be accurate, given your headline, shouldn’t your analysis focus on actual vegetarians?

  12. If it comes from an animal, it CANNOT be vegetarian, by definition. Thus, someone who eats eggs is not a vegetarian.

    • Julia Galef says:

      Bryan — I think you’re thinking of “vegan.”
      Vegetarians eat animal products (eggs, cheese, milk, butter), just not the flesh of animals.

      • Anonymous says:

        I think he was trying to say that vegetarian sort of implies eating vegetation… which eggs and dairy are not. It’s an issue I have with the term vegetarian, too, since it’s complete bullshit.

      • Vegan Rabbit says:

        Bryan and Anonymous are correct. Vegetarians aka “strict vegetarians” aka “dietary vegans” eat no animal products — not meat, eggs or dairy. They however, may still use other animal products such as leather, fur, pearls, down, silk, or products tested on animals even. Vegans abstain from all animal products, dietary or otherwise. I have a post about this, actually:

        http://veganrabbit.com/2011/11/15/pseudo-vegetarianism/

        Of course, I’m very happy that ovo-lacto vegetarians (as many vegetarians are technically called, who still consume animal products) are doing SOMETHING to help animals, it should still not be considered the goal for people concerned with issues regarding animal rights, environment, ecology or health.

  13. meece says:

    If the author wants to make the argument that vegetarians cause animals to be killed to produce the food they eat there are much simpler ways. Look at a loaf of bread. To produce the wheat, first a gazillion insects are killed by pesticides, those have environmental effects from run-off too of course. Then look at the harvesters. The person running that grain harvester doesn’t slam on the breaks to let rabbits, ground hogs, moles, rats, mice, small deer, quail, etc. run out of the way. Those fields are full of small animals like that who are killed during harvest. Then the grain is is ground into flour – the production and transportation brings a lot of food – and a lot of death – to even more bugs, mice, rats and so on. In fact, things like flour, peanut butter, corn meal and so on contain a certain amount of things like bugs and mouse pieces and so on. If there is going to be a chart of “calories per life” one should surely include all those bugs. Unless were speciest enough to think that the bug’s life is worth less than the mammal. I’m no expert on the karmic load, but it seems to me a “life” is a “life.” Then the transport and production of the bread itself – fossil fuels, pollution, etc. Even veganism results in animal deaths. There really is no question about it. One may think of it is a matter of degrees or intention, but short of a jainistic attempt to shew ants out of the way as we walk we are all circle-of-life food-chain death machines. This analysis misses the mark with milk also. A modern bred dairy cow produces probably four times or so the amount of milk needed to raise a calf. So there is extra milk there, but the cow has to have calf to produce milk. Those “steers” in the chart are the male (sans testicles) calves of dairy cows (the female can be raised for dairy herd). So that’s a by-product (peta will tell you that the male calves are destined to be veal, but that is a HUGE overgeneralization). But if the author wants to chart in-direct deaths of chickens to egg production, then the steers shouldn’t be in only in the meat category but also in the indirect cost of milk. But of course those old laying hens wind up in cans of chicken noodle soup, so to count them as indirect costs of eggs and not meat isn’t accurate either. That’s the problem with this sort of analysis, overly simplified.

    • Ericka says:

      Awesome reply. You are right, it is impossible to eat without harming or killing plants and insects and animals. No matter is you are a veg or vegan.

      Vegs like us we eat only free range eggs and we only drink non dairy milk: soy, almond, rice, etc. We do not use leather, wool, silk, etc and we try to get only products that are animal cruelty free.

      We do our share to help and save many animals everyday and do not to impact them with our life style.

    • Val says:

      Really? You equate accidentally running over small animals with big farm machinery with purposefully confining animals for their entire lives to small cages, or stuffing them into feedlots, and then (quite often) skinning them alive, or dumping them into boiling water while still alive?? I drive a car every day. A few times, I have hit a bird and once I hit a possum. Will I stop driving my car? No. I stopped eating meat because I don’t agree with factory farming. I don’t agree with purposefully abusing, torturing or killing animals just to satisfy an unnatural urge to eat meat. Just because it’s cultural and people have done it for so long, does not make it right. If we are going to be that ridiculous, we might as well bring slavery back. It’s time to move forward, evolve. Every life is worth something. For the record, I do not use pesticides in my garden. I also don’t believe in poisoning myself or the environment. We will pay dearly for all of this someday.

      • smurfelf says:

        Eating meat and slavery are both equally natural? As far I know, chimpanzees (our closest relatives, I think, ha) eat meat all the time, they even enjoy the experience of hunting. I am not sure about slavery though, maybe they practice it, I am not completely sure. It is irrelevant either way though, it is kind of silly to do things based on whether or not they are “natural.” What is natural is not always good and what is good is not always natural.

        As far as I am concerned though, eating meat is natural. Unfortunately, we are sentient, so we have to endlessly think about it.

      • Ave Valencia says:

        I agree with Val. There is a difference between enslaving a human and torturing an animal, but the principle is the same. It is abusive and unnatural.
        I’ve lived in the city but also on a ranch where my neighbors farmed organically. I am absolutely certain that the animals on the ranch lived longer, richer lives, despite producing eggs and milk and wool, and despite eventually becoming dinner courses, than the animals that are mass bred for the sole purpose of satisfying the meat-demand of carnivores.

      • The Biblical tale of the brothers Cain and Abel has it that the vegetarian Cain murdered the hunter, Abel.
        I believe that the myth recognises that humans were primarily carnivores as soon as they took to the grasslands instead of the trees. Eating meat is not an unnatural urge for humans. But of course, to be healthy in a natural way we should only eat animals that we have chased and slain ourselves.

      • cece says:

        Yes eating meat is natural, to a certain extent. This day and age the urge is most certainly a lot more than it use to be. Point is there’s a difference between eating meat and eating meat from mass production ( factory farming ) . I can’t tell you how many times iv tried to explain this to people. Also there’s a vast difference to the number of deaths of small animals NOT on purpose to the number killings in factory farming. How many time a year is land grazed ????

  14. Julia Galef says:

    Meece,

    I did read in a couple locations that laying hens get turned into meat when their laying days are over, but I couldn’t tell how widespread that practice is, so I didn’t include it. But let’s say that all laying hens get turned into meat. Then the figure for calories-per-life of a hen should be 20,625 + ~2,000 = 22,655. (I’m estimating that laying hens are about 2/3 the size of broiler chickens). So the life-per-calorie figure would be 0.0442, rather than 0.0485. I don’t think that changes the thrust of my argument very much.

    Your broader point about how all food production, even plants, kills animals, is true. But raising animals for food requires a lot more farmland than would be required if we were simply eating the crops ourselves. So I think it’s safe to assume that raising animals for food kills more insects/voles/etc than simply eating that number of calories directly from the crops ourselves.

    Also, I don’t think one needs to be “speciesist,” as you put it, to care less about the life of an insect than the life of a pig. It’s not arbitrary to care more about creatures that are more conscious.

    • ndsmith says:

      You say, “It’s not arbitrary to care more about creatures that are more conscious”, which makes me wonder how the chickens are supposed to count the same as the cows and pigs in your calculus. It seems to me that if you follow your line of argument consistently, you can’t have access to a non-arbitrary distinction between “lives.” You’ve assumed that a life is a life, no matter how long, conscious, or whatever. But then, you don’t really need this claim to reply to the objection, so maybe it’s just a slip.

      • Timothy says:

        If you care about lives in proportion to the depth of their consciousness, it still helps to know the distribution of individuals over the spectrum of possible depths in order to make the appropriate tradeoffs. A person who proportions care to consciousness, eg some consequentialists, might want these hard numbers as a starting point for estimating utilities, which don’t have hard data (yet?). Also, she did address her numbers to people who felt that killing an animal life was wrong regardless, a group she stated she isn’t in, so I don’t see any inconsistency.

  15. Max says:

    How stupid are chickens, and has anyone considered breeding animals for stupidity?

    • Alan Dawrst says:

      I’ve heard the idea of trying to engineer anencephalic chickens, but I don’t think anyone has pursued it. A more well-known suggestion is to try creating pain-free farm animals.

    • Val says:

      Well, we have perfected it with humans, why not chickens?

    • Vegan Rabbit says:

      “If possessing a higher degree of intelligence does not entitle one human to use another for his or her own ends, how can it entitle humans to exploit non-humans for the same purpose? If a being suffers there can be no moral justification for refusing to take that suffering into consideration.” ~ Peter Singer

    • cece says:

      Chickens have an intelligence level same as dogs. Stupid or not doesn’t mean they don’t feel pain. Also genetically modified food is a no go. There are options that are practiced for people who still eat meat but don’t want to eat meat produced in factories. There are humane ways to kill a chicken.

  16. meece says:

    Julia I wasn’t being very serious with “speciest.” Heck for that matter, I forgot all about the worms, lizards, snakes and so on.

    But as for the hens. Nothing that can be turned in to money is wasted. If not fed to people, then fed to animals. Its a pretty complex system and I honestly don’t think it can be separated in to channels of “vegetarian”: “vegan” “omnivore.” I don’t think it is that black and white. But there are certainly matters of degree.

    Thanks for your response.

  17. David says:

    I could never stop eating meat, except for financial reasons, when carnivores are allowed to eat meat and sometimes even people.

    • Trevor Smith says:

      Do you base your moral code on the actions of dumb beasts? Carnivores rape things, too, and I’ve seen plenty of cats torture and kill things for the fun of it. That’s hardly a valid justification for humans engaging in these behaviors.

      I just came across this blog today, thumbs up! Congrats on being fresh pressed.

      • smurfelf says:

        I suppose we’re supposed to have sentience, something no other know creature truly has. All that the behavior of other animals tells is us that these behaviors are natural. Natural but not necessarily good.

    • Vegan Rabbit says:

      No offense, but that’s like saying “Soldiers in wars are allowed to kill people, so I should be allowed to kill people too”. Carnivorous animals don’t have grocery stores or the ability to farm crops like humans do. They also need to eat meat — their bodies are designed for it. We humans also able to make decisions based on what we believe to be morally correct. I have an entire post dedicated to this issue:

      http://veganrabbit.com/2011/12/17/the-logic-of-animal-rights/

      All the best.

  18. Jen Brubacher says:

    You’ve made a few unfortunate assumptions. You’ve assumed that a vegetarian (at least an ovo-lacto vegetarian) will replace enough meat protein with eggs to balance your equation in a meat-eater’s favour, which is not necessarily the case even if occasionally one person has a hamburger and one person has an egg sandwich. You’ve also assumed that meat-eaters don’t also eat just as many eggs as a vegetarian. And balancing the number of lives per calorie the way that you have assumes that not much is wasted when a cow is killed for meat. I can’t say much about the USDA’s numbers but it’s not as if when I eat a hamburger I’m actually only killing 1/1000th of a cow. It doesn’t work that way.

    You’ve also only cited information from the USA, which is understandable if that’s where you are, but it says nothing for the rest of the world and vegetarians who live and eat there. And you’ve disregarded everything aside from factory farms. I believe the USA has other types of farms, just like the rest of the world.

    For some reason you’ve willfully disregarded “typical” vegetarians, which makes the whole exercise kind of weird. Interesting stats here, but it ends up sounding like another argument trying to skew data to justify a hamburger.

    • Julia Galef says:

      Jen, you said: “For some reason you’ve willfully disregarded “typical” vegetarians,…”

      That’s an odd accusation, given that my post includes this sentence: “I’m sure that a typical vegetarian kills fewer animals than a typical omnivore.”
      I even italicized the word! :-)

      The point of this post is (as even the title of the post emphasizes) that being vegetarian CAN kill more animals than being an omnivore, not that it ALWAYS does.

      • gabe says:

        Thanks for that great, great insight Julia! You really are doing your part to help the environment and promote a greater moral clarity. Actually, you’re just throwing up a highly dubious and qualified hypothesis and use it to…what? make vegetarians feel bad? the problem is not vegetarians, the problem is the factory farming conditions in the U.S.

      • Julia Galef says:

        No need to be sarcastic, Gabe — you can disagree with someone and still do it politely.

        The point of the post is not to make vegetarians “feel bad,” it’s to point out that if you don’t like the idea of killing animals, you should be asking yourself the question “How many animals are killed to produce this food (per calorie)?” and not “is this food animal flesh?”

        The latter question is usually a good rough heuristic for the former, but sometimes — like in the case of eggs — it is extremely off the mark.

      • Jen Brubacher says:

        It’s not an accusation, it was drawing attention to exactly what you said: You’ve pointed out in the post that you’re sure the typical vegetarian kills fewer animals than the typical omnivore. I didn’t miss the words, I was pointing them out again. Yet you still chose to write this article as if it has to do with vegetarianism, rather than simply people who eat eggs, whoever they are.

      • Julia Galef says:

        Jen, the reason the post is focused on (ethical) vegetarians is that they are the ones who have expressed an interest in not killing animals.

        If I were to tell a meat-eater, “Eating eggs kills a lot of animals,” I wouldn’t expect that to bother him. But it should bother a vegetarian who professes not to want to kill animals.

        I think it’s important for such vegetarians to realize that, if they don’t want to kill animals, it makes more sense to focus on the lives-per-calorie cost of the food they eat, and not on the question of whether or not that food is flesh.

      • Trevor Smith says:

        Assuming your data is accurate, you’ve made a great point with this article. As a vegetarian who does indeed avoid meat in the interest of preserving animal lives, I appreciate you pointing this out.

        As a vegetarian who also eats four (cage free and locally produced) eggs a day and drinks silly amounts of milk, I’m also very interested in seeking ways to worm out of this conundrum. I’m most interested by the claims in some of these comments of hens and dairy cows being used for meat when they are killed. That would mean that, as long as there is a meat industry anyway, that death goes to satisfy demand for meat and thus preserve other lives down the line. You’ve addressed this, I know, but the minimal impact of adjusting your calculations reflects more on the efficiency (lives/calorie) of eating poultry rather than beef. What I mean is, it doesn’t affect your calculation of lives/calorie for the egg laying chicken all that much to add the meat harvested when the chicken is killed, but that’s because a chicken just doesn’t produce much meat. Even assuming that the laying hen is 1/3 smaller than the broiler chicken, (probably safe), you’re still offsetting 2/3 of a chicken that would have been eaten, and that after so many eggs have been produced to feed the veggie-heads. That’s more substantial than your calculation indicates. Someone going out to buy chicken, (a consumer is more likely to be seeking chicken specifically rather than whatever meat they believe has the highest ratio of calories/life taken), will buy that chicken whose eggs I ate rather than another chicken raised for the slaughter.

        Dairy cows are also generally used for processed meats when they are no longer useful for milk, but man, in looking that up I learned a lot more about how much it sucks to be a dairy cow. Also, given how short their lifespan is, using a cow for dairy is only slightly better than using it immediately for meat, anyway.

        You’ve taken EVERYTHING from me.

      • Paul John says:

        How can dead chickens produce eggs?

  19. Barry says:

    I looked up what happens to laying hens, and found this interesting site:

    http://stonybrookfarm.wordpress.com/farming-practices/farming-practices-laying-hens/

    “Life Span
    Naturally, a chicken lives quite a long time, up to ten years or more, assuming she isn’t killed by a predator or a marauding dog. As a member of a commercial laying flock, however, her days are pretty numbered. After about a year and half of laying, her eggs start to get bigger and bigger and to come with less frequency, which means she costs more and more money. Ideally, “spent” laying hens can be sold to people with backyard laying flocks, who are not overly concerned with the hens’ rate of lay. However, if the hens can’t be placed, the next best option is to be able to sell them all as stewing hens. The least best option is killing them all and composting them.”

    So, if the hens are sold as stewing chickens, don’t they displace other chickens that would be killed for meat? Wouldn’t that change the calculations some?

    • Julia Galef says:

      You’re right. An earlier commenter raised that point; here’s what I said:

      Meece,

      I did read in a couple locations that laying hens get turned into meat when their laying days are over, but I couldn’t tell how widespread that practice is, so I didn’t include it. But let’s say that all laying hens get turned into meat. Then the figure for calories-per-life of a hen should be 20,625 + ~2,000 = 22,655. (I’m estimating that laying hens are about 2/3 the size of broiler chickens). So the life-per-calorie figure would be 0.0442, rather than 0.0485. I don’t think that changes the thrust of my argument very much.

    • Cory Albrecht says:

      Barry: What would be interesting would be to find out the rate as which those laying hens actually get turned into stewing hens, pet food, farm animal feed protein additive rather then simply being composted. Is it 25%? 50%? 75%?

      • Carrie Poppy says:

        Having visited many farms and worked in animal protection since 2006, I can say that in my experience, most former egg-layers are slaughtered for low-grade chicken meat like chicken noodle soup, chicken pot pies, cat food, etc. But as Julia rightly points out, this doesn’t change her metric very much.

        I would love to see fish added to this analysis!

  20. miss x says:

    Article is flawed, meat eaters eat both meat, dairy, and eggs, vegetarian eats half of what they do if not less than that. They aren’t trying to match their counterparts by consuming more eggs/dairy. That said, Go vegan!!!

  21. Pingback: Let’s See What’s in the News Today: 08/13/2011 | Shaun Miller’s Weblog

  22. Sam Franssens says:

    “But it’s certainly possible to be a vegetarian and kill more animals than an omnivore, and in fact, I’m confident that many vegetarians fall into that category.”

    I think your confidence in the statement that many vegetarians kill more animals than omnivores, which I assume translates to many vegetarians eat x times more eggs than omnivores (I’m too tired at the moment to calculate x) is unfounded, to say the least. Why would this be the case (even if x is very low)? By “many”, do you assume the majority of vegetarians? If so, it would kind of contradict the previous sentence “I’m sure that a typical vegetarian kills fewer animals than a typical omnivore”, as it would make the majority of vegetarians a non-typical vegetarian (which is not impossible, but this depends on how we define “typical”).

    I think this article nicely points out the fact that the production of eggs involves killing a lot of animals. But I don’t see any merit in highlighting the possibility that vegetarians are killing more animals than omnivores are, as it is based on some (yet) unfounded assumption. Although you talk about possibility in your title “Why being vegetarian can kill more animals than eating meat”, this has somehow turned into confidence that “many” vegetarians fall into a category of people who kill more animals than omnivores.

    I really don’t see any merit in writing this article in such a way that you first point out the fact that the production of eggs kills a lot of animals, then assume that “many” vegetarians eat more eggs than omnivores, and afterwards conclude that “many” vegetarians are killing more animals than omnivores are. Why don’t you just stick to pointing out the fact that the production of eggs kills a lot of animals? As written, this article merely gives people who like eating meat the opportunity to justify eating meat through faulty “reasoning”, i.e., “vegetarians are killing more animals than I am because they eat many more eggs than I do, therefore eating meat is not bad”.

    In any case, I would like to hear why you assume that many vegetarians eat more eggs than omnivores? Is it based on any scientific evidence? And how would you calculate x ?

    Thanks,
    Sam.

  23. Pico says:

    Interesting. Can you calculate similar number for whale, dolphin and tuna? If we consider only the number of animals killed, then whale may become most ethical meat.
    >So there’s still a good case for choosing eggs over beef in the sense of minimizing your environmental impact, but that doesn’t change the fact that you’d be making a tradeoff: killing more animals to hurt the environment less.
    I do not think you can separate environmental damage and killing more animal. If the soy bean fields for cattle were kept wild, then more wild animals will flourish. So we have to consider the number of animals killed in all aspects of the process of production of meat.

  24. R says:

    While this argument may work if your desire is how to minimize deaths within a broken food production system. It is less than useful if you are wishing to reform how said system works.

    In this regard, the consumption of animals themselves is the problem, not their food based byproducts. If all we desired from animals were their milk and eggs there would be very little reason to kill them. Amazingly, some animals have uses besides being there for us to eat. For instance, when chickens feed in the fields they go to the bathroom, and their feces in turn fertilize the fields. And on and on with many other animals.

    It’s not a secret that modern farming and business practices aim to maximize productivity and efficiency. With that in mind, they have no incentive to let the egg laying chickens who are past their “glory days” go on living their later years grazing peacefully. Smart business says that the animal is worth more dead than alive. They are worth more turned into dog food, cat food, chicken stock, or frozen chicken. It is the demand for animal corpse derived products that dictates to the “rational” chicken farmer that they ought to kill the chicken to maximize profit. After all they are sitting on trash that could easily be turned into stash. Therefore, the incentive to kill is proportionate to the demand for said products. If chicken and chicken corpse related products are not purchased you have removed the kill incentive.

    To prescribe that eating less eggs would prevent more animal deaths from happening is ignoring the significant relationship that exists between food and economics. And again, does nothing to address the real problem. Omnivores, Aviarans and pets are who you should be targeting if you you want to minimize animal deaths per calorie. To presume vegetarians are remotely approaching the “killed animal count” to omnivores is baffling to me.

    “I’m sure that a typical vegetarian kills fewer animals than a typical omnivore”
    Sure

    “It’s certainly possible to be a vegetarian and kill more animals, ”
    Sure

    “I’m confident that many vegetarians fall into this category.”
    I don’t understand this.

    You say the typical vegetarian doesn’t but that many do. Saying that many do, without quantifying what many means, certainly gives me a solid enough reason to say your typical vegetarian does cause more deaths which seems like something you refuted earlier. Unless you have data here, I think a safer word would be “some”.

    There are other multiple arguments that could be explored. For instance the fact that chickens feed on some of the simplest of life forms, small grubs, worms, seeds and in turn produce an egg which has an extremely high nutrition to calorie ratio–calories should never be the sole concern in any calculation involving food. To farm larger animals such as cows and pigs requires feeding them extremely energy intensive foods over the course of many years before bringing the animal to market. At the end of it all, you end up on the losing side of the energy in versus energy out equation. It’s an interesting read, but I fear that too many variables were neglected for any meaningful analysis to come from this.

    • Dawn says:

      Profit would still say that an animal raised for their produce like milk or eggs would not be allowed to live out their ‘glory days’ as this would take money (food, land, care). You also seem to have completely missed the point that all male chicks are killed as well as many baby calfs from dairy cows.

      Anyhow, vegan for animals rights, stands for all animals having equal rights, regardless of size or perceived intellegence (all humans too) and is the only compassionate choice available. Hopefully if the human race ever woke up and stopped the farm animal slaughter it would then look at farming methods of crops to reduce the life lost there too. Then again ‘pigs might fly’……

  25. savannah says:

    That is why Veganism is the best way to go! You don’t kill anyone and your carbon footprint is exceptionally lighter (:

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  27. thejbend says:

    Just go vegan, end of argument.

  28. Barbara says:

    Well I’m sure that being lacto-ovo-vegetarian, eating free range eggs and buying locally produced milk and cheese from the most humane sources possible is far kinder than being a meat eater living in greedy anticipation of the next steak! No one person is ever going to save the world or all who live in it, all we can do is our best.
    •Lacto-ovo-vegetarians eat both dairy products and eggs; this is the most common type of vegetarian diet.
    •Lacto-vegetarians eat dairy products but avoid eggs.
    •Vegans do not eat dairy products, eggs, or any other products which are derived from animals.

    • Dawn says:

      But not kinder than someone who is a meat eater, but only eats meat over the xmas holidays say? I know it is hard for vegetarians to accept, but if you buy and eat either directly or a product containing, eggs or milk and milk products like cheese, cream, chocolate etc then you are complicit in the murder and torture of animals. You can pussy foot around this anyway you like but it is the fact. The best that we can do, is BE VEGAN

      • Vegan Rabbit says:

        I agree completely, Dawn. Veganism, though not perfect, is certainly the best way to do the least amount of harm humanly possible. That is all any of us can ever hope for.

  29. Anon says:

    You can’t do everything.
    You become vegetarian to save animals
    -milk and eggs kill more.
    -become vegan
    -But what about honey? And wheat that kills bugs etc?
    -Become against that stuff too.
    Then its what your eating is packaged in, is it recyclable.
    is it fair trade?
    Is it TESTED on animals, how do you know for sure.
    Then what? you protest against stuff.
    And make sure your tatoos are animal friendly (not likley) or tree friendly.
    and your paint and boards are tree and animal friendly.
    You go and, (normally unsicessfully) annoy a company for a while.
    And how did you get there? car? but then theres the ozone, carbon footprint, things you can hit, yah yah yah.
    The list is freaking endless. I’m not veggie or vegan, nor will I ever be.
    Every sinlge vegan or veggie here is as such because they can.
    People starving in africa can’t be vegan, right now that’s just not doable.
    Are THEY then greedy? “waiting for the next steak” maybe, but not killing animals because they want to, but because they have to.

    Oh, and fo course, your clothing can’t be cotton, can it? Ruddy hell. I would rather just send money to a dogs trust charity or protection of children charity. That’s just me personally. Especially money to helping africa. just saying, more land there, miore veggies and wheat or whatever it is that vegans are allowed to eat and do now.

    Just my two cents. and please don’t attenpt to change my mind about being veggie or vegan. I am not, nor will I ever be. no ammount of pictures or cruelty or whatever you feel it is will change my mind.

    • Trevor Smith says:

      Are you suggesting that we should we forego attempts to improve ourselves and be more responsible because we cannot be perfect?

      Also, we are discussing our own situations. Does the situation of a starving man in another continent relate to that in any way? Should we with the choice of what to eat ignore that freedom because others do not have it? There are many humans in this world who have been in situations such that they have had to kill other humans to survive. Does this mean it is okay for me to kill other humans, even though I have a choice?

      I’ll not attempt to change your mind about being vegetarian or vegan. I can see that you are not, and never will be.

      For the record, I don’t think many starving people in Africa get access to too much meat. Certainly not steak. Meat is expensive and relatively difficult to produce. They probably get rice or something. Or… you know. They starve.

      • Dawn says:

        Trevor your previous post was spot on.

        I know many vegetarians hate the idea of going vegan so much they try to justify the facts of the dairy and egg industry, continually lying to themselves. I have found the most common excuse is ‘they don’t have to die for us to take their milk or eggs and don’t have to be treated like that, it isn’t my fault that they are’.

        Your response is what I had originally expected from vegetarian friends when they found out the truth. I still find it hard to believe how so many vegetarians, that are vegetarian because they don’t want to kill animals, are completely unwilling to forgo dairy and eggs, even though they know it is part of the killing and torture. For me, once you know, there is no longer any other choice, but to be Vegan.

        On your last line you wrote ‘You’ve taken EVERYTHING from me’. Don’t despair, vegan food can be very good. It doesn’t have to be all brown rice and salad. I think I may have to start a FB page where people can post things that are vegan that you would never guess like ‘Raspberry Ruffles’ and easy ingredients recipies, like chocolate cake and chickpea burgers.

        I think you may have to accept that you may feel deprived a bit at first and you need to think about taking some food out with you for when hunger strikes and only things from animals are on offer by others. You just have to remind yourself that it is a change of taste for you, the changing of ingrained habits, even addictions, but it is life for the animals you are saving. It is a massive thing that you gain, the knowledge that you are not contributing to death and torture through your food choices and your taste buds DO change. Food you like now will smell bad over time, don’t know if that is because milk and meat are actually bad for us or if it is a mental state, but many other vegans I know have said it has happened to them too.

        For those out there still in denial then put in a search on ‘Milk Myths’ and watch ‘Gary Yourofsky’ and then GO VEGAN.

      • Toby says:

        The Maasai in Kenya survive almost entirely on cow and goat milk, and (surprisingly occasionally) beef or goat meat. They are also genetically better equipped than us to deal with all the cholesterol that comes from this. They very rarely eat vegetables!

        That said, this way of life is becoming harder and harder for them, so (quite inefficient) crop farming is becoming more popular. Rice needs lots of water and paddy fields, so instead maize is common.

  30. Carmen says:

    I agree that not eating eggs and milk is better than eating them but this post is basically saying: If you’re not going to be vegan don’t even bother going vegetarian. It also fails in the fact that the same person would still typically be eating the same amount of eggs and on top of that they would eat the meat. So being vegetarian for them would save thousands of lives alone. The meat eater who doesn’t like eggs has nothing to do with the person who does, because all in all, the person spoken about would still contribute to thousands of lives less being lost as opposed to them themselves would being a meat eater.
    Sincerly, Carmen

  31. I came to this blog via the post about arguing on the internet, which was featured on Freshly Pressed. After reading a few other posts, I have seen that the authors of this blog do respond to comments with logic and rationality, which I appreciate. This particular post has stirred up quite a debate, and I have enjoyed reading the discussion.

  32. Lilith says:

    what a wonderful blog. Thank you!

  33. Evan says:

    I wonder if free range and ethically-raised chickens and cows have lower lives/calorie since they live longer in captivity than factory-raised animals, and thus can produce more eggs and dairy. Then again, I know that lots of factory chickens and cows are pumped with hormones to yield more eggs and dairy.

    But now I’ll throw in a teaser: when considering the significantly reduced environmental impact by being an ethical vegetarian, does your lives/calorie count go down? Consider the implications of a changing climate and the rising temperatures of the planet. I’m not going to write you the list, but there is a lot of literature that suggests far-reaching consequences that ultimately lead to the death (and extinction) of many animals. So being a meat eater not only correlates with the direct slaughter of animals, but it also indirectly kills animals by aggravating the effects of global warming and environmental destruction.

    I’m also curious as to what you assume to be a “typical” vegetarian, because your argument seems to be centered around the egg-loving ones, but forget that we have access to many other protein sources. I’d say this part of the argument is anecdotal when realizing that in other parts of the world, like India, vegetarians are more often lacto-vegetarians than ovo-vegetarians.

    I think it’s hard to reduce such a multi-faceted issue into a simple run of numbers. There are so many variables that haven’t been considered which could greatly impact the data. This being said, I think you’ve brought up a VERY interesting debate, and I wholeheartedly agree that mass consumption of dairy/eggs is detrimental to most of the reasons for vegetarianism. I think it’s less about what you eat, and more about where it comes from and how much you eat it. This is why I like to call myself an ethical eater.

  34. emisformaker says:

    I think perhaps a point that’s being missed among all the cries to convert the carnivores is that – regardless of your dietary profile – thoughtlessly consuming any product of a factory or industrial farm costs far more lives than seeking local, low-impact alternatives. My point being that random blanket statements from either side get no one anywhere.
    What’s largely been missed is that it behooves all of us to possess awareness of where our food comes from, and of its true cost (lives, money, space, etc.) We can not afford at this late hour, and with all the technology and knowledge at our disposal, to ignore that which is blatantly laid before us: change or perish.
    Also, if humans weren’t built to eat meat, then evolution’s taking the piss.

  35. Regina says:

    So interesting!

  36. TamrahJo says:

    While there are many sides to this argument, I found simple changes in buying practices, of humanely and conscientiously grown food from small family farms in my ‘neck of the woods’ resulted in:
    Better nutrition for my family (meaning, we eat less – quality over quantity),
    less fuel consumption in the food line (from mega-farming operation costs to trucking/preserving/storage costs),
    stimulation to the local economy and best of all,
    I support farmers, gardeners and ranchers who are proud of their heirloom seed collections, dry farming practices, rotational grazing and preserving our local environment – as well as not trying to plant potatoes that give 20 times the yield or breeding milking cows to give 200% more milk than they were ever meant to.

    I still think focusing on buying/supplier choices FIRST is the easiest and most effectual step we can collectively take to save – animals, plants, biodiversity, environment, economy and ….ourselves….

  37. I think you would have to add the words killing animals “without justification.” Vegetarians could argue that when there is justification for it because it’s a diet they will thrive on and this is a higher purpose, then it’s okay to kill animals, as opposed to eating meat which is not justified because it’s not an optimal diet and therefore there is no higher value that would justify it. It might be argued that humans can thrive on a diet that does not include eggs but the point is that frequently arguments fall when only one factor is seen in isolation, such as saying one should not kill animals for any reason whatsoever.

  38. Nishit says:

    Hmm…I am stepping into a rather old thread. From my perspective, the analysis is flawed, as it only takes into consideration people who live in societies where eggs constitute a vegetarian diet and where milch cattle are killed once their productive life ends.

    In India, where the population of vegetarians (lacto, but non-ovo) far outnumbers even the population of many countries, cows aren’t usually slaughtered. They may be abandoned to wander on the streets, but in many places there are charitable organisations that corral them and take care of them for their remaining life. Similarly, as the cow is revered, many families still offer it their first daily bread and you will see even productive cattle doing their daily rounds of homes in smaller cities and towns to get their share. People also feed them (and dogs and crows) leftovers, though this does create a mess in the streets, but that’s another story.

    Although I no longer call myself a Hindu, this is one of the aspects of Vaishnavite Hinduism that I cherish. Of course, if you talk to metropolitan Indians, they might have differing views about the actual number of vegetarians, but many of them do not know about the real India, which lives in the smaller cities and the hinterland.

    So consider this: the argument of the original post is only valid if vegetarians eat eggs and non-vegetarians (yes, it’s an Indian word) eat cows. Using cattle for milk (and sheep for wool etc.) does harm them, but this is regardless of the larger dietary choices of the population.

    By the way, I was born in a strictly vegetarian family and continue to be one myself, but I have never found anything lacking in my diet. I am as healthy / unhealthy as the rest of you. However, I always find it queer that Western ideas about vegetarian cooking largely relate to making vegetables taste like meat. Food need not be prepared that way. Just sample what we actually eat at home (and not what you get at chicken curry and tandoori restaurants) and you will discover a whole new world of cuisine.

    • Dawn says:

      Ok lets assume we are talking about a vegetarian that does not eat eggs.

      I think you would agree that for most people reading this, the dairy they would drink/eat is from a supermarket. Within most of the developed world, this now means intensively reared animals, provide that.

      For most (read Milk Myths for acurate data) mother cows, this means their calf will be taken away at birth or within a few days. The mothers cry and morn for the children they have lost. They carry the calf inside them for 9 months and give birth each year, but do not get to raise their children.

      If they life to their life expectancy, within this form of farming, then at 5 years old they are killed (natural life expectancy is 20). They are not killed for their meat ( that is just a by-product of the dairy industry), but because they no longer produce lots and lots of milk.

      Many dairy cows die before this, from infections like mastitus or from being damaged when ‘raped’ to inject them artifically with semen to make them pregnant.

      For many of the calfs born to dairy calfs, the day of their birth is the same as the day of their death. In other words, this is the end of their lifes. For others, it is the start of a short life destined to arrive on someones plate as veal.

      Within these circumstances, if you eat dairy products, then you are part of both the dairy cows, and their calfs, deaths and torture, regardless of what may be going on down the road.

      Also, the cow may be classed as sacred by many in India, but the horrors of cows kept there for leather is awful, many die on the journeys to ship them out of the country to be killed in Pakistan. so no utopia for the cow there either.

      • shil says:

        You are in effect saying that eating meat, eggs and drinking milk and buying leather is ok for some but not just having eggs and milk. If they do that, its better they go vegan and also stop using leather and other things that might kill animals. Do meat eaters not have milk and eggs in their diet ? What about just lacto-vegetarians? They do have the option of soy, almond and coconut milk to fall back on. But the meat eater obviously does not it makes a difference, so he is going to continue to have milk and eggs. Is that a better option ? Just a thought.

      • Dawn says:

        Personally, I am saying that if you are a vegetarian because you do not want animals to suffer and die for your diet, then you need to stop being a vegetarian and start being a vegan.

        People who eat meat, don’t usually say that they are a meat eater because they care about animals.

        I wish all humans were vegan, so the animals did not need to be treated as they are. Humans do not need meat, eggs, milk or cheese in their diets and with a balanced vegan one, would be healthier as well as cruelty free.

  39. Francis Woolhouse says:

    I’m a farmer. I mostly grow strawberries, but I also raise pasture cows. Milk and eggs are not the only animal killers. In fact, my strawberry operation kills far more animals than my beef operation!

    Ever see a disc harrow? It’s a row of circular blades, (sort of like pizza cutters) that are towed behind a tractor to prepare a planting bed. They can penetrate the soil up to a foot in depth. They kill pretty much everything living there. I’ve seen frogs, toads, snakes, mice, voles, moles, shrews, rabbits and woodchucks killed by the harrow, to grow vegan-approved strawberries. There are hundreds of vertebrate animals per acre killed when preparing the soil in this manner. In contrast, if I allowed that same acre to go to grass, and allowed a cow to graze it, only one animal would have to die, and it would produce roughly the same number of calories. And that’s strawberries. Other crops are probably a lot worse, since they require frequent pesticide applications, mechanical cultivation, etc.

    Furthermore, the depredations of deer and rabbits can send even the most animal-loving veggie farmer running for his shotgun. Fencing them out is impossible, because the fence would need to go 2 feet below the soil to keep the rabbits out and 8 feet above ground to keep the deer out. At the current price of 10 foot fence, it would cost me a million dollars (no exaggeration) to keep them out.

    I suppose if someone was really serious about not killing anything, you could quit your job, buy an acre of land and some hand tools. You’d have to work at it 12 hours a day (in the spring and summer at least) and get really lucky with the weather, and be a really skilled vegetable gardener…but it is just barely possible that you wouldn’t starve to death to quickly. Until the rabbits come, that is…

    • Vegan Rabbit says:

      I completely agree with you: agriculture kills animals – it is unavoidable. Even vegans, like myself, have a hand in the deaths of millions of animals killed on crop fields. However, veganism is not about perfection, as people like to think. Veganism is about doing the least amount of harm humanly possible.

      On one thing I must both agree and disagree with you. You write: “…if I allowed that same acre to go to grass, and allowed a cow to graze it, only one animal would have to die, and it would produce roughly the same number of calories.”

      I agree with you that yes, if a cow was given an acre of grass to graze then there would only be one death (in killing the cow for food) rather than possibly many more deaths of smaller animals that live in that acre of land. However, where I must disagree is that the vast majority of cows being raised for both meat and dairy production are not given an acre of land for each of them. It is estimated that there is roughly 1.3 billion cattle in the world today. This would mean that we would need 1.3 billion acres of grass land to feed them. Let’s not forget that we slaughter these animals at an alarmingly fast rate, to keep up with demand and to be able to compete with other companies low prices. Giving each and every cow an acre of land is simply not economical.

      “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” ~ Anne Frank

  40. Eve Williams says:

    i am not a vegetarian, but i gernerally prefer to not eat meat due to the fact that the animals killed to be eaten and made into clothes have feelings and feel pain. some animals which are killed for unlawful reasons know exactly what is going on as they6 have brains just like we do. i know about all thebullsh*t about how its the circle of life, food chain blah blah blah, but it is inhumane and completely unfair. imagine being heartlessly killed to feed some fat humans stomach. its cruel and wrong and i would do anything to stop this from happening. animals dont have to be killed to make cheese or produe milk or eggs either btwt

    • Dawn says:

      No they don’t, but they are. Therefore, if you buy eggs or dairy products animals will have died for you to have them. All male chicks for eggs, the laying chickens themselves, when they stop producing a ‘profitable’ number of eggs. Many of the calves born to ensure their mother continues to lactate and of course the mother cow, again as soon as her milk yeald starts to drop (if she has been ‘lucky’ enough to have not died already from infection, arthritis or paralysis from artifically being inseminated). I guess under your own reasoning you would then class it as inhumane and completely unfair to eat eggs or dairy products anymore.

    • Vegan Rabbit says:

      Eve Williams, I believe your heart is in the right place, however you are mistaken. Many animals are killed because of dairy and egg production. I could go into great detail here, but I have thorough posts on my blog about these issues already:

      http://veganrabbit.com/the-issues/rotten-why-eggs-are-bad/

      http://veganrabbit.com/the-issues/torture-and-infanticide-why-dairy-is-bad/

      I hope you are able to keep an open mind, as I am pretty sure you do in fact care about the fair treatment of animals.

  41. Steph MacDonald says:

    The bottom line is to really STOP and THINK before eating ANYTHING. While it is just about IMPOSSIBLE to eat anything that is truly and honestly 100% cruelty free, we can take the steps to stop additional suffering. I know that I may be contributing to death by eating eggs, but in reality, eating eggs from a local farmer is a heck of a lot less cruel than eating the flesh of a chicken itself. Yes, strawberry harvests kill large amounts of insects and rodents, but this is a whole less cruel than paying for and then draping myself in the flesh of dead animals. No one can eat OR live 100% cruelty free, not even strict vegans. I think the best message to send is to just to get people to be AWARE of what it is they are actually eating. It is very unrealistic to think anyone can convert the masses to only veganism or only meat-eating… all we can to is share the knowledge, to get people to care… the message should be, cut out the DAILY consumption of animals products, no human being NEEDS animal products to survive these days! I don’t know about you but I think it is just more realistic to get the meat eaters to cut down and know of the horrors rather than to totally become vegan and in turn for vegans to realize they aren’t as cruelty free as they think. There needs to be some kind a MIDDLE GROUND. We all need to do SOMETHING to cut down on the death and torture… and I think a little change is better than none at all. There is too much of “I am right” and “you are wrong” and “this is what you should eat” and “this is what you shouldn’t”…. this is a horrible way of thinking; the gray area is always going to be vastly larger than the white and black areas. I think most can agree that nothing deserves to be murdered without reason; while meat eaters may say well there was a reason: food, the truth is, today, meat is a CHOICE (this is not like back in Laura Ingals Wilder times when meat was hunted to SURVIVE); no one should discount the level of torture… vegans may do their part by not eating the stuff… meat eaters who do not wish to cut out meat fully can at the very least buy locally farmed meats or buy meat from places like Whole Foods who sell meat according to a ranking system telling the buyer EXACTLY what conditions the meat was produced under. I think the worst situation in any case in regards to food is buying foods you have no idea where it originated from. KNOW YOUR FOOD; CARE ABOUT IT, and if you cant make the full switch to veganism or vegetarianism, CUT DOWN and buy from farmers who treat their animals humanely and have a HEART. If the company doesn’t respect and care for their products you can be assured such poor quality and lack of care is resulted in the food they put out there. Those few extra dollars spent on these higher quality, monitored, and regulated meats (and other organic foods) is going to always be worth it.. not just for your health but to the lives of many animals as well. Lets not keep the debate open between meat eaters and non-meat eaters… let’s agree to disagree and simply become AWARE. While I commend and respect fellow vegetarians like myself (and of course vegans too), I just as equally respect the meat eaters who take the time to buy meat from places that do not follow the procedures of the horrible corporate death farms.

  42. Darren McKee says:

    Hi Julia,
    Just wanted to say thanks for a great post. It served as inspiration and source material for a podcast segment I did on The Reality Check :)

    http://www.ottawaskeptics.org/the-reality-check/62-episodes/386-the-reality-check-169-comparing-animal-calories-tourette-syndrome-warm-water-prank

    Best,

  43. Vegan Rabbit says:

    Hello there. I just wanted to lt you know that I found this article quite interesting. I am vegan, and I actually agree with you that a vegetarian diet which includes milk and eggs does kills a significant amount of animals. How ovo-lactos don’t see this, I don’t know. Animals don’t get to go to retirement homes once they aren’t “useful” so they are slaughtered. Not to mention that in the United States alone, we kill 200,000,000 (two hundred million) baby male chicks every year simply because they can’t produce eggs, and because they can’t grow large enough, fast enough to be considered profitable for meat production. Dairy has its own set of problems, the most notable being veal, which would be almost non-existent without the dairy industry.

    This is why I encourage all ovo-lacto vegetarians, as well as meat-eaters to go vegan. It is the only way to do the least amount of harm to animals, your health and the environment. Of course, even us vegans have blood on our hands. This is because there are millions of animals (field mice, gophers, etc.) that live on agricultural land used to grow crops, and they are killed and displaced because of human interference with their homes. Be that as it may, veganism is still the only way to do the least amount of harm, as these crops are consumed by livestock animals as well as vegans. An easy way to illustrate this fact is that an average cow eats around 45 pounds of (plant) food per day, whereas an average human eats around 5 pounds of food per day. If that person is a vegan, 5 pounds of plants would be it. But if that person was a meat-eater, they would be eating that five pounds, plus however many pounds of plant foods it took to get the animal on their plate to a size large enough for slaughter (or however many pounds of plants it took to get a specific weight of meat).

    The main point is that just because we can’t be absolutely PERFECT, it certainly isn’t an argument to NOT try to do the least amount of harm humanly possible.

    “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.” ~ Edmund Burke

  44. Astrid says:

    Hi! Can I offer a Translation of your repost on My blog? Ill add a link to your original post

  45. Jack says:

    The proper comparison would be between a VEGAN diet and an omnivorous diet. Saying that eating milk and eggs is OK is way behind the times. You’re beating a long-dead strawman here.

    • Jack says:

      Hey, other Jack.

      It’s not a long-dead horse if there are still plenty of people who believe in it. There are plenty of things (religion, for instance) that people have believed in thousands of years after they were proven false. When these false beliefs are harmful, it is good to continue attacking them even if all the very rational people have already abandoned them, because you might convince some people who are not totally rational, but nonetheless a little rational.

  46. Pingback: What To Do With Invasive Species? |

  47. John P says:

    There are small farms, believe it or not, that DO NOT kill their egg-laying hens when they get old, but instead let them simply “retire” and live their last years in peace. You have to pay a premium (about 8 bucks a dozen) for the eggs so that this is economically feasable, but in my eyes, it’s totally worth it since the chickens are treated humanely, NOT slaughtered and the eggs are probably twice (or thrice) as healthy.

    I am currently a vegan, but thinking of going back to vegetarian and supporting a local farm that does this…in my eyes little movements like that are MUCH more important than simply abolishing all animal use. If we use animals (and if we slaughter them), I think they deserve a large amount of respect, considering what they do for us.

    • Dawn says:

      Hi John, but do they also keep and allow all the male chicks born to have a full and natural life? The number of day old male chicks and weak female chicks that are killed to breed egg laying hens is mind boggling. I don’t believe you can not have it both ways. If someone was going to kill and eat me, it wouldn’t make it OK, if they had stroked me and said thanks first!

      • Bytor says:

        Do wild fowl get to live a “full and natural life”? That’s a bit naïve. It’d be disease ridden and fraught with predators. So assuming we’re not cramming them into tiny cages and we’re killing them quickly and humanely, at whatever age to turn into meat that I buy at my local farmers market, they’re living a better life than they would be in the wild.

      • Dawn says:

        How can either being minced alive or gassed at one day old, ‘be better than living in the wild’?? I think that IS a bit naive to say the least. If you want to eat animals or animal products, at least accept that you are responsible for their death, hence murder.

      • Bytor says:

        Dawn, did you miss the part where I said “[A]ssuming…we’re killing them quickly and humanely”? I like arguing but please argue against something that I actually said.

      • Dawn says:

        I think you may be in need of a dictionary – look up humanely (characterized by tenderness, compassion, and sympathy for people and animals, especially for the suffering or distressed). I don’t mind debating with people, especially if they are open to facts (not opinions) but have no desire to argue for the sake of arguing with someone who wants a rise.

      • Bytor says:

        Dawn: You started off with “do they also keep and allow all the male chicks born to have a full and natural life?” to chich I pointed out that the “natural life” of a wildfowl would be full of disease, running from predators. They also have to deal with not finding enough food, parasites, maybe try to survive a drought now and again. Oh, and those predators? Have you ever watched a carnivore capture and kill another animal in the wild? It’s not quick, it’s not painless, it’s not merciful and I’m pretty damn sure that if one human did to another human like that we’d all call it being tortured to death. That’s the “natural life” for you of any non-domesticated animal.

        I pointed out, except in not so many words, that if we treat our food animals decently and then kill them humanely, at whatever age we kill them at, they had a better life than the not-so-pleasant struggle they would have had in the wild. This “full and natural life” bit used by many vegans is nothing but a fallacy – an imaginary idealization of nature that simply does not exist.

        Any person familiar with the ethical animal treatment debate would recognize what I said about cramming animals into tiny cages as a reference to the terrible practices of factory farming. You instead chose to project that “being minced alive or gassed at one day old” was what I meant by “killing them quickly and humanely” when the context clearly indicates that is not what I was talking about.

        If you want a fact-based debate, then please deal with what I actually said. Show that my characterization of the realities of life in the wild is wrong – that animals out there are happy go-lucky, well fed, free of disease and safe from being brutally killed by predators. Just don’t put words into my mouth.

      • Dawn says:

        I guess then that you would prefere to be well fed in prison, then the electric chair, to scavenging in a skip, or living self-suffeciently in the country, away from ‘civillisation’. I personally live in the middle of the countryside, surrounded by wildlife. I can not speak for animals, human or non-human, but your argument is down right disconnected. Those around me having a natural life (as natural as they can in a world full of hunters and their guns, roads and tarmac) seem more content than any farm animal I see. The local cows are the so called lucky ones, in a field of grass, but still get the trama of seperation from their children and the slaughter house. Watch some footage on their reactions to this, there is plenty on the internet. Maybe, it would also be worth your while to watch some general footage of animals living on farms and in the wild, and also counter the image you have of them being brutally killed by predators with them being killed for humans. ‘Earthlings’, would be a good place to start.

      • Bytor says:

        Wait a minute – you’re the one comparing a disease-ridden, predator fraught life of a wild to a self-sufficient life in the country and you say I’m the one with the disconnect? Holy idealization of nature, Batman!

        The better comparison would be an animal living in the wild to a human living in a war zone after the plumbing has all been destroyed so that dysentery and parasites run amok, internecine strife as we either compete violently with each other for what little food remains in depleted grocery stores because the roads are bombed out and no more can be delivered (or share so that we all starve to death), and at the same time trying run and hide from gangs that will rape, torture and kill us if they can get us. Now have that going on for your entire life, the lives of your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren and far into the future and as far back into the past as you have stories from your elders.

        Between that terrible existence and one where I am fed, given medical care and subject to far less horrible physical violence, even if my movements are restricted, hell yes I will choose that.

        However, I note that the electric chair is not a humane form of execution. To make your analogy proper it would have to be death by lethal injection where the person simply falls asleep peacefully and their heart stops. (OT: I’m completely against capital punishment for any reason.)

        As a child and into my teens I spent my summers on relatives’ farms visiting my cousins. I know how farm animals are kept and treated in non-factory farms. As an adult I have also visited factory farms and know how animals are treated there, too. I have visited abattoirs and familiar with how the slaughter happens through both captive bullet and electrocution methods. As a result I buy my meat from local farmers markets so I can be reasonably sure the animals were raised in the way that I am familiar with from my childhood and teenage years and that they were slaughtered in local abattoirs where I know the process is done quickly and humanely.

        In my teens and twenties I also spent a large amount of time “out in nature” with my binoculars and SLR camera actually watching ecology in action and the lives of the animals you seem to think is equivalent to a “self-sufficient [life] in the country”. I caught those raccoons and squirrels and rabbits and saw how miserable they were because of all the pests. I saw the parasites in their faeces. I saw botched kills of rabbits and voles by hawks (which happens more often than the successful ones) and killed more than one out of mercy afterwards.

        I have direct and personal experience with the modes of life for animals that you try an analogize above. Honestly, given those completely inaccurate characterizations made in your analogies I’m thinking that one with the disconnect here is you and that you don’t really know anything about farm life or wild life other than what you’ve seen in PETA propaganda.

      • Dawn says:

        I think you have a wee bit of a god complex and are too irrational to have a debate with. Nature is far more beautiful than a human war zone! Over and out :-)

      • Bytor says:

        Yup. Just as I thought. You have no real clue about what you are babbling about. “Nature is far more beautiful than a human war zone”. *headdesk* I guess in your universe wild animals never get diseases, never get parasites and never deal with being hunted by predators.

  48. Jack says:

    I would like to point out that you can’t say that a certain level of suffering for the animals is okay because it’s less than that they would experience in nature, because the alternative for the animals we raise is not life in nature. We breed them; we don’t go catching wild chickens to raise on our farms. The alternative for them is nonexistence, which could be better than what they do experience.

  49. Nicky says:

    Interesting justification for eating meat. Quite simply, the way to became humane and to stop justifying your overtly stupid calculations is to become vegan, which is really easy to do once you see how meat is murdered. Great people who fight to end the torture and barbarism that you justify in order to stuff yourself no doubt, on McDonalds and 1kg steaks, are often labeled as ‘Eco Terrorists’ despite the fact that in reality, anyone ‘enjoying’ the end result of the meat trade is a ‘morality terrorist.’ The meat trade is not about the end of hunger worldwide, it’s about the dollar. Huge industry makes trillions of dollars on murder and cruelty. This money cannot be taken with you to hell, by the way. Just in case anyone thinks they can die and tuck a wad of cash into their soul with them. If we cannot begin to humanely treat other creatures of this planet, senitent beings who suffer pain and despair, then we will never heal the way we treat each other. We will never heal the fear and hatred we feel toward anything that is different than what we believe is the ‘human’ model of perfection – the lazy, rich, white (yes, I am white and not racist,) countries that are destroying the planet and laying waste about them as if nothing else matters than the selfish moments you rush to Kentucky Fried to gorge on de-beaked, partially beheaded, boiled alive, screaming creatures that will no doubt fill your arteries with toxic waste and, if you are one of the many millions of Earth who will one day get cancer from gratuitously eating tortured meat, then hopefully illness will give you a reason to contemplate what kind of a person bothers to go to such huge lengths to do inane calculations which would have served just as well for showing why rape-breeding animals, caging them, skinning and boiling them alive, why beating them, hearing them scream in agony, why force-feeding them with known toxins in vivisection and the list goes on… the time spent on your calculations might have gone to know how to create a better model for eating on this planet. And please spare me the ‘plants feel pain too,’ speech. Of course they do. Everything does. THAT’S THE POINT. EVERYTHING DOES. But plants will feel lesser pain and we have to choose responsibly. Go away fool and do some positively geared calculations. Enjoy the cancer ward unless you change your ignorant, ugly justifications.

  50. RaWe says:

    I had a strange thought after, as you put it, going with my biological impulse to relate to a cute Swedish vegetarian. Is there a rationale to keep and eat dead humans rather than to dispose of them for regulatory and nutritional reasons? Can you run through some analysis about the costs and impact of our species and the effects of our population growth on current social attitudes, quality of our collective existence and our habitat? For example, could wars to replenish food, preserve of our environment and population regulation from the slain bodies of the enemy also be justified?

  51. mynameis required says:

    but you’re not talking vegetarian.. moron.

    • RaWe says:

      I agree. But the topic started with…The most common justification I hear for vegetarianism is “It’s wrong to kill an animal for food.” Following that, in my first post, I posited a scenario based on humans being excluded from the definition of “animals” simply because we are the proponent or agents of that choice. So the humans as an alternative food source neither “vegetable” nor “animal”, was postulated in that context.

  52. John says:

    Not everyone can be a vegan, sadly.

    I’m currently a vegan of 3 years, but have learned that I will MOST LIKELY have hereditary hypothyroidism.

    This means that I will have to eventually cut out all soy (a major protein source for me) since soy can mess with your thyroid…OK fine.

    But…I’ve also learned that hypothyroid patients cannot synthesize Vitamin A from the betacarotene found in carrots and leafy greens…meaning I would need Vitamin A directly (though an animal source, as there are no direct Vit A sources from plants).

    Not sure what I’m going to do when I get older and this becomes a problem….

    • Dawn says:

      Hi John, You can get a Vitamin A from ‘Country Life’ which is 50% Retinol Vitamin A and is Vegan, the company also do not test on animals. Also chickpeas, lentils and nuts are good protien sources, although it is the amino acids that are more important. So seseme seeds and a small amount of lots of different pulses ect is a better mix. Good luck, I hope you manage to stay Vegan :-)

  53. Ryan says:

    I’m interested in a sincere and reasonable discussion about vegetarianism/veganism. Is there a place for that? I eat a largely vegan diet (80-90% by quantity), but am not a vegan/vegetarian. I like variety in my diet too much. I detest factory farming, but I’m not “convinced” that killing plants and animals is just plain wrong. While eating meat is clearly not unnatural, someone pointed out earlier that “natural” doesn’t mean right or appropriate. However, there is something to be said for natural systems: life forms thrive on other decaying or alive life forms. I don’t think it’s right to make an animal or bug suffer, but a quick death doesn’t translate to suffering, as far as I perceive it.
    I suppose one of the simplest ways to prolong one’s life/health and reduce a carbon footprint is to just eat much less (like 1200-1500 calories), but that makes life so unpleasant. Like taking a bucket shower. It reduces water use, but it just doesn’t feel nice.
    Vegans, for example, claim not to use products that come at the expense of animal exploitation, but they don’t mind buying food from the grocery store, which comes at the expense of farm laborers treated horribly and drenched in pesticides, store workers paid substandard wages, and all of the in-between human exploitation for distribution and delivery. Not to mention pollution if they buy blueberries from Chile and truffles from France.
    We are hard-wired for empathy (mirror neurons) and we can reasonably extrapolate another human’s feelings, but our ability to do that with other animals is much diminished. I do not know what it is like to be a chicken. The perspective must be vastly different, and as such, “suffering” is a loaded term. Still, I think it’s best to err on the side of less pain. Despite that caution, I don’t always act that way. For example, I could not travel abroad to avoid plane exhaust, which contributes to global climate change and its consequent destruction to habitats worldwide, along with particulates sprayed around the globe, but I FEEL like traveling, so I do it.
    I wonder too, if so many people are distressed by images of animal slaughter, why do we continue to eat meat? Is it like buying a new mobile phone even though we know people are caught in war zones where the minerals are mined and workers are being worked to death in sweatshops to produce them? We just forget? Is it just too inconvenient to be continuously considerate of our “impact.” Vegetarianism/Veganism in American culture rouses so many opinions and feelings, and I usually don’t engage in this topic because people become unhinged/dogmatic/defensive. But, I’ve been seeking a forum to discuss some of my concerns and just haven’t found the right place. After seeing Julia’s video on How to Want to Change Your Mind, I felt like this might be the right place (in terms of people). Sorry to write this in “comments” but I didn’t know how else to make contact.

  54. crystal says:

    Very very interesting article. I was thinking of becoming a vegetarian but now that I saw this article, it makes me wonder…

    • Vegan Rabbit says:

      I’m so sorry you feel that way. Just know that no one is perfect, but that doesn’t mean we should simply give up and admit defeat. I truly hope you will reconsider, and possibly consider a vegan diet (a diet that excludes eggs and dairy products as well as all other animal products). If you want, I’m more than willing to help you out :)

      “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” ~ Anne Frank

      “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.” ~ Oscar Wilde

      “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.” ~ Edmund Burke

  55. Crystal says:

    How do I email this article to myself? Thanks – Crystal

  56. Rico says:

    I used to be a vegetarian now thanks to your article i have reverted back to eating meat since it will take less lives. I had no idea. Thanks.

    • Vegan Rabbit says:

      I’m so sorry to hear that. I think the logical conclusion to draw from this post is that veganism is currently the least destructive lifestyle (less destructive than omnivorism as well as vegetarianism). I think this post exposes a lot of vegetarianism’s short-comings, however, it does no such thing to veganism. Omnivorism will always take more lives than veganism. Stop by my page and you will see why.

  57. Hermi says:

    A friend of mine pointed out that if you simply go for calories / life you neglect diet – for example, for half a chicken one could eat 130 eggs, and now consider how often one eats 130 eggs, and how often one eats half a chicken (of course not in one go).

  58. Jeremy says:

    There’s one major flaw with this article: Julia looks only at deaths per calorie. By the logic that bigger animals produce more meat, the larger an animal is, the more ethical it is to eat it. Beef all of a sudden becomes much more ethical than poultry by virtue of the animal it comes from, which seems to be a pretty arbitrary definition of ethics. Julia then states that “I suspect the overall verdict would remain similar if you were looking at suffering-per-calorie.” But I think that’s a pretty large assumption to make without much in the way of proof or explanation.

    What we could consider is that a cow and a chicken (let’s say a broiler chicken, just as an example) experience similar suffering in the same amount of time. A beef cow’s lifespan, as far as I can find (which really isn’t saying much, given the remarkable opacity of the industry), is about a year, while a broiler chicken is typically raised and slaughtered within 48 days. If we assume that each experience similar suffering in a given day, a cow’s year-long life is now equal to about 7.6 chicken lives. So a cow is about 7.6 chicken-equivalents. It would be interesting to redo these calculations while factoring in lifespan, not just death.

  59. equalthoughts says:

    i think it works out perfectly between vegitarians vegans and omnivoressee if everyone ate meat then animals would have a greater possiblility of being extinct but if everyone didnt eat meat there would be to many animals overpopulating and then we would be killing them for no reason but at least we use them as food. but killing animals for just tusks leather and other such things is wrong if they dont use the meat for food.

  60. You can also get your eggs from backyard chickens or a pet duck. Our duck lays a big egg every day (although we would like to give her a break) which is more than we eat, so we give them away too. She has a great quality of life, enhances my family’s life, and there’s no way we’ll kill her when she gets less productive at laying since she’s a pet.

  61. Nicole says:

    This article is so incredibly dumb. As a vegetarian myself, and with many vegetarian friends, I can speak from experience that as vegetarians you are far more likely to get your eggs from local farms, not from factory farms. So yes those chickens may later be killed for meat, but you’re supporting local farms who may only have a dozen or so hens. And I highly doubt vegetarians just sit their and eat dozens of eggs a day, we may eat eggs every so often to ensure some extra protein since vegetarian diets usually consist of just as much protein as meat eaters You’re argument is unintelligent and ill researched.

    • Dawn says:

      But you do accept that animals are dying and living horrable lives for your food? They do not leave calfs with thier mothers, as they want to sell all of the calfs milk to humans. The cows produce calfs milk for their calfs not you. They kill all the male chicks that are born to egg laying chickens at a day old. To have a vegetarian diet, where you eat products from cows or chickens, then you have to accept responsability for the deaths you and your diet create. Also, this eggs from a local source argument only has any value if you NEVER buy any products from a shop with eggs in too. I don’t understand how you think the argument is ill research, are you sure it is not just that you don’t like what it is saying?

  62. john says:

    This is where this whole post is wrong. If this claims that if you are a vegatarian you do more harm to animals, its simply false. You see when a cow produces milk, or a chicken produces eggs ect they arent suppose to be killed. plain and simple. But the reason they are killed my guessing is for someone who eats meat. So if there are no meat eaters than there is no point of doing any harm to animals. So the main source problem is from someone like you. who just wants to point blame for nonsense reasoning.

    • Dawn says:

      No, calfs have to be born for thier mother to produce milk. They themselfs are not what is wanted, the milk is. Some are eaten as veal or baby food, but many are just killed, as if they were allowed to stay with their mothers, they would drink the milk that was made for them, but you want to drink it instead.

      • Gretchen says:

        Dawn, I would like to see where you are getting your statistics that most calves are not eaten or used for any purpose and just killed off. I find this a compelling argument but would like go check your resources.

  63. Akshay Sharma says:

    I’m sorry, but this article is absurd.
    No offence, but in the end, the fact that those many animals are being killed can only only only be blamed upon people consuming meat, I.e. Non vegetarians, who exist in way bigggg numbers.

    • Dawn says:

      Look on the internet, you will easily find prove that animals are killed on mass for your vegetarian diet. If you are vegetarian because you do not want animals to be hurt or killed for your diet, then shouldn’t you be willing to do a bit of reasearch to prove that is the case. Unfortunatly for you, the facts are that in modern farming, calfs die for milk and male chicks die for eggs. Either accept you are complicite to many murders, or go vegan.

  64. Gretchen says:

    Very interesting article and I agree that there are some people who are vegetarian that cause more animal deaths and I would be interested to see statistics on average number of eggs and other animal products consumed by vegetarians compared to omnivores. I would also like to point out that some cheeses are not vegetarian and require the death of an animal to produce because of enzymes that are used. There are probably quite a few vegetarians who claim to not eat foods that require the death of an animal but in fact do due to lack of information. I find it is important to state that the author did say that she believed a typical vegetarian killed less than a typical omnivore. So all those who are getting defensive about this article should realize all that is being said is that being vegetarian can result in more animal deaths but typically does not.

    • Dawn says:

      But in reality Gretchen, the foods vegetarians eat do require the death of an animal. If you eat dairy products, then over 50% of calfs are killed before a couple of weeks old. To lactate, a mother must give birth to her baby, but the baby would drink the milk that the human vegetarian or omnivore wants to drink, so the baby must go. In the egg industry, all male chicks are killed at one day old. It is a cop-out to say that vegetarian cheese, without rennet in it, does not cause death, even the mothers who produce the milk, live less than a 1/5th of their natural life spans and that 1/5th is lived in misery. If you are a vegetarian, rather than a Vegan, then you can not act as if you really care about the animals, unless you are ignorant of what really goes on in the industry, and if that is the case then the internet is a great place to get educated.

  65. This recent article http://scienceblogs.com/weizmann/2014/07/21/the-numbers-are-in-on-meat-and-the-environment/ relevant, I feel, to the prime point of this article – how do the effects of production of what we eat add up?

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