There are lots of reasons that people become vegetarians or vegans – health, sustainability, up-bringing, but by far the most common explanation given is a moral one, that the unnecessary suffering and killing of billions of animals per year is unethical. It’s not a surprisingly conclusion, given the massive amount of animals slaughtered for food alone in the US. In 2013, 8.1 billion animals died to feed Americans, and meat eaters will consume an average of 2,088 animals in their life-time. Surely then, it stands to reason that abstaining from eating meat will save the lives and prevent the suffering of animals. Whether this is true or not, however, is under some debate – and if it is true, just how many animals does vegetarianism actually save?
Calculating Saved Lives
There have been numerous studies and calculations discussing just how many animals are saved each year by a vegetarian diet – and the numbers vary wildly, from as little as 50 to as large as hundreds. Noam Mohr, of the animal charity PETA, suggests that the average meat-eater in the US consumes 26.5 animals per year and that is made up of of a cow, of a pig, of a turkey, and 25 chickens (which includes 1 allowance for eggs). On the other end of the scale, some argue that the average meat-eater consumes 406 animals per year, made up of 30 land animals, 225 fish, and 151 shellfish. It is then assumed that a vegetarian, by abstaining from meat, saves the same amount of animals that a meat-eater kills.