There is a very convincing theory doing the rounds online as well as regularly popping up in the print media. It is cleverly designed to trick people into genuinely asking why veganism is bad for animals – a position which seems completely counter-intuitive.
“Why Veganism Is Bad For Animals” – Huh?So, the argument goes: veganism is bad for animals because to feed the human race on a vegan diet results in far more crop deaths due to the large area of land needed for arable crops. But conveniently, this overly simplistic view omits some very important facts.
Watch: Earthling Ed comprehensively dismantles this bogus argument.
Love him or hate him, Ed is bang on the money in this vid (we love him, by the way!)
The Consequences Of Veganism For Animals
If you’ve spent any time researching this aspect of the vegan lifestyle, you’ve likely come across the ‘crop deaths‘ argument. Proponents of this belief enthusiastically claim the consequences of veganism for animals are more severe than those brought about due to a more traditional diet.
They claim a vegan diet results in more animal deaths due to the tilling and cultivation of the land. Mice and other small rodents in particular.
Regrettably, these people are not only wrong but they are often travelling down the ‘carnivore diet‘ path and grasping at any little angle they can in order to discredit veganism. It is a way of life in direct opposition to their position, after all.
While researching this article I found one page in particular which really got my goat (excuse the turn of phrase!), which I’m sure is the author’s intention 🙂 I’m not going to reference the page in an attempt to avoid lending more search engine weight to this utter drivel but the headline of the article is this:
“Veganism Kills More Animals Than The Carnivore Diet”
If you do a quick search for the page I’m sure you’ll find it without too much difficulty.
Published on 4th March 2020 and apparently “Medically reviewed & fact checked by a board certified doctor” (of which there is no mention subsequently), with a large image of avocados and a similar sensationalist headline next to the image, everything about this page is designed to convince you these are cold hard facts.
The URL has even been shortened, simply stating: “Veganism Kills”
So at the very top of the page, before any content, you’re already exposed to an utterly outrageous statement. I’d even argue this has a subliminal element to it … this person is getting away with spouting pure unadulterated nonsense.
… and who is this mysterious board-certified doctor? Certifiable, more like.
Pedalling Opinions as Facts & Ranking in Google!
The page referred to above is cleverly put together and worse still, it is ranking near the top of Google for many search phrases where people are genuinely trying to find out if veganism really does harm more animals than meat based diets.
These people are potentially looking to go vegan and are in the process of making that decision.
Coming across these fake facts at the very top of Google could easily lead them to believe going vegan is a pointless exercise which results in more sentient creatures dying compared to a so-called, “carnivore diet”.
The author is making bold, assertive claims which, it turns out, are based on extrapolations from a scientific paper, the conclusions of which definitely do not prove these wild statements in any way!
Ready for this? Are you sitting down? He confidently states that:
- Veganism is worse for global animal cruelty.
- Grass-fed cows are more vegan than vegetables in your supermarket.
- A carnivorous diet is the best way to reduce animal cruelty.
Wha .. What? I had to laugh when I saw this page and all these ridiculous claims are made in the intro, before he even gets into the ‘flesh’ of the article!
We will look at these utterly bogus statements later on and completely discredit them but at this point, please rest assured there is absolutely no grounding in fact for any of the three points above. Let’s look at where these ideas have come from …
The ‘Second Order Consequences’ Argument
The offending article cites a professor named Mike Archer from the University of New South Wales in Australia. He authored a piece 10 years ago boldly stating the vegetarian diet kills more animals than a carnivorous one.
So we have a divergence already, from vegetarianism to veganism.
Furthermore, Mr Archer’s article has been debunked many times over.
It is factually incorrect and can be proven as such through a simple process of counting! 
Part of the argument revolves around the fact that intensive agriculture is used to produce the crops vegans need to survive. This farming method relies heavily on tilling the soil and using pesticides to ensure output is maximised per acre.
It is argued, the act of ploughing the fields alone kills thousands of small mammals and invertebrates. The use of pesticides kills many animals – this is true. However, it is wrong to extrapolate from this the assertion that veganism is responsible for more animal deaths globally.
Plus, there is a strong counter-argument that mice and other animals quickly get out of the way when they hear the roar of farm machinery bearing down on them. They have exceptional powers of hearing and they’re not stupid.
In fact, the very paper which many cite to support their anti-vegan argument actually goes a long way to disprove the field animal deaths claim – if you actually read it! 
In the article I mentioned at the top, the author confidently states “25 times more animals are killed to produce an equal weight of wheat protein and beef protein” – Professor Archer’s article is cited to bolster the claim.
The author fails to tell us two important facts. Firstly, the claim relies on “published figures” which “suggest” the order of magnitude of 25 times.
So this is not fact but merely a suggestion. Oh, and I checked the sources of his “published figures” … most lead to non-existent pages and others are just opinion.
Secondly, these stats are focused on Australia alone and exclusively relate to “rangelands-produced red meat” … or grass-fed beef if you live in the Northern hemisphere.
To this specific point, I will give some ground since on this very narrow basis, it probably could be shown that grass-fed beef is responsible for less animal deaths than growing wheat for human consumption. But …
Another fact commonly overlooked in this utterly bogus argument is an inconvenient truth for carnists: the weight of beef produced from grass-fed cows will never be enough to satisfy the insatiable global demand for meat .
So, from this very limited set of data, the wild claims made in that sensationalist article are presented as facts which are an “inconvenient truth” for vegans. Worse still, Google has decided this fake article is worthy of the number one spot in their search engine!
Although I noticed recently it has been knocked off the top spot by another page which is not quite as misleading but still highly questionable.
Even though Google’s algo is fantastically complex and clever, it is unable to distinguish fake facts from the real. Sadly enough, in this case, more weight is given to the fake with the direct consequence of leading people to believe, what I consider to be, dangerous untruths.
Most Intensive Arable Land Is For Animal Feed
Shall we continue to debunk? Why not … this is the big one for me!
We’ve easily discovered, through a simple Wikipedia lookup, there is no way the human race can produce enough grass-fed beef to satisfy our ravenous demand at this stage in our evolution.
In fact we’ve evolved into a very arrogant, self-centred species … but that’s another article!
Factory farming is the only way we’ll continue to satisfy the increasing demand for cheap meat. We have entire continents taking up meat-eating on a truly epic scale. Where the ‘West’ has shown the way, the ‘East’ is following.
Obesity is a massive problem in China and India. The burgeoning middle classes have a hunger for the Western diet, maybe because it is linked to a perceived success in life. The reality is, our civilised ‘Western diet’ is killing vast numbers of people [4,5].
Removing all emotion for a moment, this could be seen as an evolution in itself. The human race naturally culls itself? In order for us to survive, veganism becomes dominant?
It’s certainly one of a possible number of outcomes!
Anyway, I think you can see where I’m heading with this. Factory farming relies on feeding animals with plants … and guess what? Those plants are grown intensively, with all the problems we’ve highlighted above.
Nutrient density being equal, more plants are needed to raise livestock compared to simply consuming those plants directly. This, again, is peer reviewed science accepted by the vast majority of sensible people .
There’s always going to be a few fringe crackpots and it’s important they are called out.
By simply counting the numbers we can prove more animals are killed to sustain a meat based diet compared to a vegan one. Incontrovertible fact.
If you’re considering going vegan and have ended up asking yourself if veganism is bad for animals then I’m afraid we do need to be honest with ourselves here. Veganism is not without animal suffering and death. Almost everything we humans do to survive results in animals dying.
Some things we do to survive mean many other human beings will die in the process. Climate change is a prime example.
Again, only a few fringe lunatics still denying that one!
So I think you can begin to see how some fantastic claims made by the kind of bad actors who are responsible for the misleading content we’ve examined are simply designed to muddy the waters and obscure the unavoidable truth.
The truth being, veganism is one of the best things you can do in order to reduce the animal suffering you’re personally responsible for. End of.
How Do We Minimise The Effects of Our Existence?
It’s really not about which lifestyle kills more animals. It’s about minimising the negative effects we have on the world around us.
Most vegans are realistic and are fully aware there is no perfect path to follow … at least, not currently anyway.
We need to find ways of reducing the global impact of an ever-growing human race. Using the car less is one way; veganism is another.
Intensive agriculture, the meat and dairy industry and numbskulls pedalling fake news are a big part of the problem.
Just as I don’t expect you to take this piece at face value (hence the provided, peer reviewed sources), you should not believe all you see and hear on the web.
The murderous meat barons have tentacles which reach far and wide. They have lobbyists on their side with connections in high places and very deep pockets. All they care about is profit.
Unless it actually affects the bottom line, they couldn’t give two hoots about climate change and the interminable suffering their carnivorous lifestyle is responsible for.
They have no empathy towards animals and almost certainly an utter disregard for human life. They just want to see the balance sheet grow.
Veganism is a different path. A more compassionate path. A less impactful lifestyle.
That’s just fact.
Always strive to learn the truth … and the truth is veganism is not bad for animals compared to the obscene meat and dairy industry. Anyone who thinks otherwise is severely mistaken.
Does Being Vegan Actually Save Animals?
Yes – it’s estimated that the human race slaughters 80 billion plus farmed land animals every year. That’s around 220 million every single day! Vegans reject this and play as smaller part as is possible in driving the demand for animal products.
How Many Animals Does a Vegan Save?
Using some rudimentary mathematics we concluded that one person going vegan for a year would save 265 animals. You can look more closely at the logic used to arrive at this figure in our article: “How many animals do you save by going vegan?“.
How Does Veganism Affect Animals?
Going vegan has a direct effect on the demand placed on our supply chains and food manufacturers. By removing animal products from our diet we are no longer responsible for the untold suffering, abuse and mass killing of billions of intelligent animals brought into this world solely to feed humans.
Fighting Fake News – Follow The Money!
It’s often said if you want to get to the truth, follow the money. The website I discussed above is in the business of selling beef liver jerky. Grass-fed beef liver jerky no less.
The author is quite openly anti-vegan so it’s no surprise he’s trying to discredit veganism by making these outlandish claims. I’ve been vegan long enough to know, as soon as I saw that website, the author was spouting pure nonsense.
So I could’ve just ignored and moved on but I thought about someone searching for information on veganism and maybe someone who’s on the fence. They might see that page at the very top spot in Google and attach more authority to it as a result.
“If Google thinks it’s important then there must be something in it.”
So I set about debunking that dangerous information in my own little way! I hope I have succeeded in my mission.
Let’s move on past this curious period of our existence where fake news can hold the same weight as true facts. The fakery is usually driven by a desire to make money … and too many people believe the lies.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this piece as much as I enjoyed writing it 🙂 I would love to hear your thoughts and if you have any questions I’ll be happy to offer my answers. Just leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to respond as soon as I can. Oh … and please share this across the four corners of the web!
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Thanks for reading and have a peaceful day.
This post was originally published on August 4th 2021 at 06:08, updated on November 9th 2022 at 13:04 and again on April 17th 2023 at 11:05 with revised and added content, a video, extra images, more sources and a FAQ section.
 ‘The surprisingly complicated math of how many wild animals are killed in agriculture’ – Brandon Keim – Anthropocene July 2018 – Daily Science anthropocenemagazine.org/2018/07  Fischer, Bob & Lamey, Andy. (2018). Field Deaths in Plant Agriculture. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics. 31. 10.1007/s10806-018-9733-8  Wikipedia – ‘Cattle Feeding’ – Animal nutrition, Animal welfare, Cattle. 1 August 2021, at 00:32 (UTC).  Independent – ‘Western diet now killing more than smoking and high blood pressure’ – Alex Matthews-King. Health Correspondent. Thursday 04 April 2019.  Kopp W. How Western Diet And Lifestyle Drive The Pandemic Of Obesity And Civilization Diseases. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2019 Oct 24;12:2221-2236. doi: 10.2147/DMSO.S216791. PMID: 31695465; PMCID: PMC6817492.  Emily S Cassidy et al 2013 Environ. Res. Lett. 8 034015. ‘Redefining agricultural yields: from tonnes to people nourished per hectare’ – 1 August 2013.