That’s how many animals are slaughtered to feed global meat-eating, all year round. It amounts to about 60 billion annually. When I became vegetarian last month it was strictly with environmental reasons in mind. Greenhouse gas considerations provided ample support for the conclusion that meat-eating was unjustifiable. It’s only now that I realise just how morally overdetermined my decision was, and how I was blind for years to the equally powerful arguments from animal welfare. And when the number of animals slaughtered annually outnumbers the human population tenfold, and when as Westerners our demand is disproportionately higher than any crude mean figure could convey, it’s clear that the argument that one individual’s demand makes no difference will never gain logical traction. Those eating meat regularly will be responsible for the pain of at least ten animals a year.
These unfathomable numbers only intensify when fish are factored into the equation. Peter Singer explains the findings of a recent report:
The most startling revelation in the report, however, is the staggering number of fish on which humans inflict these deaths. By using the reported tonnages of the various species of fish caught, and dividing by the estimated average weight for each species, Alison Mood, the report’s author, has put together what may well be the first-ever systematic estimate of the size of the annual global capture of wild fish. It is, she calculates, in the order of one trillion, although it could be as high as 2.7tn.
So that’s at least 32,000 fish a second, on top of the 2,000 animals. And Singer adds why this is also a moral issue:
There is no humane slaughter requirement for wild fish caught and killed at sea, nor, in most places, for farmed fish. Fish caught in nets by trawlers are dumped on board the ship and allowed to suffocate.
PETA claim that “scientists who study pain are also in complete agreement that the pain response in fish is basically identical to the pain response in mammals and birds.”
There’s also an interview in The Observer today with PETA’s founder, Ingrid Newkirk. This part stood out to me:
Is it Peta’s strategy to upset everyone, I ask Newkirk. “No,” she says. “Our mission is to provoke thought. People have been taught to disregard what happens to pigs or chickens, to not think about the suffering they go through. Our job is to make them think. We’re not out to be popular.”
Sometimes raw numbers provoke thought best.