ACE uses Harish Sethu’s calculations to understand how many animals a typical American consumes. However, we have an international audience and evaluate charities working in many countries, so it’s also useful for us to understand how much animal consumption varies between countries. Towards that end, we’ve constructed a rough estimate for the number of animals spared by a vegetarian in the UK. We found that the average resident of the UK eats about ⅔ as many animals as the average resident of the US, so creating a vegetarian in the UK spares about ⅔ as many animals as creating one in the US: accounting for elasticity, a vegetarian in the UK spares 24-110 animals per year. (Most of the uncertainty here is caused by the wide variations in the elasticity estimates we have found. If we do not account for elasticity, creating a vegetarian in the UK saves about 175 animals per year.)
We directly calculated the number of land animals eaten by the average non-vegetarian in the UK. We used a report on UK agriculture in 2013 for as much of our data as possible, and 2013 population numbers from the World Bank. Rates of vegetarianism and related diets are the hardest to get reliable statistics for, but the Vegetarian Society has a fairly comprehensive page of statistics for the UK. We’ll follow a government survey from 2009 that asked about both vegetarianism and partial vegetarianism.
Following Sethu, we’ll use a formula that accounts for the number of vegetarians in the population. This means we’re calculating the number of animals spared when someone goes vegetarian who was previously not consciously attempting to reduce their meat consumption at all. Sethu’s formula is:
About 64,097,085 people lived in the UK in 2013. According to the survey we’re using, around 3% of them were vegetarian (V=.03) and 5% were “partly vegetarian” (S=.05). None of the surveys we found gave a percentage of the UK population that reduced their meat consumption slightly, for example by observing Meatless Mondays, so we’ll use the US statistic Sethu did and assume this is another 4% of the population (M=.04).
Calculating the number of animals killed is complicated, and we’ll do it in stages, starting with land animals. Our data is in a slightly different form than the US data, so we use a different method of calculating the total number of animals killed than Sethu did. The report linked above gives the numbers of animals of various types raised and slaughtered in the UK. It also gives the number of pounds of meat produced in this way, and the UK consumption of the same types of meat in pounds; from these numbers we calculate the percentage of UK consumption accounted for by UK production. We use this to determine the number of animals slaughtered for UK consumption. For instance, the UK produced 61% as much pork as it consumed; although it exported some pork, we’re only concerned with how many animals were killed to feed the UK population here, so we don’t need to deal with the exact amount imported or exported. We know that the number of pigs raised and slaughtered in the UK is 61% of the number of pigs slaughtered anywhere but eventually sold in the UK market.
Additionally, some animals being raised for food die before the time of slaughter, due to disease, injury, and lack of veterinary care on farms. We didn’t find these statistics for the UK in our brief search, so we used Sethu’s statistics for the US to calculate the relationship between the number of animals slaughtered and the total number of animals who died. For instance, in Sethu’s table, the number of cattle killed before slaughter was 5% of the total number of cattle who died. We assumed this would also be true in the UK, meaning that the total number of cattle slaughtered which we had calculated was actually 95% of the total number of cattle killed in order to satisfy UK consumers.
|Number Raised and Slaughtered in the UK||UK Production as % of UK Consumption||Total Slaughtered for UK Consumption||Deaths Before Slaughter as Percentage of Total Animals Killed||Total Animals Killed|
|Cattle and Calves||2,594,000||83%||3,125,301||5%||3,289,791|
|Sheep and Lambs||15,019,000||100%||15,019,000||–||15,019,000|
We get a total of 1,203,484,253 land animals killed for UK consumption, so:
This means the average vegetarian in the UK saves about 20 land animals each year, in the sense that if they weren’t vegetarian, we’d expect them to eat about 20 land animals per year.
Next we’ll account for fish consumption. Fish aren’t mentioned in the report linked above except in monetary terms, and the data on fish consumption is generally harder to find and to interpret, so in the interests of making a fairly quick estimate, we make simplifying assumptions. Assuming fish forms a similar proportion of the UK as US diet suggests that the average UK vegetarian saves 175 animals per year, including fish and shellfish, through their diet. (Our calculation above showed that the average UK non-vegetarian eats ⅔ as many land animals as the average American non-vegetarian, so we extended that to our previous calculation of the number of fish Americans eat. This number includes wild fish and shellfish that would be processed into fishmeal and used in aquaculture.)
Finally, we incorporate elasticity, a measure that tells us how changes in demand affect changes in the total amount produced after the signal filters through a market system that can adjust with price changes. Again, the data on product elasticity are hard to find and interpret compared to population data for humans and farmed animals, so we use the same elasticity ratios we did in our calculations for Americans. Accounting for elasticity, the average vegetarian in the UK saves 1.2-14 land animals each year, and 23-96 fish and shellfish. Thus the average UK vegetarian saves 24-110 animals per year, including all major factors.
These calculations are rough and could be improved—in particular, we used a lot of numbers from US or world sources when equivalent statistics may be available for the UK specifically. But we think that they’re strong enough to show that, even though people in other countries tend to eat less meat than Americans as part of their standard diet, there are still big gains for animals when they go vegetarian or vegan.