Pictures of sides of beef, hanging from overhead rails in refrigerated warehouses and meat-processing plants, often leave a feeling of unease. These pictures provoke the notion that human beings have no right to inflict suffering and death on other sentient beings for the sole purpose of providing food. However, the ethical analysis conducted in this study shows that meat production, if animal welfare and deaths per calorie created are considered, is less of a pressing problem compared to the production of milk. While meat can be provided with minimal suffering to animals, the consumption of milk is always associated with considerable suffering during the dairy cow’s life-span and the lives of their offspring. Moreover, more bovine deaths per unit of calorific value created are associated with milk production compared to meat production. The vegan movement, which is currently growing, wishes to minimise farm animal suffering as much as possible. However, if a vegan diet is not possible, consumers should make an informed decision about the products they consume. Replacement of the calories obtained from meat with those from milk and dairy products is not rational if animal welfare is considered.
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Milk cows are bred to produce as much milk as possible. They therefore produce more milk than calves drink.
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Kolbe, K. Why Milk Consumption is the Bigger Problem: Ethical Implications and Deaths per Calorie Created of Milk Compared to Meat Production. J Agric Environ Ethics 31, 467–481 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10806-018-9740-9
- Animal ethics