How Many Animals Do Humans Kill Each Year?

Billions of animals die each year for food, medical experiments, and fashion.

Cattle

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How many animals are killed for human use every year in the United States? The numbers are in the billions, and these are just the ones we know about. Let's break it down.

How Many Animals Are Killed for Food?

The historic wholesale market of Smithfield

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According to a report from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), over 160 million cattle, calves, hogs, sheep, and lambs were killed for food in the United States in 2019. A separate USDA report shows over 9 billion chickens, turkeys, and ducks slaughtered in the U.S. during the same year. The pandemic didn't slow down meat consumption either, with some organizations reporting at a least a 30% increase in meat sales between March and July of 2020.

Unfortunately, these numbers don't include fish culled for human consumption from the oceans and freshwater sources, nor the many marine animals that fall victim to careless fishing practices. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has reported that about 640,000 tons of fishing gear are either abandoned, lost, or otherwise discarded in the oceans each year. Once abandoned, some of those fishing nets, which can be as big as football fields, can take up to 600 years to break down, according to an article published by the UNEP.

Also not included in the numbers are wild animals killed by hunters, wildlife displaced by animal agriculture, or wildlife directly killed by farmers with pesticides, traps, or other methods. Nor does it take into account the number of animals and entire species that perish annually as a result of pollution and the decimation of natural habitats.

How Many Animals Are Killed for Vivisection (Experiments)?

Mice in a cage

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According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), over 100 million animals are killed for various research purposes in the United States each year. The numbers are difficult to estimate because the majority of animals used in research—rats and mice–go unreported because they're not covered by the Animal Welfare Act, nor are birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and invertebrates.

How Many Animals Are Killed for Fur?

Fur products

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According to Humane Society International, about 100 million animals are bred and slaughtered in fur farms geared to supplying the fashion industry. It’s estimated that 50% of these animals are raised and killed for fur trim.

Canada (2018 stats): 1.76 million minks; 2,360 foxes
United States: 3.1 million minks
European Union: 34.7 million minks; 2.7 million foxes; 166,000 raccoon dogs; 227,000 chinchillas
China: 20.7 million minks; 17.3 million foxes; 12.3 million raccoon dogs

In addition to the millions of foxes, minks, raccoon dogs, and chinchillas killed for fashion, about a billion rabbits are annually slaughtered around the world for their meat and fur. Hundreds of thousands of seals are clubbed to death and skinned every year. On a positive note, many countries are shutting the fur trade down. In 2019, California became the first state to ban the production and sale of new fur products. The statewide legislation will go into full effect in 2023. Other states in the country are considering fur ban legislation, including Hawaii and New York.

Countries Where Fur Farming Is Banned

Many countries and cities around the world have either banned fur farming or are in the midst of phasing out the practice. Europe is leading the way as far as fur bans, which is significant since at least 50 percent of fur production around the world comes from countries on that continent. European countries with countrywide bans currently in place include Luxembourg, Germany, the United Kingdom, North Macedonia, Austria, Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic. Outside of Europe, Japan and New Zealand have also enacted fur farming bans.

Some countries are on the path to completely outlawing fur farming, instituting partial or temporary bans like Denmark and Sweden or phasing out the practice over time, as in Ireland, Slovakia, Norway, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Still other countries are in the process of considering a ban, including Ukraine, Poland, and Lithuania.

How Many Animals Are Killed by Hunters?

Hunters

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According to PETA, about 40% of U.S. hunters kill millions of animals on public land every year. Some estimate that poachers illegally kill just as many animals. Meanwhile, a 2015 Business Insider article reported that "over the past 15 years, 1.2 million animals have been killed by Americans who traveled overseas to snag their trophies," and that 70,000 so-called "trophy" animals perished each year.

How Many Animals Are Killed in Shelters?

Dogs in cages in an animal shelter

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While concrete data from places like shelters and rescue groups is hard to come by due to the fact that there isn't a single, centralized reporting system, The Humane Society of the United States estimates around 3 million cats and dogs are euthanized in U.S. shelters every year. This figure does not include cats and dogs killed in animal cruelty cases or injured and abandoned animals who die later.

However, according to a September 2019 New York Times article, there is reason for hope. Data collected from municipal shelters in the country's 20 largest cities indicates that euthanasia rates have fallen 75% since 2009. The reason for the drop has been traced to two factors: a decline in intakes due to increased spay/neuter awareness and implementation by the public, and a marked upswing in shelter adoptions as opposed to purchasing dogs and cats from private breeders or pet stores.

Things You Can Do to Make a Difference for Animals

  • Adopt a vegetarian diet and encourage awareness of meat alternatives.
  • Get involved with the legislative processes that deal with passing laws against hunting, fishing, and poaching in your state.
  • Refrain from using plastics and encourage recycling.
  • Don't use commercial pesticides.
  • Support companies that are cruelty-free and do not test on animals.
  • Spay/neuter your pets and adopt from shelters.
  • Get involved with like-minded animal rights groups.
  • When you see an injustice or an act of animal cruelty, speak up or contact the appropriate authorities.
View Article Sources
  1. "Livestock Slaughter: 2019 Summary." USDA. Published April 2020.

  2. "Poultry Slaughter: 2019 Summary." USDA. Published February 2020.

  3. "Summary for Policymakers of the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services." IPBES Plenary at its seventh session (IPBES 7, Paris, 2019), 29 April - 4 May 2019, 2019, edited by Sandra Díaz, et al., 2019, pp. 12-13., doi:10.5281/zenodo.3553579

  4. "The Fur Trade." Humane Society International.

  5. "Inside the Fur Industry: Factory Farms." PETA.

  6. "About the Canadian Seal Hunt." The Humane Society of the United States.

  7. California, Assembly. AB-44 Fur Products: Prohibition. 2019.

  8. Povich, Elaine S. "Fur Clothing Bans Advance in More Cities and States." The Pew Charitable Trusts. Published September 5, 2019.

  9. "Farming: Europe Regulations." International Fur Federation.

  10. "A Guide to the Fur-Free Revolution: These Places Have Banned Fur." PETA.

  11. "Hunting." PETA.

  12. "Pets By The Numbers." The Humane Society Of The United States.

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