Is a Vegan Diet Really Animal Free?


Animal Rights Activists and Philosopher, Gary L. Francione recently decried the development of the Happy Meat movement as a significant blow to the animal rights movement ( The Happy Meat Movement says that killing an animal does not violate its rights in itself, only the infliction of suffering would.

The topic raised the question for me, namely, "Is veganism free of killing animals?" My point is that animal rights activists claim that vegan eating is cruelty free because eating plants doesn’t harm animals. Really? Then what about the claims of an article in Frontiers of Ecology and the Environment 1:7(Sept, 2003):367-375 entitled “Mice, Rats, and People: The Bio-Economics of Agricultural Rodent Pests” by Nils Chr Stenseth, Herwig Liers et al. which says “In Asia alone, the rice loss every year caused by rodents could feed about 200 million people.” To be clear, they meant 200 million people could be fed for almost an entire year. Now if you think that Asians don’t know how to kill rats, you are sadly mistaken. The point is that they lose this much food each year even though they do kill rats and mice.

Think again if you believe this rodent problem to be just an Asian problem. Rodents cause significant losses to food production throughout the world. This doesn’t even begin to discuss how other types of animals harm crops, such as birds and ungulates. The fact is farmers do a lot of animal killing in the protection of their crops. So my question for animal rights activists who espouse a vegan lifestyle is simply this? Is the diet still vegan even though the crops have been protected by killing of untold numbers of animals? Or is this yet the next phase of vegan ideology namely certifying crops as no animals purposely killed in the production of these plants? (I will leave aside how many rodents die during the harvest process for now anyway).

Stephen M. Vantassel is author of Dominion over Wildlife? An Environmental-Theology of Human-Wildlife Relations (Wipf and Stock, 2009) and is an expert in wildlife damage management.

You can read more of his work at or visit his blog at


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