Brute Ethics





Animal Ethics Encyclopedia

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Laboratory Animals

See here for Laboratory Animals.

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Lawrence, John (1753 - 1839)

One of the earliest writers in modern times on animal rights and welfare. His book published in 1796, A Philosophical and Practical Treatise on Horses and the Moral Duties of Man Towards Brute Creation (T N Longman, London) is a detailed account on horsemanship and the horse. It is remarkable for its day for a chapter entitled On the Right of Beasts, in which Lawrence implores us to treat animals kindly and with consideration because they are rational, sensible and have souls.

Lawrence argued that animals have rights, a basic right of care, which should be endorse by the state. He recounts wanton cruelty he saw around him - horses thrashed with whips, cattle with tongues cut out and sheep with feet cut off (all alive) - and says,
I therefore propose, that the Rights of Beasts be formally acknowledged by the state, and that a law be framed upon that principle, to guard and protect them from acts of flagrant and wanton cruelty, whether committed by their owners or others. (Volume 1, chapter 3, page 123.)
Lawrence also says the state should enact laws to protect livestock during transportation and slaughter - anticipating Martin's Act, passed by Parliament in 1822 and the first law by a state to give a measure of protection to domesticated animals.

Lawrence declared that wilful cruelty, as well as vivisection, should be outlawed and opposed animal baiting. Yet he favoured killing animals for sport, as long as they were subsequently eaten. He also supported fox hunting, believing that foxes are vermin, and as predators deserve to be hunted and killed in turn (see Predation for more on this attitude to predators). His acquisition of a small farm and his interest in poultry might have influenced his attitude to hunting.

Very little is know about his life but he was born in England where he lived and was descended from a line of brewers. For more about Lawrence see Lawrence, John, by Sebastian Mitchell, in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press.

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Philosophical theory that says your right moral action is what the law says you should do. The law may be the law of your country or the rule or code of your society or group. An example is that according to the law of your country you must not cause animals unnecessary suffering. But Legalism could also hold that according to the law of your gang you should follow your leader and if he tortures animals then you should too.


  • Legalism may be your right course of action if it is what your society or your group want. But you might believe the law is morally wrong. The law might encourage animal exploitation you think is cruel or permit building on animal habitat you think should be saved.

  • Legalism puts a lot of trust in the people who make the laws. Who are these people? Are they qualified to judge what is just? Can you trust them?

  • Legalism does not necessarily cover the sort of moral problem you face. It may help you decide what to do if you come across a dog terminally injured on the road; it might say you cannot put him down and end his misery because he is someone's property. But Legalism cannot help you about your own dog in the same situation. In this case Legalism will not give you any clue about how you should act and you must look for another moral standard for guidance.

  • The law is not always clear and must be interpreted. The higher courts support a law one day then overturn it the next. Therefore you must keep changing your moral stance to keep in step. When fox hunting with hounds was legal you may have been in favour of it; now it is illegal you are against it.

  • Different countries have different laws. So you must change your view depending on which country you are in. Trading in primates is permitted in one country and banned in another. Does that make trading in primates right or wrong?

  • The law can be morally contradictory, such as protecting some animals and not others. Some laws protect badgers, but not foxes. Some laws protect non-nuisance birds but not magpies and pigeons. Anyone can legally kill foxes, magpies and pigeons. Does this make killing non-protected animals morally acceptable?

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Life Or Death Fallacy

Making the answer to a question depend on life or death (or on some other highly emotional position).

This type of question is deceptive and misleading because it is loaded in favour of the questioner. You are likely to make biased, confused or faulty judgements if you are uncertain about whether you will live or die depending on your answer. A sensible question asked fairly does not put you in a position of risk but allows you to give an objective and dispassionate reply. Objective and dispassionate thinking stand the best chance of being good and right.

Supporters of experimenting on animals often use the life or death fallacy to justify animal experimentation. "You'd support experimentation on animals, wouldn't you, if you were dying and it would save your life?" Falling into this trap, any normal (non-suicidal) person would answer that if there is a possibility that it would save his life then he might support it, even if he looked down on animal experimentation.

The fallacy can work for any argument: "If X is likely to kill you and Y is likely to save you, you'd favour Y, would you?" If put like this, it is clear which choice any reasonable person would make.

However, a questioner should not make your response to his question dependent on your life or death or on some other highly emotional personal involvement. Judges and jurors in law courts are not permitted to take part in trials of their friends, relatives or loved ones; surgeons do not operate on their family members; police are taken off cases in which they may be personally involved. Why? Because they are unlikely to perform well or make good decisions because of emotional complications.

The right way to tackle a biased question is to rephrase it so that it does not endanger your life or put you in some highly charged position. Another way of tackling such a biased question is to reply, "Biased questions get biased answers. Do you want a biased answer?" Then ask the questioner to rephrase the question honestly.

For & Against: argue your case

  • Claim: All experiments on animals are justifiable because any of them, no matter how indirect, might one day lead to improving your health or saving your life. Therefore you should support animal experimentation.

  • Claim: The great majority of experiments are routine and do not save human lives, the Draize Test for example. Therefore, even if you decide to approve of animal experiments that might remotely save your life one day, you do not automatically have to support or approve of the great majority of experiments.

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Linzey, Andrew (1952 - )

 British Anglican priest, theologian, academic and a champion for animal rights within Christianity. He says his vocation is to change Christian attitudes toward animals for the better and he advances the more recent thinking in Christian religious tradition.

In Linzey's view: "Anglicans, like most Christians, haven't really woken up to the moral issue of our exploitation of animals." And "All the stuff about animals not having language, not having rational souls, not having culture, not being persons - all of these are human constructions." And, "In God's eyes, all creatures have value whether we find them cuddly, affectionate, beautiful or otherwise."

Linzey says:
"Animals make a special moral claim upon us because, interalia, they are morally innocent, unable to give or withhold their consent, or vocalise their needs, and because they are wholly vulnerable to human exploitation. These considerations make the infliction of suffering upon them not easier - but harder to justify."
Linzey is distinguished for his accomplishments relating to theology and animals. He held the world's first fellowship in Ethics, Theology and Animal Welfare, at Oxford University, the first university position to unite ethics, religion and animals. In 2001 the Archbishop of Canterbury presented him with the highest distinction he can make to a theologian, an honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity. It was granted with particular reference to Linzey's work on the rights and welfare of 'God's sentient creatures', the first time it has been conferred for work embracing Christianity and animals.

Linzey's books include Christianity and the Rights of Animals (1987), Animal Theology (1994), Animal Gospel: The Christian Defence of Animals (1998), and Animal Gospel: Christian Faith as If Animals Mattered (1999).

First quotes from Rynn Berry interview with Andrew Linzey (1996): Christianity and Animals at Second quote from Andrew Linzey (2002): The Ethical Case Against Fur Farming.

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Livestock Numbers Worldwide


According to official statistics the number of livestock worldwide include well over:

  • A billion cattle.

  • A billion sheep.

  • A billion pigs.

  • 16 billion chickens (actually over four times this number, see Chickens).

  • Three quarters of a billion turkeys.

  • Statistical Reliability

    These figures for the worldwide number of cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens and turkeys are collected by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO). Their figures show only minimum numbers because FAO base their figures on spot inventories, that is a count of the number of animals alive on any one day of the year, such as 1 of January or 1st July. Therefore these figures do not include all the animals alive during the course of a year, such as animals dying before the day of the inventory and animals born after the day of the inventory.

    For example, FAO records the United States as having 60 million pigs annually (Table 3), but the US actually slaughters 100 million pigs annually (Table 1, Livestock Slaughter Numbers). Therefore, the US rears at least 100 million pigs annually and might have up to 160 million pigs annually, over two and half times the number FAO records.

    Another example is chickens. According to FAO, the US has about two billion chickens (Table 4). But according to US statistics the US slaughters nine billion chickens annually (Table 1, Livestock Slaughter Numbers). In fact, according to statistics from the United States Department of Agriculture, the number of chickens worldwide is about 70 billion, not 16 billion as counted by FAO - see '70 Billion Chickens Worldwide' and Table 2 in Chickens.

    Therefore, a more realistic figure for the number of livestock worldwide would be at least to double the figures per country in these tables - except for chickens, who appear to number four times as many.

    Cattle Numbers Worldwide

    There are over one billion livestock cattle worldwide. Over half the world's cattle (60 percent) live in these ten countries and over a third of the world's cattle (36 percent) live in three countries: India, Brazil and China.

Table 1. Cattle numbers.
Top ten countries & worldwide total 2000 to 2004.

Numbers are in millions.
  2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
India 193 191 189 187 186
Brazil 170 176 185 190 192
China 105 106 101 104 106
United States 98 97 97 96 95
Argentina 49 49 48 51 51
Sudan 37 38 38 38 38
Ethiopia 33 35 41 39 38
Mexico 30 31 31 32 32
Australia 28 28 28 27 26
Russian Federation 28 27 27 27 25
World Total 1,312 1,319 1,328 1,336 1,339

See foot of page for sources and notes.

Sheep Numbers Worldwide

There are a billion domestic sheep worldwide. Over half the world's domestic sheep (54 percent) live in these ten countries and quarter of the world's domestic sheep (24 percent) live in two countries: China and Australia.

Table 2. Sheep numbers.
Top ten countries & worldwide total 2000 to 2004.

Numbers are in millions.
  2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
China 131 133 136 144 156
Australia 119 111 106 99 94
India 60 60 61 62 62
Iran 54 54 54 54 54
Sudan 46 47 48 48 48
New Zealand 42 40 40 39 40
Britain 42 37 36 36 36
South Africa 29 29 29 29 29
Turkey 30 28 27 25 25
Pakistan 24 24 24 25 25
World Total 1,055 1,034 1,033 1,042 1,059

See foot of page for sources and notes.

Pig Numbers Worldwide

There are nearly one billion domestic pigs worldwide. Three quarters of the world's domestic pigs (73 percent) live in these ten countries and half the world's domestic pigs live in China.

Table 3. Pig numbers.
Top ten countries & worldwide total 2000 to 2004.

Numbers are in millions.
  2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
China 438 454 465 470 423
United States 59 59 60 60 60
Brazil 32 33 32 33 33
Germany 26 26 26 26 26
Spain 22 22 24 24 24
Viet Nam 20 22 23 25 26
Poland 17 17 19 19 18
Russian Federation 18 16 16 17 16
Mexico 16 18 15 15 15
France 15 15 15 15 15
World Total 902 918 933 946 948

See foot of page for sources and notes.

Chicken Numbers Worldwide

There are at least sixteen billion chickens worldwide. Over half the world's chickens (60 percent) live in these ten countries and nearly half of the world's chickens (45 percent) live in three countries: China, the United States and Indonesia. However, statistics from the United States Department of Agriculture suggest there may be as many as 70 billion chickens worldwide (see Table 2, Chickens.).

Table 4. Chicken numbers.
Top ten countries & worldwide 2000 to 2004.

Numbers are in millions.
  2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
China 3,623 3,770 4,099 3,981 4,215
United States 1,860 1,900 1,940 1,920 1,970
Indonesia 860 960 1,218 1,204 1,248
Brazil 843 883 908 1,050 1,100
India 361 377 393 409 425
Mexico 350 365 402 414 425
Russian Federation 342 330 335 337 328
Turkey 240 258 218 246 250
France 233 219 203 201 200
Malaysia 124 150 161 165 180
World Total 14,509 15,100 15,857 15,904 16,352

See foot of page for sources and notes.

Turkey Numbers Worldwide

There are over well over three quarters of a billion turkeys worldwide. The US alone has nearly a third of the world total of turkeys and over half the world's turkeys (69 percent) live in five countries: the US, France, Italy, Chile and Brazil.

Table 5. Turkey numbers.
Top ten countries & worldwide total 2000 to 2004.

Numbers are in millions.
  2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
United States 86 85 86 86 88
France 42 38 36 35 35
Italy 23 25 25 25 25
Chile 19 20 21 22 26
Brazil 10 13 13 15 16
Germany 9 9 9 11 9
Britain 9 9 8 8 8
Portugal 8 7 7 6 7
Slovakia 5 6 6 6 6
Canada 5 6 6 6 6
World Total 265 274 271 271 277

See foot of page for sources and notes.

Sources & Notes

These tables are based on online data from Earth Trends, the World Resources Institute, from their Agriculture and Food section dealing with livestock. Earth Trends obtain their data from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), FAOSTAT on-line statistical service (FAO: Rome, 2005).

According to FAO:

Cattle mean "all cattle in the country, regardless of place or purpose of their breeding" and include "the common ox (Bos taurus), zebu, humped ox (Bos indicus), Asiatic ox (subgenus Bibos) and Tibetan yak (Poephagus grunniens)."

Sheep mean "all sheep in the country, regardless of place or purpose of their breeding." The sheep belong to the Ovis species and include Uriel, Argali, Bighorn, Karakul, and Astrakhan.

Pigs include "...all swine in the country, regardless of place or purpose of their breeding. These include domestic pig (Sus domestica) and domesticated wild boar (Sus scrofa). Non-domesticated wild boars are excluded."

Chickens include "all chicken in the country, regardless of place or purpose of their breeding" and include the fowl (Gallus domesticus) and Guinea fowl (Numida meleagris).

Turkeys include "all turkeys in the country, regardless of place or purpose of their breeding" and turkey data include Meleagris gallopavo.

NA = not available. Figures are rounded to the nearest million to avoid spurious accuracy, as counting the world's livestock cannot be precise. China and Taiwan data are pooled.

Also see:

Livestock Slaughter Numbers

Meat Consumption Worldwide


Hens & Eggs

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Livestock Slaughter Numbers

Humans eat vast amounts of meat. Global figures for the actual numbers of livestock slaughtered for human meat consumption may be non-existent. But data from the United States and Britain are available and give an idea of the scale of animal slaughter for human food.

The tables below show that the United States (human population 300 million) includes in its annual livestock slaughter:

  • 36 million cattle

  • 3 million sheep

  • 100 million pigs

  • 18 billion chickens (see Chicken Note, below)

  • 260 million turkeys

  • 25 million ducks

  • Britain (human population 60 million) includes in its annual livestock slaughter:

  • 200 thousand cattle

  • 1.3 million sheep

  • 800 thousand pigs

  • 1.7 billion chickens (see Chicken Note, below)

  • 23 million turkeys

  • Chicken Note

    All chickens in the tables below are females, that is the tables exclude some thousands of males used for breeding and a few capons. Females predominate because males do not lay eggs and females make better eating. However, male and female chicks hatch in equal numbers, but male chicks are not wanted and soon killed (they go for fertiliser, pet food and cheap human food). Male chicks are not included in official poultry slaughter statistics. Therefore you must double these slaughter figures to include the male chicks. Thus the US really slaughters 18 billion chickens and Britain slaughters 1.7 billion chickens annually. The same applies for turkeys.

Table 1. Numbers of livestock slaughtered annually in the United States 2001 to 2005.
Numbers are rounded in millions.
Year 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
Cattle 37 37 37 34 33
Sheep 3 3 3 3 3
Pigs 98 100 101 104 104
Chickens 8,600 8, 700 8,700 8,900 9,000
Ducks 26 24 24 26 28
Turkeys 269 271 268 254 248

See foot of page for source and notes.

Table 2. Numbers of livestock slaughtered annually in Britain 2001 to 2005.
Numbers are rounded in millions.
Year 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
Cattle 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2
Sheep 1.2 1.2 1.3 1.3 1.4
Pigs 0.9 0.8 0.8 0.8 0.8
Chickens 819 819 840 843 864
Turkeys 26 23 22 21 19

See foot of page for source and notes.


The animal slaughter figures for the US and Britain are massive and when scaled up worldwide figures become gigantic. The US alone slaughters two million pigs a week for human consumption - at least three pigs per second year round. This makes animal farming one of the biggest human killers of animals (see Animal Holocaust. Animal farming also indirectly destroys additional animals by keeping land clear for livestock forage and living space that wildlife would have used and by killing predators of livestock, such as coyotes, foxes and eagles.

What About Fish?

This entry deals only with selected livestock (including poultry). Fish add a further 130 million tonnes of animal food for the human market. For wild caught fish and farmed fish see the tables in Fishing - Deep Sea and Fishing - Farming.

Sources and Notes

Table 1. Statistics of Cattle, Hogs and Sheep and Poultry Slaughter. Annual Summaries. National Agricultural Statistics Service, United States Department of Agriculture.

'Cattle', 'sheep' and 'pigs' means all ages and sex classes (cattle comprise bulls, dairy cows, other cows, steers, heifers and calves; sheep comprise mature sheep, yearlings and lambs; pigs comprise barrows and gilts, sows, stags and boars). 'Chickens' include male and female chickens from breeder and egg flocks, grown broilers-fryers and other young immature birds such as roasters and capons. 'Turkeys' include fully matured birds for egg production and turkeys for market including fryer roasters. 'Ducks' include all ducks regardless of age and weight.

Table 2. DEFRA (Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs), Office for National Statistics.

'Cattle' include adult bulls and cows, young bulls, steers, heifers and calves. 'Sheep' include ewes and rams, other sheep and lambs. 'Pigs' include sows, boars and other pigs. 'Chickens' include broilers, spent broiler breeders and spent egg-layers and include imported birds.

Also see:

Meat Consumption Worldwide

Livestock Numbers Worldwide.

© 2004 Roger Panaman All rights reserved