Animals are slaughtered for food in higher numbers than for any other purpose and this number is steadily growing. For example, in 2003 almost 50 billion farmed animals were slaughtered while just over a decade later in 2014, the number had climbed to almost 70 billion animals.1 Alarmingly, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that 80% of the growth observed in the Asian livestock sector comes from factory farming.2
These figures are concerning given both the cruelties inherent in factory farming, and the fact that these systems already account for the majority of poultry and pork production worldwide. Worse still, factory farming is spreading to countries with weak or non-existent animal protection laws.
It is for these reasons that the Voiceless Animal Cruelty Index (VACI) bases its rankings on, among other factors, the number of farmed animals that are slaughtered for food in each country (on a per capita basis), whilst taking account of the important distinctions in the way in which animals are treated and protected in each country.
How is the “Producing Cruelty” category measured?
To measure the number of farmed animals slaughtered in each country, the VACI uses conservative estimates compiled by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.3 To reflect the fact that farmed animals are better protected in some countries than others, the number of animals slaughtered was moderated by a weighting factor derived from the Animal Protection Index.4
Focusing on animals killed does not capture the duration of suffering endured by different animals under diverse production regimes such as, for example, the long-term suffering of dairy cows during milk production, or chickens during egg production.5 Learn more about how we measured each country’s performance under this category and the overall logic behind the VACI.
How did the countries rank under this category?
Overall, the production of meat, dairy and egg products tends to be driven by income and wealth:
- low income countries (where pastoral livestock systems tend to prevail over factory farms, and meat consumption per capita is lower) often rank higher than high income countries;
- countries that have transitioned or are transitioning away from traditional pasture-based methods of farming to factory farms usually rank lower; and
- a few European countries rank higher due to their strict animal welfare laws and relatively low meat consumption per capita.
- See the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, ‘Crops & Livestock Products’, FAOSTAT.
- FAO, ‘Livestock Policy Brief 02: Pollution from industrialised livestock production’.
- Carcass production was calculated for 2014 per head of population for all 50 countries using the FAO database on ‘producing animals / slaughtered’. All animals in the ‘meat’ criteria were selected, as well as those imported live and slaughtered. No data was available for “meat, game”, “meat n.e.s” (not otherwise specified), or “pigeon” in any of the 50 countries. See the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, n 1.
- The multiplier was 0.4 for countries with an API score of A, 0.5 for a score of B and so on.
- Milk and egg production were not included separately. These industries are already represented in the FAO figures, given that spent hens, spent dairy cows and bobby calves are counted in the numbers of animals slaughtered.