How Many Animals Do Humans Kill Each Year?

Millions 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 The Humane Society of the United States, approximately 10 billion cattle, chickens, ducks, hogs, sheep, lambs, and turkeys were killed for food in the United States in 2015. While that number is staggering, the good news is that the number of animals being killed for human consumption has been steadily declining.

The bad news is that this number doesn't include fish culled for human consumption from the oceans and freshwater sources, nor does it take into account the numerous marine animals that fall victim to the fishing practices of those who either refuse to take proper precautions or are ignorant of available devices to protect such creatures. According to a 2017 statement from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a single discarded fishing net can keep killing for centuries. They report an estimated 700,000 tons of fishing gear is abandoned in the oceans each year.

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 were killed for various research purposes in the United States in 2014. 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.

"China (2014 stats): 60 million mink, 13 million foxes, 14 million raccoon dogs bred and killed on fur farms.
"European Union: 42.6 million mink, 2.7 million foxes; 155,000 raccoon dogs; 206,000 chinchilla killed for fur in the EU.
"Rabbits are also killed for fur (and, in some cases, their meat) in large but unknown numbers (likely hundreds of millions) in Europe and China.
"In 2015, more than 4 million animals were killed for their pelts in North America."

In addition to farming, millions of animals are trapped and killed for fur, as are hundreds of thousands of seals each year. The good news is that 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.

Countries Where Fur Farming Is Banned

Austria, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Luxembourg, the Netherlands (fox farm ban 1995, chinchilla 1997, mink 2024), Northern Ireland, Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Slovenia, United Kingdom. The practice is also being phased out in Denmark and Japan. In Germany (effective 2022), Sweden, and Switzerland, sanctions on fur farming have made production economically unviable. New Zealand has banned the importation of mink, which in turn has shut down mink farming. Ireland, Poland, Lithuania, and Ukraine are currently considering fur farm bans. India, Sao Paolo in Brazil, and West Hollywood and Berkley in the United States have all banned fur imports or sales.

How Many Animals Are Killed by Hunters?

Hunters

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According to the watchdog group Animal Matters, over 100 million animals are reported killed by hunters in the United States every year. This figure does not include millions of animals killed illegally by poachers, animals who are injured, escape, and die later, or orphaned animals who die after their mothers are killed.

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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According to The Humane Society of the U.S., 3-4 million cats and dogs are euthanized in shelters in the United States 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 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.