If everyone became a vegetarian, animal suffering and death might actually increase:
Published figures suggest that, in Australia, producing wheat and other grains results in: at least 25 times more sentient animals being killed per kilogram of useable protein; more environmental damage; and a great deal more animal cruelty than does farming red meat.
A reader chimes in:
I must respectfully rebuff the idea put forth by Ms. Hymas that vegetarianism and veganism are somehow passe when the data clearly do not support that.
I suppose if one did nothing but consume media from culinary magazines, the New York Times, and Grist, one might think there is some fancy-meat revolution overtaking vegetarianism or veganism in the arena of ideas. But the rise of "conscientious omnivorism" and vegetarianism/veganism both are positively correlated. Every few years, Harris Interactive conducts polling on behalf of the Vegetarian Resource Group to get a snapshot of the dietary habits of Americans. In 2006, 2.3% of Americans fit the description of a vegetarian. In 2011? That rate more than doubled to 5%. If you dig a little into the data, you'll find that nearly half of Americans are looking for vegetarian meal options at least once a week.
Hipster butchers make for nice copy, but Americans are increasingly buying into the idea that the most effective way to combat animal abuse is to withdraw their participation altogether rather than craft artisan steak knives or buy sides of beef from the guy who sings Woody Guthrie to his cows and gives them big old hugs before slaughtering them.