From Ted Kerasote, Bloodties: Nature, Culture, and the Hunt (1994: 232-33)
(Vegetable farming also kills animals and hunting an elk a year kills fewer.)
Once, in an attempt to outwit this pain, I became a vegetarian, and stayed one for quite a while. But when I inquired about the lives lost on a mechanized farm, I realized what costs we pay at the supermarket. One Oregon farmer told me that half the cottontail rabbits went into his combine when he cut his wheat fields, that virtually all of the small mammals, ground birds, and reptiles were killed when he harvested windrow crops like rye and sugar beets, and that when the leaves were stripped from bush beans all the mice and the snakes who were living among them were destroyed as well. Perhaps he exaggerated; certainly he hadn't taken a census of his fields' small-animal population. Nonetheless, from boyhood, he had seen many animals being killed as he made America's food. . . . few scientific studies. . . (some suggest) agricultural lands often act as "ecological traps," attracting birds, for instance, who begin their nesting only to have machinery pass over the land, destroying their nests and often the birds themselves. . . When one factors in the lives lost to pesticides, the toll is enormous, and includes those species not commonly thought of as "pests"; Canada geese, mallards, great blue herons, phalaropes, larks, waxwings, warblers, hawks, gulls, squirrels, and cottontailes, to name a few species listed in one study that assessed the hazards of organoposphate pesticides on wildlife. . . Current agricultural practices, particularly combining, left the earth a "biological desert." Our fields might be brimming over with wheat and corn and soybeans, but unless we began to leave habitat for wildlife-stuffle, hedgerows, and ditches-we were going to find ourselves in an austerely quiet world.
Such data, scanty as it is, addresses only the lives lost on the farm itself. When our produce is transported along the interstate highway system, birds...deer...skunks,...racoons all get flattened. Who hasn't witnessed the carnage. And this doesn't even begin to count the animals lost to development of the oil fields themselves, the transportation of petroleum across tundra, mountain ranges, and the oceans, and in the wards fought over that oil. In short, being a supermarket vegetarian didn't take me out of the web in which animals are constantly dying to feed humans, it merely put their deaths over the horizon...
When I looked into that web, so full of pain, I came to see that my killing an elk each year did less harm, expressed in animal lives who I believe count equally, than importing the same amount of vegetable food to my bioregion. That didn't ease my conscience, but it did make the choices clearer.