In this post, I attempt to document the number of animals killed by different human activities in the UK each year. Before getting to the numbers, a few methodological caveats are in order. First, it proved very difficult to find official data; most of the figures are from sources that have some kind of conflict of interest. Second, some of the figures are from surveys carried out over a decade ago, so may well not be up-to-date. Third, where intervals were provided, I took crude averages. Fourth, where incomplete figures were provided, I tried to make realisitic extrapolations. My guess would be that none of the estimates is off by more than about 50%. (Sources are provided in the final paragraph.)
The chart below displays the numbers themselves. Roughly 750 million birds, mostly chickens, are killed for meat. About 100 million mammals, mainly mice, voles and shrews, are killed by pet cats. Approximately 50 million birds are killed by pet cats. About 50 million birds are killed on the roads. Roughly 19 million mammals, including cows, pigs, sheep and goats, are killed for meat. About 3.3 million mammals, mostly mice, rats and guinea pigs, are killed in scientific research. Approximately 1 million mammals, largely rabbits, hedgehogs and squirrels, are killed on the roads. About 650,000 mammals, mainly rats, are killed by pest control. And roughly 26,000 mammals, mostly foxes, are killed for sport.
Several other human activities probably kill large numbers of animals in the UK. These include air pollution from vehicles and factories, habitat destruction caused by development, and the production of grains for food. Indeed, it has been argued that switching from meat production to grain production would cause a net increase in animal deaths, at least in Australia.
Sources are as follows. The figures on animals killed for meat are from the Humane Slaughter Association. The figures on animals killed by pet cats are from The Mammal Society. The figures on animals killed in research, as well as those on animals killed by pest control, are from Understanding Animal Research. The figures on birds killed on the roads are from a report detailed in the Independent. The figures on mammals killed on the roads are from the People's Trust for Endangered Species. The figures on mammals killed for sport are from a report detailed at the BBC.