It is pointed out to us that Davis and Archer do not show that plant agriculture causes more animal deaths than livestock. But that is not what we are saying. We say that it is possible (note the conditional) that some animal production causes fewer deaths than plant production, citing Davis 2003 and Archer 2011, but immediately pointing out that these calculations are uncertain, citing Fischer & Lamey, 2018.
Why do we say uncertain, not wrong? Because Fischer & Lamey remind us that, if indeed, in some aspects, Davis and Archer have overestimated the deaths caused by plant agriculture, they may also have underestimated them in other aspects, by forgetting to take into account all of the animal species likely to be exposed, and all of the cultivation operations that can cause damage to animals. In this, we therefore consider that the results are uncertain, with very wide ranges proposed, and that it remains possible that some types of large animal farming may cause less suffering than standard crop farming, bearing in mind that, as Fischer & Lamey point out, we are seriously lacking in complete estimates.
Our only firm conclusion regarding this particular point of suffering caused by crop farming is that we must remember that any type of crop farming causes harm to animals.
It is a pity that our critics forget the last sentence of the paragraph: « Estimates are highly uncertain, however, but it is clear that all food production comes with a death toll ».
The second important point is that we place this question of suffering in a broader perspective, including the question of suffering in the wild, not in order to clear livestock farming of the suffering it causes, but in the following perspective: what would replace livestock farming if it were eliminated? And by bringing human perspectives back into the equation: what human suffering could occur if we abolished or drastically reduced animal husbandry?
If what replaces a welfarist breeding of large animals and the possible associated cultures is wild nature, then it is possible (and even probable) that the suffering that replaces this breeding is superior to the suffering that the breeding initially caused. Note that this issue is valid for all types of agriculture, and is highlighted by Fischer & Lamey.
Finally, if we put brutal pressure on livestock farming, it is likely that in many situations it will cause significant human suffering: bankruptcies, unemployment, food security problems and malnutrition. This probable human suffering must also be taken into account.