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Can't one work to improve conditions for animals without being a vegetarian?

Certainly. There are many areas where animals are abused today, and certainly there is much that needs to be done. However, one should keep in mind that the major area of animal abuse is related to factory farming. According to FARM (Farm Animal Reform Movement), "The number of warm-blooded animals brutalized and slaughtered each year is approximately 70 times the number of animals killed in laboratories, 30 times the number killed by hunters and trappers, and 500 times the number killed in pounds. An animal welfare advocate who eats meat is personally responsible for the slaughter of 22 warm-blooded animals per year, more than 1,500 in a lifetime, and far more when including sea animals, slaughtered for the advocate's meat-eating family and pets.