The United States has been ranked as the second-worst nation in the world for animal cruelty, news magazine AlterNet reported.

New data has placed America second-last when considering the country’s level of cruelty toward animals, only ahead of Belarus in Europe. The Voiceless Animal Cruelty Index (VACI) compared information regarding producing cruelty, consuming cruelty, and sanctioning cruelty of farmed animals. Researchers then compiled a list of 50 countries, who account for 80% of the world’s farmed animals.

The US was placed at 49 out of 50, and labelled an “extremely poor performer”. Kenya was the best performer, predominantly due to its low levels of animal production and meat consumption.

In regard to producing cruelty, America, whose population sits at 326 million, sees the slaughter of roughly 28.4 animals per person, every year. Reportedly, this figure is triple that of the global average, which is 9.7 animals.

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America’s consumption of cruelty is similarly high, with approximately 61.1% of the average American’s diet containing land-based animal protein. The report revealed this equates to 64.7 grams of animal protein every day. In contrast, the global average is just 26.7 grams.

While the US rated second-worst for both production and consumption of cruelty, their level of sanctioning cruelty was slightly higher, reaching the rank of 20. However, VACI noted that America’s federal animal protection laws are, nonetheless, “lacking”.

However, AlterNet pointed out: “Animal protection is one of the fastest growing social justice movements of our time”.

Increasingly, consumers are seeking more ethical options surrounding the food they buy and eat. Data from late last year found that 70% of Americans are uncomfortable with the way animals are treated in the food industry. Further, almost half of Americans said they support a ban on slaughterhouses.

However, AlterNet highlighted that 99% of animals consumed for food come from factory farms. Similarly, it was recently revealed that meat labelled as ‘organic’ was deceptive, potentially misleading consumers who believe they are making ethical choices when purchasing these products.

As awareness grows around the world, consumers are increasingly turning away from meat consumption. Some are choosing to eradicate animal products from their diets altogether by switching to a vegan lifestyle. In fact, the rate of veganism in America has boosted by 600% in the last three years alone, with similar figures seen in other parts of the world.

AlterNet concluded: “Every time we raise our fork, we are making a decision”.