Hanging in the Newseum in Washington, DC, is a photo that is about as heart-rending an image as you’re likely to find anywhere. Taken by Kevin Carter for The New York Times in 1993, the photo depicts a starving Sudanese toddler crumpled on the ground, as if her stick-like legs could no longer bear the weight of her large head and swollen stomach, bloated from the malnourishment disease called kwashiorkor. While that alone is disturbing, what makes the tableau truly haunting is the vulture patiently waiting just a few feet behind the emaciated child. This photograph earned Carter a Pulitzer Prize and epitomized the toll famine is taking on developing countries around the world.
Tragically, of course, hunger has only become an even graver issue in the last 15 years -- a point made clear in a report released July 29 from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Recommending urgent action for long-term relief, the CSIS report calls for “a strategic U.S. approach to the global food crisis.”
“Food crisis,” however, implies some recent, short-term cause and effect, when in fact the “perfect storm” of rising energy costs, grain hoarding, government subsidies, drought and the demand for biofuels diverts attention from an entrenched industry and a remedy neither the CSIS nor many social activists want to contemplate: eliminating meat production.
“Whoa!” you say. “Don’t take away my steaks and cheeseburgers.” Meat-eating is such an ingrained aspect of Western culture that proposing its demise, even to save the world, deserves some discussion. Fair enough.
The United Nations estimates that 854 million people -- nearly 13 percent of the world’s human population -- go hungry every day. And the problem is only getting worse. Josette Sheeran, executive director of the UN’s World Food Program, says, “The world’s misery index is rising.”
So is our hunger for meat. As Gene Baur observes in Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food, in 1950, 50,000 farms produced 630 million “meat” chickens in the United States. By 2005, the U.S. had 20,000 fewer farms -- but they were producing 8.7 billion chickens for meat. That’s a lot of chicken feed. In fact, every year industrial animal factories in the U.S. feed 157 million metric tons of legumes, cereal and vegetable protein to livestock, resulting in 28 million metric tons of animal protein for human consumption. Nutritious plant-based food that could feed humans instead goes to feed animals in a very inefficient use of resources.
Jeremy Rifkin, president of the Foundation on Economic Trends in Washington, DC, states it succinctly: “People go hungry because much of arable land is used to grow feed grain for animals rather than people.” He offers as one example the Ethiopian famine of 1984, which was fueled by the meat industry. “While people starved, Ethiopia was growing linseed cake, cottonseed cake and rapeseed meal for European livestock,” he says. “Millions of acres of land in the developing world are used for this purpose. Tragically, 80 percent of the world’s hungry children live in countries with food surpluses which are fed to animals for consumption by the affluent.”
The demand for meat has been especially dramatic in developing countries. “China’s meat consumption is increasing rapidly with income growth and urbanization, and it has more than doubled in the past generation,” says Rosamond Naylor, an associate professor of economics at Stanford University. As a result, land once used to provide grains for humans now provides feed for chickens and pigs.
The USDA and the United Nations state that using an acre of land to raise cattle yields 20 pounds of usable protein. If soybeans were grown instead, that same acre would yield 356 pounds of protein. Animal agriculture also wastes valuable water resources. Population biologists Paul and Anne Ehrlich note that a pound of wheat can be grown with 60 gallons of water, whereas a pound of meat requires 2,500 to 6,000 gallons.
Here’s another way to look at it. According to the aid group Vegfam, a ten-acre farm can support 60 people growing soybeans, 24 people growing wheat, ten people growing corn and only two people producing cattle. Reducing meat production by just ten percent in the U.S. would free enough grain to feed 60 million people, estimates Harvard nutritionist Jean Mayer. Sixty million people -- that’s the population of Great Britain, which, by the way, could support 250 million people on an all-vegetable diet.
Not surprisingly, the meat industry has a beef with these statistics. They say, for example, that the grains and soybeans fed to farmed animals are not of the high quality that humans would expect to eat (tell that to a starving child). Yet it’s difficult to dispute the fact that animal agribusiness uses land and water that could be used to grow plant foods for human consumption.
As Rifkin observes, it is ironic that millions of consumers in developed countries are dying from diseases of affluence such as heart attacks, diabetes and cancer, brought on by eating animal products, while the poor in the Third World are dying of diseases of poverty caused by being denied access to land to grow food grain for their families.
“We are long overdue for a global discussion on how to promote a diversified, high-protein, vegetarian diet for the human race,” says Rifkin, whose book Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture addresses the moral paradoxes of eating meat.
Are those steaks and cheeseburgers really worth all the lives they take -- human and non-human? It would be naïve to think the world will go vegetarian overnight, or even in a few decades. But looking at Carter’s powerful photograph, I can’t help but believe we have been woefully mistaken in how we treat those with whom we share this planet. If we hope to bequeath a sustainable world to future generations, we’ll have to shake loose this meat-produced disaster and embrace a kinder way of living.
the more meat we eat, the fewer people we can feed!
by Tina Noga posted on March 25th, 2008 in earthoria
There is more than enough food in the world to feed the entire human population. So why are more than 852 million people still going hungry?
The truth: the more meat we eat, the fewer people we can feed. If everyone on Earth received 25 percent of his or her calories from animal products, only 3.2 billion people would have food to eat. Dropping that figure to 15 percent would mean that 4.2 billion people could be fed. If the whole world became vegan, there would be plenty food to feed all of us more than 6.3 billion people. The World Watch Institute sums this up rightly, saying, "Meat consumption is an inefficient use of grain" - the grain is used more efficiently when consumed by humans.
Continued growth in meat output is dependent on feeding grain to animals, creating competition for grain between affluent meat-eaters and the world’s poor.
It takes up to 16 pounds of grain to produce just 1 pound of edible animal flesh. According to the USDA and the United Nations, using an acre of land to raise cattle for slaughter yields 20 pounds of usable protein. That same acre would yield 356 pounds of protein if soybeans were grown instead more than 17 times as much!
Producing the grain that is used to feed farmed animals requires vast amounts of water. It takes about 300 gallons of water per day to produce food for a vegan, and more than 4,000 gallons of water per day to produce food for a meat-eater. You save more water by not eating a pound of beef than you do by not showering for an entire year.
It should be no surprise, then, that food for a vegan can be produced on only 1/6 of an acre of land, while it takes 3 1/4 acres of land to produce food for a meat-eater. If we added up all the arable land on the planet and divided it equally, every human would get 2/3 of an acre more than enough to sustain a vegetarian diet, but not nearly enough to sustain a meat-eater.
On top of this the industrial world is exporting grain to developing countries and importing the meat that is produced with it, and thus farmers who are trying to feed themselves are being driven off their land. Their efficient, plant-based agricultural model is being replaced with intensive livestock rearing, which also pollutes the air and water and renders the once-fertile land dead and barren.
If this trend continues, the developing world will never be able to produce enough food to feed itself, and global hunger will continue to plague hundreds of millions of people around the globe. There is only one solution to world hunger – A vegan diet is the only ethical response to what is arguably the world’s most urgent social justice issue.
So the less meat you eat – the more people we can feed!
Think about it.
Take this 6 facts
worldwide, about one billion people suffer from hunger and about 8.8 million people die of hunger every year
more than 70% of all grains reaped by humanity on the planet are feed to animals that we exploit in agriculture
to produce 1 kg of meat, you need 16 kg of grains + 15.OOO litres of water
on the surface, which is needed to harvest 1 kg of meat, could generate, in the same period 200 kg of tomatoes or 160 kg of potatoes
50% of water pollution in Europe are caused by factory farms
the contribution of livestock to the greenhouse effect is more important as that of the entire global auto, air and waterway together
The global effects of meat production extend to every corner of the globe, including those that are underground. Groundwater levels are plummeting, rivers are overstressed and, with shortages already emerging, water is quickly becoming an expensive commodity that most people around the world won’t be able to afford. And where do you think most of the water is being used?
Well, actually it’s meat production. In fact, nearly half of all the water used in the United States goes directly to raising animals for food.
Though you’d never know, it takes more than 2,400 gallons/9,085 liters of water to produce a single pound of meat. To put that into perspective, a pound of rice, which needs much more water than most crops, requires about 400 gallons/1,514 liters of water to produce. A pound of wheat, on the other hand, needs only 25 gallons/95 liters to produce.
If you saved all the water from six months’ worth of showers, you still wouldn’t have enough to produce a pound of meat. (If you’re really dirty though, you might have saved just enough.)
Meat production requires the use of extensive amounts of resources like water over a very long period of time, usually years, before it becomes a usable food product.
This is one of the most inefficient exchanges of energy that our modern society has created.
By eating less meat which will lower the overall demand for meat, we can start lowering the demand for water as well. This can change the future of water shortages and save many people from dying of dehydration. Just think, you could be a hero!
Every meat eater is responsible for the deaths of approximately 23 men, women and children in their lifetime.
How can that be?
The meat industry is incredibly wasteful and it takes 16 kilo’s of grain to produce one kilo of beef. This grain could be used to feed the hungry.
There is enough food in the world to feed everyone but it is being fed to animals to produce meat for wealthy people that they do not need.
The amount of water used and the pollution caused is also very wasteful and it is estimated that every vegan frees up enough land, water and grain to save the lives of 23 people in their lifetime.
I’m afraid the correlation to that is meat eaters are directly responsible for the deaths of 23 men, women and children by refusing to give up meat which they don’t need and contributing to the poverty and starvation problem.
Can you look that dying child in the eye and tell her your burger is more important than her life? I hope not.
People should be encouraged to dump meat just as smokers are encouraged to give up tobacco...
People should be encouraged to dump meat just as smokers are encouraged to give up tobacco, according to The Future of Food and Farming, a British report featuring contributions from 400 researchers around the world.
With the global population expected to jump from 6.8 billion to more than 9 billion by 2050, the report predicts that farmers will need to produce 70 percent more food while using the same amount of land. Since this will be extremely difficult - if not impossible - people will need to drastically reduce their meat consumption in order to stave off food shortages.
This is because raising animals for food is grossly inefficient: Animals consume large quantities of food but produce comparatively small amounts of meat in return. More than 70 percent of the grain that we grow in the U.S. is fed to farmed animals.
The report's authors expect that efforts to promote plant-based diets will be met with the same resistance from the meat industry that anti-smoking initiatives were initially met with by tobacco companies. But they say that's a small price to pay in order to help prevent poverty, starvation, climate change, loss of wildlife, and environmental damage. Not to mention animal suffering.
European Union and United Nations call for a global shift to a vegan dietto survive hunger, poverty and climate change
Lesser consumption of animal products is necessary to save the world from the worst impacts of climate change, UN report says (06/2010)
A global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger, fuel poverty and the worst impacts of climate change, a UN report said today.
As the global population surges towards a predicted 9.1 billion people by 2050, western tastes for diets rich in meat and dairy products are unsustainable, says the report from United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP) international panel of sustainable resource management.
It says: "Impacts from agriculture are expected to increase substantially due to population growth increasing consumption of animal products. Unlike fossil fuels, it is difficult to look for alternatives: people have to eat. A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products."
Professor Edgar Hertwich, the lead author of the report, said: "Animal products cause more damage than [producing] construction minerals such as sand or cement, plastics or metals. Biomass and crops for animals are as damaging as [burning] fossil fuels."
The recommendation follows advice last year that a vegetarian diet was better for the planet from Lord Nicholas Stern, former adviser to the Labour government on the economics of climate change. Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has also urged people to observe one meat-free day a week to curb carbon emissions.
The panel of experts ranked products, resources, economic activities and transport according to their environmental impacts. Agriculture was on a par with fossil fuel consumption because both rise rapidly with increased economic growth, they said.
Ernst von Weizsaecker, an environmental scientist who co-chaired the panel, said: "Rising affluence is triggering a shift in diets towards meat and dairy products - livestock now consumes much of the world's crops and by inference a great deal of freshwater, fertilisers and pesticides."
Both energy and agriculture need to be "decoupled" from economic growth because environmental impacts rise roughly 80% with a doubling of income, the report found.
Achim Steiner, the UN under-secretary general and executive director of the UNEP, said: "Decoupling growth from environmental degradation is the number one challenge facing governments in a world of rising numbers of people, rising incomes, rising consumption demands and the persistent challenge of poverty alleviation."
The panel, which drew on numerous studies including the Millennium ecosystem assessment, cites the following pressures on the environment as priorities for governments around the world: climate change, habitat change, wasteful use of nitrogen and phosphorus in fertilisers, over-exploitation of fisheries, forests and other resources, invasive species, unsafe drinking water and sanitation, lead exposure, urban air pollution and occupational exposure to particulate matter.
Agriculture, particularly meat and dairy products, accounts for 70% of global freshwater consumption, 38% of the total land use and 19% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, says the report, which has been launched to coincide with UN World Environment day on Saturday.
Last year the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation said that food production would have to increase globally by 70% by 2050 to feed the world's surging population. The panel says that efficiency gains in agriculture will be overwhelmed by the expected population growth.
Prof Hertwich, who is also the director of the industrial ecology programme at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, said that developing countries – where much of this population growth will take place – must not follow the western world's pattern of increasing consumption: "Developing countries should not follow our model. But it's up to us to develop the technologies in, say, renewable energy or irrigation methods."
Meat-eating societies are the main cause of world hunger because they feed a disproportionate percentage of the world's crops to 60 billion land animals annually killed by the meat, dairy and egg industries worldwide, and tens of billions of marine animals... instead of the 6.5 billion people on the planet.
One acre of land can yield 30,000 pounds of carrots, 40,000 pounds of potatoes or 50,000 pounds of tomatoes. However, one acre of land can yield only 250 pounds of meat.
Because depending on the animal in question, it takes from three to twenty pounds of vegetable protein to create just one pound of animal protein.