Promoting global veganism
According to a 2014 census conducted in India, roughly 28% of its population over the age of 15 are vegetarian. This number drops slightly for the percentage of vegan people. In a country of over 1.3 billion, about 7% of which live below the poverty line, this number is relatively high. However, this may be due to the tradition of vegetarianism, and food being a status marker for the upper caste class. In India, as in much of the Western world, there is a growing stigma regarding eating meat. In reality, not everyone has the same access to vegetarian options. Additionally, there is no guarantee that going vegan provides more sustainable options. As the wealthy are increasingly eating less meat, problems with promoting global veganism have emerged.

Contradictions and Misconceptions

There are undoubtedly benefits to adopting vegan and vegetarian lifestyles. However, there are also alternative methods of living sustainably that may work better in impoverished areas. For example, animals that locals raise for their own consumption generate much less waste than animal products that undergo mass production.

The economic stability of a family or of an individual also factors into their ability to go plant-based. The New York Post has reported that plant milk, such as almond or oat milk, is almost double the price of cow’s milk. In 2019, prices averaged $4.29 per half-gallon of soy or almond milk compared to $2.17 per half-gallon of dairy milk. This kind of expense is often unsustainable for families who are economically unstable and exemplifies an unnecessarily high cost. With the priority of getting enough protein to sustain their lifestyles, a cheaper, readily available animal source may be the better option. The problem with promoting global veganism is that the wealthy are free to assume that their ability to eat no meat transfers to the rest of the world.

The Individual Situation

The EAT-Lancet Commission recently recommended a “universal diet for the health of humans and the planet.” This diet avoids processed foods and animal products and promotes whole foods and plants. However, it does not acknowledge that over a billion people globally cannot afford this diet. Only the top 25% of India’s and South Asia’s populations could afford to follow a diet of this kind. Promoting global veganism in this manner reveals a discrepancy in the economic and social ability of different classes and cultures to adopt a vegan lifestyle.

It is undoubtedly important to search for ways to live more sustainably and limit the consumption of mass-produced animal products. However, assuming that everyone has the same option to do so is unfortunately incorrect. Ultimately, as Feminism In India stated that “it is important for each one of us to look at ourselves and our own consumption habits, and work on them according to the resources available to us.”

Organizations at Work

An organization addressing this issue is A Well-Fed World. This nonprofit provides information on organizations seeking to end global hunger through plant-based alternatives to meat. Its Plants-4-Hunger program also provides support for hunger-based relief projects, specifically those helping children.

In Ethiopia, The International Fund For Africa (IFA) supplies vulnerable students with plant-based school meals and teaches children to grow their own food. ProVeg International has similar programs, supporting children at school by giving them plant-based lunches and encouraging local farmers by purchasing their produce. These organizations help spread awareness about a plant-based lifestyle and make this diet available and possible for the world’s poor.

A Better Way

Vegetarianism and veganism are both valid options for sustainability. However, one must be mindful that promoting global veganism does not stigmatize those who cannot afford these lifestyles. Instead, some alternative methods of sustainable living, such as locally-produced meat diets, are currently better options for the impoverished. In the meantime, there are organizations working to make plant-based options more available to the world’s poor.

– Grace Manning
Photo: Flickr

The Unexpected Connection Between Veganism and World Hunger
Understanding the connection between veganism and world hunger is paramount in joining the fight to alleviate hunger.

What is Veganism?

There are many possible definitions for this increasingly popular lifestyle. The Vegan Society summarizes the movement as more than a dietary shift. It believes that “Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practicable — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose. By extension, it promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives to benefit animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”

The lifestyle has been around for many years. The original usage of the word “vegetarian” was in the 1830s. It referred to someone who ate a diet that people would now consider a vegan diet. Furthermore, throughout human history, records have indicated various forms of vegan diets in different cultures. Often, people used vegan diets as a form of religious or spiritual practice.

Today, it is relatively easy to find vegans and vegan options. As of April 2019, the popular vegetarian and vegan food website/app HappyCow listed more than 24,000 vegan-friendly restaurants in the United States. This included nearly 1,500 fully vegan restaurants. Even meat-heavy fast-food chains like Burger King and Carl’s Jr. now carry vegan options.

Veganism carries many benefits, such as a lowered risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol levels. However, perhaps one less well-known topic is the connection between veganism and world hunger.

What is the Connection Between Veganism and World Hunger?

Globally, an estimated 820 million people experience hunger. Livestock farming requires the usage of large amounts of resources that could otherwise feed those who are hungry.

Animal feed uses around 36% of global crop-produced calories. Only 12% of those feed calories ultimately contribute to the human diet as animal products. Furthermore, only one calorie goes to human consumption for every ten calories fed to livestock, an inefficient ratio of about 10%.

If fewer crops went to livestock, society could more efficiently allocate crops for human consumption. A report written by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences posited that if American farmers converted all the land currently used to raise cattle, pigs and chickens to grow plants instead, they could sustain more than twice as many people as they currently do.

Similarly, researchers reported in 2018 that current crop production can feed the projected 9.7 billion global population in 2050, provided people switch to a plant-based diet and the global agricultural system changes.

Which Nonprofit Organizations Have Explored These Connections?

Multiple global nonprofit organizations combine outreach efforts with veganism and world hunger relief, providing healthy vegan food to communities in need. One such nonprofit is Food for Life, the world’s largest vegan food relief organization. The group has headquarters in Delaware, U.S.A. and Ljubljana, Slovenia, and comprises nearly 250 individual affiliate projects. Together, these initiatives can serve 2 million vegan meals daily.

Vedic values of spiritual hospitality guide the group. Its volunteers also exemplify core principles of welfare, hospitality, non-violence, health, education and animal advocacy. Since its founding in the 1970s, Food for Life’s global volunteers have delivered more than 7.3 billion full meals.

Another vegan group fighting global hunger is the U.K.-based Vegans Against World Hunger. Founded in 2019, this volunteer-run organization works to fund and increase awareness of projects which provide healthful vegan food to those suffering from hunger. In addition, Vegans Against World Hunger aims to educate the public about Veganism’s health and environmental benefits.

What Can People Do to Help?

It is essential for people to be mindful of the ethical impacts of their dietary choices. Whether one tries to go vegan or eats more vegan, it is integral to realize that people’s food choices affect the global food environment and communities. When individuals make these choices, they can help lessen the impact of world hunger. Together, it is possible to create a happier and healthier global food ecosystem by applying this knowledge daily.

– Nina Lehr
Photo: Flickr

Can Vegetarianism Help Feed the Hungry?
Vegetarianism is more than just a fad diet. Plant-based foods typically have high levels of nutrients and are cheaper and more accessible than other foods. Pivoting agricultural preferences to focus on plant-based foods has many provable benefits. But can vegetarianism help feed the hungry? The answer is yes.

Meat is Inefficient

A very high demand exists for meat currently. In the Amazon, approximately 60% of deforested land is pasture. Animals that farmers raise for consumption on this land eat various types of cereals, which provide very little nutritional return for humans. Meat is also calorically insufficient. As of 2013, 36% of the calories from crops worldwide go toward feeding animals, but only 12% of those calories contribute to the human diet as meat and other animal products. Therefore, land and resources going towards an inefficient nutrition source.

The demand for meat means there is less farmland for plant-based crops—crops that can feed more people at a lower cost. The way vegetarianism can feed the hungry is by freeing up resources for plant-based crops. Switching to plant-based foods could recover 70% of calories that frequently go toward animal protein.

Going Vegetarian is Globally Sustainable

It is no secret that animal diets also have severe environmental consequences. Greenhouse gases from livestock farming contribute to environmental damage that disproportionately affects impoverished areas. Moreover, it eats up money that could go toward improving living conditions for those living in poverty. In this way, a vegetarian diet can help the world’s hungry; it frees up resources that countries can instead allocate to distributing plant-based foods. Research at Oxford University has shown that widespread adoption of vegetarian diets can save trillions of dollars globally each year. After assessing different scenarios, researchers concluded that widespread veganism could avoid more than eight million deaths by the year 2050, and a vegetarian diet could save 7.3 million lives.

Not Ready? Go Flexitarian

One does not have to give up all animal products in order to reap the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle. The fact is that current agricultural methods induce environmental challenges that disrupt both the natural and man-made food chain. Simply reducing the number of animal products consumed can help. Going “flexitarian,” or plant-based except for special occasions, makes a difference too. Whether it is one vegan day a week or one meat-based meal a day, a flexitarian plan exists for everyone. In addition, the planning ahead this would require helps minimize food waste.

The health benefits of adopting a flexitarian diet include better cognitive function, lower body composition, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease and longer life expectancy. Plants comprise vitamins, fiber, antioxidants, minerals and polyphenols that work to protect the brain and body from various factors that accelerate aging, disease and mood disorders.

Giving up meats and dairy products may seem daunting. However, not only are animal products ineffective in feeding the world but such products consume more calories than they provide. In essence, it is true that vegetarianism can feed the hungry. Adopting vegetarian diets would not only help the world’s hungry but also make individuals healthier and the environment stronger.

– Maddey Bussmann
Photo: Flickr