Abundant meat-eating in the U.S. and other western nations is not only linked to health, animal welfare and global warming; it is also implicated in world hunger and water shortages.
One of the largest, most talked about, most controversial industries is the meat industry in all of its facets. From rumors of pink slime in fast food restaurants, to studies that diets high in meat and dairy could be as bad for your health as smoking, as well as the ever-present issue of animal welfare on factory farms, everyone (expert or no) seems to have an opinion on meat.
In recent years, a United Nations Environment Programme report states that, “a global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger.”
Beef, as well as other sources of animal protein, are an inefficient means of feeding the planet due to the large amounts of grain and fresh water livestock consume. By the time a cow is ready for slaughter it has consumed approximately 2,700 pounds of grain, but weighs less than half that much. This means that 157 million metric tons of vegetable protein is needed to create 28 million metric tons of animal protein. (Source). Many more populations could be fed if they ate the vegetable protein directly.
Additionally, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “livestock business is among the most damaging sectors to the earth’s increasingly scarce water resources,” with 70 percent of the world’s fresh water consumption going to animal agriculture in the meat and dairy industries. With many wealthy nations projected to go to war over water in the next century, this could mean devastation for impoverished nations already suffering from water scarcity.
In addition to all of this, it takes much more land to raise livestock than it does to raise grain and vegetables. And it takes fewer grains and vegetables to feed a human than it does a cow. This means that if wealthy nations around the world chose veggies over meat, they could raise twice as much food on half as much land, and increase foreign aid in the process.
The good news is, the number of vegans and vegetarians is on the rise, and has doubled in wealthy nations since 2009. And in modern western societies it is easier than ever to be vegan—with stores like Whole Foods and other retailers providing an abundance of vegan options and information for the average consumer. And organizations like Food For Life Global are striving to alleviate global hunger using only vegetarian foods.
The resources are out there. Advocates need only to research their choices, and learn to implement The Borgen Project’s directive to divert decisions away from meat in an effort to create more food for the world.
— Paige Frazier
Sources: The Borgen Project, The Guardian 1, The Guardian 2, USA Today, Global Issues, The New York Times, FAO Newsroom, Maywahnyc.com, Huffington Post 1, Huffington Post 2, Sustainable.org, Food for Life Global, Whole Foods