by Scott Hughes
“The 4.8 pounds of grain fed to cattle to produce one pound of beef for human beings represents a colossal waste of resources in a world still teeming with people who suffer from profound hunger and malnutrition.” –Jim Motavalli
When studying the factors involved in world hunger, many overlook meat production and consumption.
I turned into a vegan, mainly due to the efficiency of producing a vegan meal in comparison to a meat meal. In other words, with the same amount of resources one can produce more vegetarian/vegan meals than meaty meals.
When raising livestock for consumption, the meat-manufacturer must feed the animal continuously. For example, imagine all the food that a farmer feeds a pig before killing it, and compare that to the relatively small amount of food that actually comes from the dead pig. Instead of that mistreated pig, all those resources could have fed a human being, namely one of the 16,000 children who die every day from hunger.
Obviously, world hunger and the causes thereof extend far beyond inefficient food production. In fact, the world has enough food to feed everyone in the world, even with current inefficiency. Neither vegeratarianism nor veganism can solve this problem alone. Political and socioeconomic phenomena cause the world hunger and poverty epidemic, namely corrupt governments, non-meritocratic social inequality, and disrupted trade routes.
Nonetheless, I myself choose to become a vegan still, because I have a personal principle not to use more than my fair share. For example, if I was walking in a desert with a group of people and we stumbled upon some water, I would only take my fair share of that water.
I’m not a communist. I believe in free-trade and meritocracy. For example, if I worked twice as hard as you and grew twice as much fruit, than I deserve twice as much fruit. Similarly, if you worked twice as hard as I, and you grew twice as much fruit, then you deserve twice as much fruit. That’s fair.
In my opinion, you deserve the fruits of your labor. I deserve the fruits of my labor. Everyone deserves the fruits to their own respective labor.
However, when talking about land, we speak not of the fruits of our labor. Rather, we speak of natural resources. Just like the water upon which we may stumble in the desert, the land is NOT mine, yours, or anybody’s. None of us did anything to produce the land.
Tyrants have often used the claim of land-ownership to justify a non-meritocratic and authoritarian social structure. They claim they own the land to create an illusory economic system in which they have all the pseudo-wealth and power. This is completely historically verifiable. For example these tyrants would say they own the land and other resources, and then would make the land surfs and slaves work on the land to live on the land and eat the food. The so-called “land owner” didn’t work, because he made money with the land, but the so-called “land owner” ate the best food, slept in the best bed, and lived comfortably off the fruits of the workers’ labor. So, in reality, the so-called “land owner” is a thief and a slave owner, but he uses a fraudulent concept of land-ownership and a convoluted economic system to disguise his tyranny.
We see this continue today. The banks charge mortgages, so debtors can buy land. The land lords charge rent to the people on the land. So-called third-world countries are plagued by corruption, because a tiny upper-class claims ownership of the natural resources, namely oil. It’s the poor working class in these countries that do all the work, make and run the factories, and so on, but it’s the lazy tyrants who have all the pseudo-wealth and power, simply because they’ve unjustifiably claimed control of the natural resources. (And, when anyone questions this unjustifiable claim, they get sneered at and called a communist or socialist.)
This is a global problem, and a global issue. The aforementioned situations simply exemplify this form of theft through economic deception.
I feel as much a victim as a perpetrator. I say that because, to convince anyone of this issue and all of the related issues, they need to understand the personal effects of the flaws in the common way of thinking about natural resources. When people understand their own victimization, then they prepare to stop it. Only collective changes in mindsets and voluntary cooperation can change and prevent global issues such as these. I think Lila Watson meant this when she said:
“If you have come here to help me, then you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” -Lila Watson
Nonetheless, once we realize how these problems negatively affect and victimize us, we need to understand that we perpetuate these problems, if we wish to stop them. Obviously, if we perpetuate the problems, we can only stop the problems by ending our perpetuation of the problems.
Not only do we need to prevent and stop world hunger, poverty, and non-meritocratic inequality, but also we need to stop this misconception about natural resources and the results thereof.
When we buy expensive meat, we perpetuate the socioeconomic problems that both victimize us and contribute to world hunger and poverty. Many Westerners willingly pay more for the luxury of meat than for vegetarian alternatives. For that reason, for example, instead of selling 4.8 pounds of grain, the farmer feeds it to a cattle, which only produces one pound of beef per 4.8 pounds of grain. Often on credit, the Westerns pay for all the excess land, grain, water, and such resources, thus denying those with less money (or less Western credit) the opportunity to use those natural resources.
I’ve often been told that it takes 10 times as much land to feed a meat-eater, rather than a vegan. I’ve also been told that there is not enough land and resources in the world to feed everyone in the world a luxurious Western diet rich in meat.
That’s not my land; that’s not your land; that’s everyone’s land. I’m not going to take more than my fair share. I’d rather see those resources go to feeding the hungry.
That’s why I am a vegan. That’s also why I work with Food Not Bombs, which offers vegetarian food to hungry people.
I’m not telling anyone to become a vegan or vegetarian. I’m not judging anyone who is not a vegan or vegetarian. I’m not going to throw stones, because I live in a glass house. We all contribute to the flawed socioeconomic system. We all have our vices, and we all have our different opinions on what constitutes a vice. To solve the problems plaguing our world, we need to look introspectively at ourselves and find ways to change ourselves.
Here’s a great quote by an unknown monk along those lines:
“When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn�t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn�t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.
Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.”
With this blog post, I just want to explain why I became a vegan, and similarly how meat production relates to hunger and poverty. I leave with some facts:
“Americans spend $110 billion a year on meat-intensive fast food, and its growing popularity around the world may be a factor in dramatic increases in global meat consumption.” –Wikipeda
“One third of the world’s cereal harvest is fed to farm animals.” –International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
“More than 60% of the grains and soybeans raised in the U.S. are fed to animals, rather than to the world�s 840 million starving people. A mere 10% reduction in our meat consumption would free up the foodstuffs to feed the 24,000 people who die each day of hunger related causes.” –‘Veggies For Ecology’
“It takes 100,000 litres of water to produce 1 kilo of beef, but only 500 litres of water to produce 1 kilo of potatoes. Water scarcity is a major global problem.” –Compassion In World Farming
“The meat production wastes a lot of foodstuff. To produce one kilogram of meat, one needs 7 – 16 kg of grain or soya beans. When �transforming� grain into meat 90% of protein, 99% of carbohydrates and 100% of fibre are lost. Nevertheless, in Switzerland 57% of grain are being fed to animals for slaughter.” –The Swiss Union for Vegetarianism
“By eating 2 fewer meat dishes a week, the saving in grain would feed 225 million people every year.” –OneEarth.org
“36% of the worlds grain supply goes to feeing livestock and poultry.” – OneEarth.org
About The Author: Scott Hughes runs this blog in addition to The Hunger and Poverty Forums.
This is such a great post and is also one of the reasons I became a vegan. I am currently writing a paper on this topic and wondered if you had sources for the facts/figures you gave throughout the post? I would love to use some of them, but I need to cite them.
Good article and insightful thought, i only beg to differ slightly as a nutritionist l believe animal sourced foods offer a better nutritional strategy to the hungry in view of nutrient availability. they are however too expensive for the poor to afford and therefore our strategy should be availing animals and meat to the poor.
This was a great article, Scott. I’ve been recently thinking about switching to veganism, but had yet to come up with any concrete reason why until I read your post. The current hunger situation is indeed disgraceful, and just like the unknown monk that you cited, perhaps the best thing that I can do at the moment is just improve myself by becoming a vegan.
Thanks for all the great quotes and facts.
Thanks for a great quote!! I heard/read something like that too recently and have tried for at least 2 days a week to eat vegetarian dishes (as opposed to 0 days) ; )
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