To Feed The Animals Or the People?
"If you had a choice, would you support an organisation that would feed starving people or raise awareness about the plight of animals?" a friend asked me the other day after our yoga class. It is a topic that is often raised - and often confused, so I completely understood his questioning and perhaps even the pondering of where we should put our energy. Is it the people or animals that are more important? Whose rights do we argue for? But what if they are interrelated? Directly. Another friend had recently suggested it is a good thing we are raising so many animals for food these days because it is combating feeding the world's 7.5 billion people. Unfortunately it is the opposite. It is this misunderstanding where it unravels.
Feeding the world - feeding the growing population of people - is one of the most significant issues we face as a global community. It is easy to be ignorant of this when we wander through the stocked supermarkets today, but not only are there food security concerns - there is also the environmental impact that will, and already is, effecting the way and how much food is grown. And this will be a growing concern, because without a thriving environment growing food that nourishes us becomes trickier and trickier.
And without food we die, and heart-breakingly there are currently millions suffering this fate today. Literally starving to death. The natural conclusion is to feel like the best we can do is raise more meat to feed more people, but sadly this is not the reality.
As it stands today we currently have enough food to feed the world - enough to feed 10 billion people is ALREADY available.
But since we are raising 70 BILLION animals in farms and factory farms (80%) every year, these animals also need to be fed. You may think raising more meat will help combat the problem - unfortunately raring more animals for food is actually contributing to world hunger and will continue to do so at a more detrimental effect into the future. This is because, feeding animals requires a huge amount of food. Grains and legumes that could otherwise be fed to humans.
The number is as high as over 50% of all grains world wide grown is fed to animals. 50% of wheat, 90% of soy, 80% of corn and more than 90% of all barley - all goes to feeding the animals.
And the conversion rate of this "animal feed" to meat output is shocking.
1.5 acres can produce 37,000 pounds of plant-based food.
1.5 acres can produce 375 pounds of beef.
To put it in perspective, every day humans consume 21 billion pounds of food and 5.2 billion gallons of water. Cows consume 135 billion pounds of food and 45 gallons of water.
So we are using up precious fresh water, land and energy on growing food that could otherwise go to feeding more people wayyyyy more efficiently. We're literally taking high-quality, nutrient-rich foods that people can eat and feeding them to our farm animals. And the really really sad thing is, more and more we are doing it in developing countries, because it is cheaper to buy land and grow crops in poverty stricken countries, yet then the food is shipped to the west to feed the animals, that we eat in the west, rather than feeding the people that are dying for food right there.
It's not that I think we should starve animals either - just to be clear, the reason we have to feed 70 billion of them a year is because we are breeding them and them killing them at such a fast rate.
So when my friend asked me whether we should focus on helping starving people or caring about animals in factory farms, my answer was BY making changes with the amount of meat we eat, we CAN have an impact on the starving people. And in unless we DO make a change, the issue is only going to get worse. Which is another reason why it is so important to educate ourselves about how are food is getting to our plate and the costs of our choices.
I also donate to Oxfam in crisis's - emergency relief support is a lifeline for those hungry obviously, but it won't fix the problem longterm. And I want to be part of the solution, not the problem...