World Hunger

Animal farming uses 83 percent of agricultural land but provides just 18 percent of calories. It is hugely inefficient and means not everyone on the planet can be fed.1

The world currently produces enough food to feed everyone on the planet – and many more people, too – and yet 815 million people still go to bed hungry.2 This is not just about poverty or war or natural disasters, all of which do impact on levels of hunger, of course. This is a systemic problem, and it comes down to one devastating ingredient: meat.

Currently, 34 percent of human-edible crops are fed to farmed animals,3 which – in terms of sustainability – would not be a problem if animals were efficient converters of feed to meat. But they are not. Quite simply, they eat more food than they give back. A lot more. For every 100 calories of grain we feed to farmed animals, we get back only about 40 calories of milk, 22 of eggs, 12 of chicken, or three of beef.Pigs eat 8.4kg of feed for each 1kg of meat they produce, while chickens need 3.4kg of feed to produce 1kg of meat.5

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization describes it like this: ‘When livestock are raised in intensive systems, they convert carbohydrate and protein that might otherwise be eaten directly by humans and use them to produce a smaller quantity of energy and protein.’6

It is incredibly wasteful, and no way to feed a growing population.

Wasting food like this is a serious humanitarian issue, and it has follow-on effects, too. When we waste food, we are wasting the precious resources that went into creating it: water, energy, and land.

When we talk about wasting water, we should remember that already 1.2 billion people live in areas of water scarcity and that figure is set to rise.7 When we talk about wasting energy, we should think about the role of fossils fuels in driving climate change. And when we talk about wasting land, we should consider the decimation of the Amazon and other ancient forests and woodlands in order to grow soy and other crops to feed farmed animals, including fish.8 And as populations worldwide shift to eating more meat, the more forests will be cut down.

We can halt this destruction now – and feed everyone on the planet – if we stop farming and eating animals.

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1 Damian Carrington, ‘Reducing meat and dairy is “single biggest way” to reduce your impact on Earth’, The Guardian, 31 May 2018 []

2 ‘World hunger again on the rise, driven by conflict and climate change, new UN report says’, World Health Organization, 15 Sept 2017 []

3 Berners-Lee, M., Kennelly, C., Watson, R. and Hewitt, C.N., 2018. Current global food production is sufficient to meet human nutritional needs in 2050 provided there is radical societal adaptation. Elem Sci Anth, 6(1), p.52. []

4 ‘Where will we find enough food for 9 billion?’ National Geographic []

5 John Vidal, ‘10 ways vegetarianism can help save the planet’, The Guardian, 18 Jul 2010 []

6 PJ Stevenson, ‘Industrial livestock production: the twin myths of efficiency and necessity’, Compassion in World Farming, []

7 ‘Water scarcity’, UN-Water []

8 Joseph Hincks, ‘The world is headed for a food security crisis. Here’s how we can avert it’, Time, 28 Mar 2018 []

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