Why are we fattening animals while humans starve?

Here’s a startling fact you may not know: even with the extreme weather caused by climate change, humans cultivate enough grain globally to feed twice as many people as there are on Earth today.

Why then, do 815 million people not have enough food to lead a basic, healthy life? That’s one in nine people who suffer from hunger every day – mostly within vulnerable, developing countries.

The answer is on our plates.

On average, over 2 billion tonnes of grain are produced worldwide each year. However, at least half of that grain is fed to animals exploited by the meat and dairy industries.

When we look more closely at certain types of grains (such as corn, oats, sorghum and barley), the figures are even more shocking – with an estimated 77% of these crops going towards animal feed.

Furthermore, ninety per cent of all soy grown in the world is fed to chickens, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and other animals kept in factory farmed conditions.

What’s most disturbing is the vast majority of these grains are cultivated in countries where children are literally starving to death.

In fact, 82% of the world’s starving children live in countries that produce grains intended for use as animal feed – and these same animals are inevitably killed to fill plates in Western society.

As philanthropist Philip Wollen famously stated during an address to the St James Ethics Centre: “Every morsel of meat we eat is slapping the tear-stained face of a starving child.”

The problem with beef production

Beef comprises scarcely 2% of the world’s calories, and yet approximately 60% of the world’s agricultural land is occupied by beef production.

Whilst all forms of meat involve an enormous cost to the environment (and a lethal toll for animals) the problem with beef production is particularly pronounced.

Beef production requires vast swathes of the Earth’s finite natural resources. Every day worldwide, cows in factory farms drink over 170 billion litres of water, and require 61 billion kilograms of feed!

In fact, it takes over 15 000 litres of water to produce just one kilogram of beef – in contrast, one kilogram of wheat requires just 1 500 litres (that’s ten times less water!)  

In a planet ravaged by the effects of climate change – where water and food security are real and ever-present pressures – why are we wasting precious natural resources on such unsustainable dietary habits?

Future food and water security

The United Nations describes food security as, “when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet dietary needs for a productive and healthy life.”

With more than 3.1 million children dying from hunger and malnutrition every year – it’s clear that humanity must change our priorities, in order to actually provide food and water security for all.

According to the UN Water For Life project: “Major changes in policy and management, across the entire agricultural production chain, are needed to ensure best use of available water resources in meeting growing demands for food…”

The complex poverty cycle

Animal agriculture is directly responsible for many factors resulting in human hunger, starvation and death – all hallmarks that form part of the poverty cycle.

Unfortunately, the solution isn’t as simple as offering grain intended for animals to those humans in need. Multi-billion-dollar corporate influences also prevent social change from happening quickly.

According to leading researcher Dr Richard Oppenlander, a very small group of multinational conglomerates maintains a monopoly over 65% of the world’s seeds and grains.

These same companies are also responsible for controlling 80% of all slaughtered, processed and packed animal products in the world – which presents clear vested interests.

As Dr Oppenlander explains, the global demand for meat is propagated by cultural, political and economic influences – which in turn supports the continued dominance of these large conglomerates.

“This then drives how global resources are being used (land, water, rainforests, oceans, atmosphere, biodiversity), how money is spent, and how policies are determined,” Dr Oppenlander describes.

Earth has enough for need – but not greed

“The earth can produce enough for everyone’s need. But not enough for everyone’s greed.”  – (Phillip Wollen, 2012)

When faced with these sobering facts, it can be hard to maintain an optimistic outlook – or to picture a world that is kinder to both humans and animals. However, every individual can make a positive difference, and you can choose to start today!

In fact, a paper recently published in the reputed journal Science has demonstrated that the single best step anyone can take to protect our future – is to adopt a vegan diet.

Researchers from Oxford University found that even the best-managed forms of animal agriculture can’t produce an equivalent amount of protein as the worst managed vegetable crop – without causing a much more detrimental environmental impact. 

Overall, researchers theorise that a worldwide plant-based diet would emit 49% less food-based greenhouse gas emissions, and would use 19% less water to meet our global food supply demands.

It’s clear that the globe’s current food supplies are fatally flawed, and we need a comprehensive shift in how humans eat (especially in the West).  

‘Go vegan to save the planet’ isn’t just a slogan – it’s a message backed by a plethora of peer-reviewed research and statistics – and is a choice that shows solidarity with those communities affected by hunger and poverty.

If you’re interested in learning more, download our easy to follow Vegan Starter Kit. You’ll find plenty of delicious meal plans, ideas and inspiration to start your plant-based journey today!


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