Who Should We Feed - Animals or People?
by Moses Seenarine, 12/19/17
Worldwide, two billion people live primarily on an animal-based diet, while double that sum, or 4 billion people, live primarily on a plant-based diet. In fact, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimated that calories lost from feeding cereals to animals could feed an extra 3.5 billion people.
Another report calculated that 4 billion people could be fed with the crops devoted to livestock. The single biggest intervention to free up calories would be to stop using grains for cow carcass production in the US. By far, the US, China, and Western Europe account for the bulk of the 'diet gap,' and corn is the main crop being diverted to animal feed.
By moderating diets from food animals, choosing less resource-demanding animal products, and maintaining non-feed systems, around 1.3 and 3.6 billion more people could fed. And ending consumer waste of animal calories could feed an additional 235 million people. The WHO estimated that the number of people fed in a year per hectare (2.5 acres) ranged from 22 individuals for potatoes and 19 for rice, to one and two persons, respectively for cow and sheep carcass. The agency added that the low energy conversion ratio from feed to carcass is a concern since the cereal grain being produced is diverted to livestock.
A Bangladeshi family living off rice, beans, vegetables and fruit may live on an acre of land or less. In sharp contrast, the average American, who consumes around 270 pounds of animal carcass a year, needs 20 times that. The current global average animal consumption is 100g (3.5 oz) per person per day, with about a ten-fold variation between high-consuming and low-consuming populations.
For most people in developing countries who obtain their protein from plants, eating animal flesh is a luxury. A kilogram (2.2 lb) of animal carcass can cost from $2 to $5 in the local markets, which is several days’ wages. A typical African eats only 20 kg (44 lb) of animal flesh a year, well below the world average. These findings suggest that over-consumption and dietary habits are of the essence for understanding resource use and GHG pollution, as opposed to expanding population being the primary driver as is popularly argued.
That is, population's importance is related to lifestyle expenditures, and specifically to the over-consumption class. A 2011 report concludes, “The mass consumption of animals is a primary reason why humans are hungry, fat, or sick and is a leading cause of the depletion and pollution of waterways, the degradation and deforestation of the land, the extinction of species, and the warming of the planet."
Excerpt from "Meat Climate Change: The 2nd Leading Cause of Global Warming," by Dr. Moses Seenarine.
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