Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day 08 Post - Distribution of Resources and Your Diet (It Ain't Easy Being Green - Take 4)

That's right, looking at that banner you will notice that today is indeed Blog Action Day, with the theme being poverty. Bloggers all over the world have been encouraged to make a post today with the eradication of poverty. Since I sort of lack a central theme to this blog I had all sorts of options, ranging from my trip to Laos last year, a political rant, or research into the work done by some of my favourite athletes or politicians. However, at the end of the day, I decided that the best one for me would be to revisit a feature that I have not examined in a very long time here, "It Ain't Easy Being Green", the Kermit the Frog inspired posts as to why I am a vegan. And today, I will look at just how far veganism goes to lessening poverty around the world.

Before I go into this, I would like to establish that this case is based on a simple (but logical) assumption: One of the major root causes of poverty is an inequity of resources. To simplify, the poorest people in the world are the ones who have the least. If the world's ample resources where more evenly distributed, then less people would be living in poverty.

Here lies the connection that exists between veganism and reducing poverty. The livestock industry is a clear example of the unequitable distribution of resources taking place in our world, furthering the gap between rich and poor.

Before I get too into this, let me state three simple facts:

1. Animals (especially cows) eat a lot. There are several facts out there as to just how much, but the fact remains that animals need to eat food. There are reports as high as 20 lbs of grain needed to produce 1 point of beef, and as low as 2 pounds of grain to produce 1 pound of beef. With pigs being lower, and chickens lower still. In reality, it is probably on the lower side (since cows are not fed grains from birth). No matter how you calculate it, it is a cold hard fact that you need to put more food into an animal than you can get out of it.

2. Animals (again especially cows) need to drink a lot of water. Not only do they need to drink the water, but the crops harvested for them (see above) need to have water to grow. Several studies have been done on this, and the average findings show that it takes approximetly 16,726 litres to produce one pound of beef and 5,469 for pork or 3,609 for poultry. Compare this with 2,552 for rice and 2,517 for soybeans.

3. There are a finite amount of resources on this earth. Simple right? There are only 148,940,000 km² of land for all 6.5 billion people on earth to share with one another. That is only 0.023km² each, and that's not a heck of a lot. Of course, in reality it is far less than that, since much of that land is inhospitable, and a large amount needs to be left for plants and other animals.

So how do these three simple facts connect veganism with the eradication of poverty?

The answer is really quite logical. See, since there is only so much space on the earth we need to be using it as efficently as possible for everyone right? Now while this sounds all well and good in theory, the reality is that we really, really, are not doing this. The fact is that we are using some of the most arable land in the world, and planting food to feed our food, as opposed to using this land to feed our people.

(Tangent: The land use for any Organic/Free Range/Grain Fed meat product would be far more, since the animals are not as tightly packed-in together (in theory). Thus negating one of the main counter-points to the animal rights arguments for veganism)

Also, we are using far too much water to produce meat. According to the above statistics, we could produce five times the amount of soybeans as beef with the same amount of water. The inneficency is truly terrifying.

To further emphasise the point, world food prices have been rising drastically in recent years, further compounding the problems that the poorest people in the world are facing. While much of the blame has been palced on ethanol, that is oversimplifying a complex problem. Since 1980, China's average meat consumption has increased 30kg/person/year since 1980, and when you consider that there are 1.3 billion people in that country, that is a lot of people.

This obviously means less grain to feed people, and less land for crops to plant for human consumption. Coupled this with an increase in human population, and anyone with even a basic knowledge of economics can see that when you increase demand and lower supply the prices are going to go way up. While this means that Westerners have to tighten up their belts a bit, it means the difference between life and death to the worlds poorest people.

An estimated 800 million people are chronically hungry in our world. And the glutinous Western World is using the land and resources to fatten up animals for its own taste buds while so many people are dying. If we were able to even reduce the amount of meat that we eat, then we would be able to give (or sell) far more food to the truly needy in the world.

Even a reduction of meat consumption could make a huge difference for the people who need it the most. Please think about that the next time you sit down for dinner.

Until next time,


Take 1 - Pacifism
Take 2 - The Environment
Take 3 - Pesticides, and Poo, and Pus, Oh My!
Take 4 - Distribution of Resources


Gary Baumgarten said...

World Hunger Year co-founder Bill Ayers will be my guest on News Talk Online on at 5 PM New York time today to talk about World Food Day.

Please go to my blog at and click on the link to the show to talk to Ayers.


Anonymous said...

The fix to poverty is so easy, kill the poor people. Of course, then we would redefine poverty, and be back in this same mess all over again.

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