Most people in the West rarely ever experience real hunger. Food is so plentiful that only the poorest in society have to suffer and starve. Yet surprisingly, studies have shown that, on average, people in developing countries have lower instances of malnutrition than in the US where food is so available as to be over-consumed. Those with very little make the most of what they have, while American teenagers are malnourished due to over-indulgence of unhealthy fast food. 56.4% of Americans are overweight and 19.8% are categorized as obese. And 220 million Americans eat enough food to feed over one billion people in poorer countries, largely because of the high consumption of grain-fed livestock.
The Institute for Food and Development Policy reports that "Forty thousand children starve to death on this planet every day." That's one child every two seconds.
Famine is not caused by a world shortage of food, but the usual story of the rich keeping it all for themselves, and importing cash crops from starving developing countries. Think before you buy those bananas fresh from Africa, or be prepared to pay a decent Fair Trade.
Luton Friends of The Earth gave an interesting talk where they discussed the ridiculous state of the UK food industry:
Britain imports 240,000 tonnes of pork.
We export 195,000 tonnes of pork.
We import 125,000 tonnes of lamb.
We export 102,000 tonnes of lamb.
We import 126 million litres of milk.
We export 270 million litres of milk.
We import chicken from Thailand and Brazil.
We export chicken to Russia and South Africa.
Over 60% of UK apple orchards have been lost since 1970.
We now import 430,000 tonnes of apples, nearly half from outside the EU.
In the 1970s, United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim said that the food consumption of the rich Countries is the key cause of hunger around the world. The United Nations has recommended that the wealthy nations cut down on their meat consumption. According to Buckminster Fuller, there are enough resources at present to feed, clothe, house and educate every human being on the planet at American middle class standards. The Institute for Food and Development Policy has shown that there is no country in the world in which the people cannot feed themselves from their own resources.
People in developing countries are not starving because there is not enough food, it's just that we in the West import it from them for little cost, often to feed cattle to produce meat, which consumes much more resources. According to Department of Agriculture statistics, one acre of land can grow 20,000 pounds of potatoes, or, if used to grow cattlefeed, can produce less than 165 pounds of beef. Great swathes of forest are being destroyed to make way for grazing pasture for cattle, the meat from which is mostly exported to become hamburgers. Tragically, the soil, once deforested, tends to erode, and the once fertile ground becomes barren.
"If we pursue our habit of eating animals, and if our neighbour follows a similar path, will we need to go to war against our neighbour to secure greater pasturage, because ours will not be enough to sustain us, and our neighbour will have a similar need to wage war on us for the same reason?"
- Socrates 470-399 BC. (from Spiritual Vegan Roots by Colin Sky)
Until a few decades ago, all food was grown organically. It is only in recent years that fertilisers, pesticides and other chemicals have been added to our diet, quietly, with little information about the effects. Now we expect our fruit and vegetables bleached and polished. The population has been silently indoctrinated, as a new generation grows up with chemically enhanced food being the norm. Maybe a few generations later we'll realise the damage done to ourselves and the environment by mass-production techniques.
Don't believe the aggro-businessmen who proclaim Genetically Modified food as the solution to world hunger; they just want to expand their markets to exploit the poor even more.
The Food Programme on Radio 4 recently interviewed Dr Roberto Rubino, the President of Italy's National Association of Cheeses Under the Sky. His 20-year studies of local cheese famners of Basilicata in Southern Italy has shown that animals free to graze 'under the sky' produce a better quality milk than animals kept in industrial farming conditions. He is helping to put the region back on the food map, buoy up the local economy and improve the social standing of local farmers.
Eating meat tends to make you more aggressive, competitive, argumentative;
whereas plants will make you more passive, co-operative, negotiable.
Watching cows being slaughtered is a terrifying, violent experience, completely the opposite from seeing crops being harvested.
Vegetarians often face criticism from their meat-eating friends and relatives, who will go on the offensive claiming they know best. Of course they do. This makes adopting an alternative very difficult in a carnivorous household, as anyone deviating from the Status Quo will face continual criticism.
Maybe if less people on Earth were so argumentative and pig-headed, we'd have all some peace.
© copyright Malcolm Smith 2002-10-20 - last updated 2004-02-01 - links verified 2003-12-26 - this page is under construction