It seems that we could be at the beginnings of yet another debate, this time regarding farming. In the time between this and my last letter, I have discovered some interesting facts.
Proponents of industrial farming have traditionally tried to scare the rest of society into believing that it is only by using large scale, industrial farming, that we have any hope of feeding the world. That simply isn’t true.
It is estimated that around 70% of the world’s food is grown by small scale farmers. These countries also generally do not have a western-style diet that is heavy in meat products, and so use much less land for their sustenance. A professor at Harvard University reckons that we could banish hunger with about an additional 40 million tonnes of food, and yet we feed 760 million tonnes to farm animals every year.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition states that a meat-eaters diet requires 17 times more land, 14 times more water, and 10 times more energy than a vegetarian’s. This is mainly because we use a large proportion, 68%, of the world’s agricultural land for growing crops to feed livestock. If we indeed have a shortage of farmland, it is due in no small part to this factor.
Right now, we already produce 1.5 times the amount of food needed to feed everyone on the planet. It just doesn’t get to everyone in need, due to a lack of infrastructure in the countries where famine is occurring. Also, it doesn’t help that we dispose 40% of the food that we produce because it doesn’t fit size and blemish criteria. In other words, having enough to eat is as much about politics and big business as it is about dietary choices.
While the world is starting to move toward a more vegan diet, it certainly won’t happen overnight, which will enable farmers to scale down livestock breeding as demand falls. What happens in populous Asia will also have a huge impact. Driven by the need to tackle climate change, rising obesity, and diabetes, in 2016, the Chinese government released new guidelines aimed at getting the nation’s 1.3 billion people to reduce their meat consumption by 50% by 2030.
Eating less meat is better for your health, as well as for the climate.