A chapter from Dr. Sahadeva Dasa’s book entitled as “Made for Each Other.”
There is plenty of food. It is just not reaching human stomachs. Of the 2.13bn tonnes consumed in 2008, only 1.01bn, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), reached people. The rest was used up by meat industry and biofuel industry.
The great food recession is sweeping the world faster than the credit crunch. The price of rice has risen by three-quarters in the past year, that of wheat by 130%. There are food crises in 37 countries. One hundred million people, according to the World Bank, could be pushed into deeper poverty by the high prices. But at 2.1 billion tonnes, last year’s global grain harvest broke all records. It beat the previous year’s by almost 5%. If hunger can strike now, what will happen if harvests decline?
While 100 million tonnes of food will be diverted this year to feed cars, 760 million tonnes will be snatched from the mouths of humans to feed animals. This could cover the global food deficit 14 times. If we care about hunger, we have to eat less meat.
Traditionally, most societies would eat meat only on special occasions unless ofcourse its an hunting, foraging tribe. Meat as staple diet is unknown in any traditional culture.
It is depressing to consider that throughout the last big famine in Ethiopia, that country was exporting desperately needed soy to ￼Europe to feed to farmed animals.
The same relationship held true throughout the famine in Somalia in the early 1990’s. The same relationship holds between Latin America and the United States today. As just one example, two-thirds of the agriculturally productive land in Central America is devoted to raising farmed animals, who are exported or eaten by the wealthy few in these countries.
The world’s cattle alone consume a quantity of food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people — more than the entire human population on Earth. Meanwhile, the UN says that 800 million people are suffering from “nutritional deficiency” (i.e. they’re starving).
Thus more than half of the world’s grain is consumed by animals that are later slaughtered for meat. Meat production is a very inefficient process. It takes 16 pounds of grain and soybeans to produce 1 pound of feedlot beef. If people were to subsist on grains and other vegetarian foods alone, this would put far less strain on the earth’s agricultural lands. About 20 vegetarians can be fed from the land it takes to feed 1 meat eater. During the process of converting grain to meat, 90% of the protein, 99% of the carbohydrates, and 100% of the dietary fiber are lost.
Eighty per cent of the corn raised in the United States is fed to livestock, as well as 95% of the oats. Altogether, 56% of all agricultural land in the United States is used for beef production. If all the soybeans and grain fed yearly to US livestock were set aside for human consumption, it would feed 1.3 billion people.
In his book “Proteins: Their Chemistry and Politics,” Dr. Aaron Altshul notes that, “In terms of calorie units per acre, a diet of grains, vegetables and beans will support twenty times more people than a diet of meat.
If the earth’s arable land were used primarily for the production of vegetarian foods, the planet could easily support a population of twenty billion and more.
In a report submitted to the United Nations World Food Conference (Rome, 1974), Rene Durmont, an agricultural economist at France’s National Agricultural Institute, made this judgement, “The over consumption of meat by the rich means hunger for the poor.”
Really, it comes down to this: generating meat for human consumption requires vast amounts of land that could be used to feed people, and is therefore witholding food from millions of starving people.
Aug 06, 2022
Brahmatirtha das Director, Bhaktivedanta Institute for Higher Studies