Day 19 of 21 Days for World Hunger, just two morello to go. Did you see that? Autocorrect chose the word “morello” for me. Virtual food donation. I’ll take it. Today I’m sharing what I believe could be one of the best solutions to world hunger, eating a plant-based diet.
Food Justice and Earthcentricity
On Day 1 of this journey, I wrote about our collective community and how humans are part of a whole – a beautifully connected whole. We’re one far-reaching, widespread, human community and our lifestyle choices impact the greater world and each other.
I define food justice as “each person’s right to clean water and food that is nutritious and sustainable to the person, her family, her community, and the environment. When there is food justice, farmers are supported to grow organic food for their families and their communities. Farmers are not indebted to food companies, chemical companies, or their government, because they are part of a functional, collective whole that believes prosperous families create healthy societies. Food justice perpetuates a peaceful, fulfilling, content, and collective existence among all peoples. Food justice comprises human rights and animal rights, taking into consideration that no living being deserves to be exploited and used for another’s gain. All have a right to life. Food justice leads to a thriving, better-educated population, a stronger workforce, absolute self-sufficiency, flourishing interdependence, deeper compassion, and healthy minds. When there is food justice, people in developed countries have awareness that their choices impact less fortunate people across the globe, and their actions demonstrate this awareness in a forward-thinking way.”
When there is food justice, there is earthcentricity (I just made that up) or a focus on how our behaviors impact the world. I was once part of the carnivorous tribe, but now I happily run with the vegans for a number of reasons, well, 54 to be exact. You can read all about it here. I thrive with happiness and abundance on a plant-based diet, because I believe my food choices contribute in a proactive way to my health, my community and all inhabitants -humans and nonhumans – of the greater world.
Meat, the American Diet, and Carnism
Large-scale agriculture growing monocrops for the sake of feeding animals is preventing small-scale crop farmers from flourishing; is wreaking havoc on the earth (deforestation among other things), is not sustainable for current let alone future population predictions, is overfeeding those who can afford to buy meat, and is ultimately, albeit indirectly, taking food out of hungry mouths. And as a sidenote, if we Americans didn’t have socialized…I mean subsidized meat and dairy and actually had to pay the true cost of meat and dairy, many could not afford to consume animal flesh or animal by-products as often. The cost of a McDonald’s hamburger would be about three times more were we to pay the true cost. And this cost does not include all the other factors – human and animal suffering, health care costs, water consumption, environmental degradation, and world hunger. Interesting read on this Alternet article, The True Cost of a Cheap Meal.
Check out this illuminating documentary about carnism, humane meat, the human victims, the 3 N’s of justification, and how every choice we make, makes a difference: The Secret Reason We Eat Meat by Melanie Joy
Can Plants End World Hunger?
Twelve years ago, The Worldwatch Institute wrote, “In a world where one in every six people goes hungry every day, the politics of meat consumption are increasingly heated, since meat production is an inefficient use of grain – the grain is used more efficiently when consumed directly by humans. Continued growth in meat output is dependent on feeding grains to animals, creating competition for grain between affluent meat eaters and the poor.”
Not a whole lot has changed since The Worldwatch Institute wrote that report except instead of 1 out of every 6 people going hungry, it’s now one out of every nine.
In a 2013 article entitled Eight Ways to Solve World Hunger, the Guardian wrote Stop the Meat Fest.
“Meat production is a wasteful use of the planet’s limited resources – even today, 40% of grain crops are going to feed livestock and fish. It is most inefficient with intensive beef farming, where it has been shown that just 2.5% of the feed given to cattle emerges as calories for our consumption.
That is why the UN says agricultural production will have to rise 60% to feed the extra 2 billion mouths in 2050.”
In the FAO’s report, Livestock’s Long Shadow, the authors state:
“The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global. The findings of this report suggest that it should be a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution and loss of biodiversity.”
The report continues on with a note that this problem is so significant it should be addressed with urgency.
During an interview in 2010 with Dixie Mahy, former President current Vice President of the San Francisco Vegetarian Society, Mahy shared eye-opening insights about vegetarianism and reducing world hunger.
“It takes approximately 20 pounds of vegetable protein for every pound of beef; other animals require less vegetable protein per pound of animal protein but they are still utilizing plant protein that humans can eat directly and more efficiently.
These days most cattle are not grazing on grasses that humans don’t eat; they are fed grains, corn, and soy beans. Much of this vegetable protein could be given directly to humans.
Then there is the water issue. It takes anywhere from 2,500 to 5,000 gallons of water for each pound of beef. It definitely would make a difference to save water. With the increasing population and world wide droughts, we have less water available for our crops let alone for the wasteful meat production.
To satisfy our country’s appetite for meat, we import over 200 million pounds of beef from Central and South America alone. Every second per day, one football field of tropical rain-forest is destroyed for livestock. This would not be necessary if we utilized our crops to directly feed humans rather than indirectly through animals.
There are other undesirable repercussions from animal husbandry including disposing the waste products from raising animals, especially factory farming. Many of our diseases come from farm animals even though they are often found on plants, e-coli and salmonella for example. Then there is the issue of fossil fuels that everyone is concerned about. It takes 1.2 gallons of oil to make the fertilizer used for each bushel of corn. Before a cow is slaughtered, it will eat 25 pounds of corn a day; by the time it is slaughtered, it will weigh more than 1,200 pounds. In its lifetime, it will have consumed, in effect, 284 gallons of oil. In addition to the corn fertilizer, there is additional fossil fuel used in farming the corn and then transporting the corn to feedlots. Add to that the fossil fuel used to transport the cattle to slaughterhouses, to meat packing facilities, and then to grocery stores. The money saved on fuel by not raising cattle could go to paying for transporting food to people in need anywhere in the world.”
In an article Ethical arguments won’t end factory farming. Technology might., the journalist, Sean Illing, interviews Bruce Friedrich of The Good Food Institute about the future of food. The Good Food Institute’s aim is to “identify and promote market-based alternatives to our current food production system, which is dirty, inefficient, and unsustainable.” Their development of a clean meat, they claim, is the answer to the environmental problems caused by factory farming, issues with food-borne illnesses, the horrifying cruelty of animal slaughter, and how clean meat reserves food for humans that would otherwise be given to animals. All of these arguments based on Friedrich’s claims that our food system is at a breaking point:
- We cannot feed 9.5 billion people by 2050 sustainably with our current methods of animal agriculture.
- Food waste in animal production is about 40% of what is produced.
- Chicken requires nine calories (wheat or soy or other feed crop) to get one calorie back out.
- Pork requires 15 calories of feed in for one calorie back out.
- Beef requires 23 to 25 calories of feed in for one calorie back out.
- The use of corn and wheat for biofuels and to feed animals is taking food away from starving people.
- Rainforests are being destroyed to grow soy for animal feed and to graze animals.
- Reducing animal consumption is the only way to meet the Paris Agreement.
The article insinuates that people, in general, do not have the willpower to give up meat even if they want to do so. Do you agree with that statement or does that reasoning simply justify common rationalizations?
Curiously enough, it’s on rare occasion that I eat pretend meats. Outside of the occasional veggie burger, I enjoy the bounty that comes with whole foods. I think, in part, I’ve long gotten over the habit of food that resembles meat. Supposedly the best plant-based burger on the market is The Impossible Burger. Has anyone tried it? What are your favorite plant-based meat alternatives?
Benefits of Eating Plants
Besides contributing to solutions of environmental and social justice issues like world hunger, there are innumerable benefits to thriving on a plant-based diet. Fifty-seven of them are listed on the site NursingDegree.net. They include reduced saturated fats, increases in fiber and vitamins and minerals, and prevention of diseases ranging from osteoporosis to arthritis to various cancers.
My kick-butt animal activist friend, Nikki Botha, who has a vegan consultancy startup in Cape Town South Africa, shared this practical and invaluable article: The Exact Vegan Food to Literally Get Every Single Nutrient Your Body Will Ever Need.
According to Dixie Mahy, Meat Out Day is an excellent way to highlight the relationship between meat and world hunger. Since there is so much waste of the world’s resources in producing meat as opposed to raising plant foods, there is an obvious correlation between feeding more people on a plant based diet than on a meat based diet.
Strung out. That about sums it up. I’m driven to get through these next couple of days, but I’m also feeling like the two flames on either end of my candle are smoldering. I was going to write that I hit a wall today, but that’s not really what happened. The wall hit me. I saw it coming too. Surely it’s reflected in this post. I wonder if I’m making any sense. My noisy brain and clumsy fingers seem to be operating on completely different wavelengths. I suspect some tidying up is in order. I’m also feeling too lazy to open excel and calculate my food intake information, so it’s not included today. I’ll leave it at more or less the same as day 17 plus a cranberry juice. I waited all day for dinner (beans and rice), and by the time the excellent Mr. Pepper prepared it, I was no longer hunger. Odd. Two more days. Ups and downs.
“It seems disingenuous for the intellectual elite of the first world to dwell on the subject of too many babies being born in the second- and third-world nations while virtually ignoring the over-population of cattle and the realities of a food chain that robs the poor of sustenance to feed the rich a steady diet of grain-fed meat.”
“Between 50 and 75 percent of all water withdrawal from the largest aquifers in the world—the Ogallala, North China Plain, San Joaquin, and Columbia River Basin—can be attributed to livestock and the alfalfa, corn, sorghum, and other crops they eat, the water they drink, and the water used to generally service and slaughter them, as well as to the processing and packaging of animal products.”
~Dr. Richard Oppenlander, “Food Choice and Sustainability”
“I understand, of course, that grain-fed meat is not the cause of the world hunger problem-and eating some of it doesn’t directly take food out of the mouths of starving people-but it is, to me, a symbol and a symptom of the basic irrationality of a food system that’s divorced from human needs. Therefore, using less meat can be an important way to take responsibility. Making conscious choices about what we eat, based on what the earth can sustain and what our bodies need, can help remind us that our whole society must begin to balance sustainable production with human need.”
~ Frances Moore Lappé
“You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
To read other posts in this series, click click click the links. Please share your comments!
Day 1: The Food Justice Diet
Day 2: Alarming and Curious Statistics
Day 3: Finish Your Plate, There are Children Starving in Ethiopia
Day 4: The Nameless Hungry
Days 5-6: “Where Does She Get Her Protein??”
Day 7: One Small NGO Making a Big Impact in Ethiopia
Day 8: The Language of Hunger
Day 9: Plenty of Soy Solutions in Latin America
Days 10-11: Can Small-scale farming feed the world?
Day 12: Why Organic Farming?
Days 13-14: The Have and Have-Nots of Southeast Asia
Day 15: Have You Eaten Today?
Day 16: Hunger in America
Days 17 & 18: Hunger’s Dirty Little Secret
Day 19: Eat Plants
Day 20: Watch This, Read That
Day 21: The Power of Activism