If you want to feed the world, you need to produce as much food as you can as quickly as possible.
Factory farming’s the answer, right? Wrong!
The global hunger crisis continues. Climate change, drought, failing crops and rising grain prices are all conspiring to create one of the most severe global hunger crises the world has ever seen. Hunger is wreaking havoc on hundreds of millions of people around the world. The World Health Organisation lists hunger as the number one health risk worldwide, taking more lives than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. One in seven people will go to bed hungry tonight, which equates to around a billion people.
Why is world hunger such a huge, ongoing and growing problem? Whilst there’s enough food to go around, the problem is generally one of ineffective distribution. There are many different factors at play here but a major contributor to the ineffective distribution of food is factory farming.
Factory farming is responsible for rearing nearly 50 billion farm animals worldwide every year – around 70% of the total number of farm animals. These animals require a lot of grain but are fairly inefficient at converting this into meat and dairy; a third of the world’s cereals are being fed to livestock, but they provide only 16% of the world’s calories.
There’s a huge amount of media attention around biofuels and the fact that the development of low-carbon fuels is inadvertently diverting grain from those that need it most. But while a seventh of global grain harvests goes to ethanol, a third goes to farm animal feed.
Ending factory farming could be a huge part of the solution to global hunger. As would eating smaller amounts of higher-quality meat, particularly in the West (while a billion people go hungry every year, more than a billion Westerners are overweight or obese).
If global leaders want to find new ways of tackling hunger they should look at the ethics of how the world’s cereals are being used and stop prioritising factory farming and cars over people. We have a highly resource-intensive and wasteful food system and this needn’t be the case. We are producing enough food for everyone in the world, but it is unevenly distributed. Wealthy countries are over consuming meat at the expense of those who cannot afford to eat.
We have a choice. We can change things for the better by ensuring more cereal crops are fed directly to people and not to factory farmed livestock. On a personal level, eating less meat and dairy and avoiding factory farmed animal products will help to make more efficient use of the world’s precious resources.
Sources: World Food Program; The Independent