A vegetarian diet can feed significantly more people than a meat-centered diet. The State of World Hunger, by Peter Uvin of the Brown University World Hunger Program, reported the populations potentially supported by the 1992 food supply on different diets:
vegetarian diet > 6.3 billion people
15% of calories
from animal products > 4.2 billion people
25% of calories
from animal products > 3.2 billion people
Source: FAO, 1993.
World hunger is a complicated problem, and becoming vegetarian in the U.S. will not necessarily alleviate it in the short-term. However, being vegetarian is a positive step towards saving resources that can be used to feed people in the future.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations coordinated a 1996 report entitled Livestock & the Environment. It lists the following problems created by growing feed for animals:
Livestock & the Environment lists the following problems created by manure:
The report states that fossil fuel energy is a major input of industrial eggs, milk, and animal flesh production, and that industrial systems (factory farms) are inefficient at converting this energy into food for humans.
Factory farms collect the animal wastes in large lagoons which sometimes spill into local waterways. Intensive pig farms have made the air unbreathable in many rural communities; some residents must wear masks while outdoors.6 Poultry and pig waste has contributed to the growth of pathogenic organisms in waterways which have poisoned humans and killed millions of fish.7 Animal Waste Pollution in America (released by Sen. Tom Harkin,12/97) reports that from 1995 to 1997, more than forty animal waste spills killed 10.6 million fish.
Industrial fishing is depleting marine food webs, seriously damaging ocean ecosystems.8 Each year approximately 80,000 dolphins and thousands of other marine mammals are snagged in fishing nets worldwide. Most die.9
Improper grazing has caused extensive environmental damage and rangeland degradation in the Western U.S.10 Topsoil erosion is a serious problem in the U.S. and to a large extent is caused by the monoculture of corn and soybeans for pig and chicken feed.10
USDA APHIS Wildlife Services and livestock producers kill wildlife to aid ranchers. Having eliminated wolves and grizzly bears,10 federal government hunters now kill about 100,000 coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions, feral hogs, and bison each year to prevent predation, grazing competition, and the spread of disease.11
6 Time, 30 November 1998.
7 Scientific American, August 1999.
8 Science, v279, 6 February 1998.
9 Science, 14 May 1999.
10 Peter Cheeke, textbook Contemporary Issues in Animal Agriculture (Interstate Publishers, 1999).
11 Washington Post, 4 November 1998.
The way that we breed animals for food is a threat to the planet. It pollutes our environment while consuming huge amounts of water, grain, petroleum, pesticides and drugs. The results are disastrous.
David Brubaker, PhD
Center for a Livable Future
Johns Hopkins University
Environmental News Network, 9/20/99
Humans who enslave, castrate, experiment on, and fillet other animals have had an understandable penchant for pretending animals do not feel pain. A sharp distinction between humans and "animals" is essential if we are to bend them to our will, make them work for us, wear them, eat them without any disquieting tinges of guilt or regret.
It is unseemly of us, who often behave so unfeelingly toward other animals, to contend that only humans can suffer. The behavior of other animals renders such pretensions specious. They are just too much like us.
Dr. Carl Sagan & Dr. Ann Druyan
Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, 1992
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