Friday, February 12, 2010

World Food System Interconnectivity - Social Justice

The high rate of consumption of meat in developed nations not only results in the deaths of countless animals each year, it also harms humans, pushing them into poverty.

While the correlation between meat consumption and animal death/suffering is lucid, I think that correlation between the suffering of other humans is unquantifiable. If our society had greater exposure to the data correlating meat consumptions to deaths and suffering of humans there would be less consumption of meat. Didre Wicks explains "In terms of human consequences, it is clear that the high meat consumption within affluent countries has had an adverse impact on people in developing countries…These countries grow the cereals as cash crops for desperately needed foreign exchange) when they could instead grow crops for food to halt malnutrition among their own people (Spencer 1995, p. 341).” In A Sociology of Food and Nutrition: The Social Appetite (pg 292). This idea is explained further by “The more meat we eat, the fewer people we can feed. If everyone on Earth received 25 percent of his or her calories from animal products, only 3.2 billion people could be nourished.”

This is a process which is well understood through a World System Theory lenses. This theory argues that the market system creates an uneven exchange between the develop and undeveloped world. The devoted nations are taking raw materials, in this situation food and grains from the third world, leaving behind pollution and poverty. Twenty Lessons in Environmental Theory (pg 35). In return for the raw materials, these people are forced into poverty, struggling to produce enough food for themselves. Yes, there is monetary compensation for the goods, but there is no compensation for social costs, loss in quality of life, and loss of life itself .

Our world interconnected and food system is interconnected. The consumption of meat in America is able to deplete the food supply for people living in a different hemisphere.

1 comment:

  1. If the entire world turned vegan, would there be enough land to support humans AND all the surplus farm animals? What about coastal African tribes that cannot grow crops in the desert and instead have a heavy fish-based diet? They already rely on foreign aid to supply grain and rice. Or populations in the rocky and arid Middle East and Western China that also cannot grow enough crops and instead consume the very animals that they herd? If the entire world were to follow a vegan diet, we would be crippling these third-world populations by forcing them to rely solely on foreign aid for food.

    The current method of raising animals for meat in America is not working, but I don't believe the solution is a mandated vegan diet. Eat less meat (less frequently and smaller portions), eat responsibly-grown meat.

    If people are advocating veganism for moral reasons, I'll let them in on a little secret: even devout Buddhists in Western China eat meat. They do so because they cannot grow crops on the mountains where they live, so they eat the animals that naturally forage for grass there. The important thing is that they know where their food comes from and they don't view it simply as a slab of meat.