Why veganism will not solve world hunger and some other vegan myths dispelled.

Published by Bilby in the blog Bilby's blog. Views: 328

Why veganism will not solve world hunger and some other vegan myths dispelled.

The grain issue
One of the most enduring old chestnuts especially among young adults is that world hunger can be solved if western countries stopped eating meat and eat the grain that would otherwise be fed to livestock. The surplus of grain would then be given to undernourished people in the third world. Back in the mid 1970?s on the BBC1?s Nationwide program, Richard Stilgoe did a stint on the idea. What Richard Stilgoe performed was usually quite insightful, but in this particular case he had been completely misled. More recently in The Guardian, George Monbiot wrote an article Why Vegans Were Right All Along [1]. The impression he gives is that all livestock a fed a diet exclusively of grains. This is simply untrue. Free range sheep and cattle are grazed on pasture and if there is a lack of grass due to a lack of rain then supplementary feeds are brought in. Farmers call this ?A la?Carte ?as it is the expensive way feeding livestock. Real journalists succinctly explain the complexities of a situation, not tug at the heartstrings of the readership. It is true that cattle at feedlots are fed a diet exclusively of grains and indeed there are many valid objections to feedlots. Furthermore feedlots are completely unnecessary to production of quality meat. If people want to put an end to feedlots the answer is not go vegan but to eat free range meat, as food producers respond directly to consumer demand.
The Hutchinson Softback Encyclopedia also states under their entry for meat that,
"More than 40% of the world?s grain is now fed to animals."
What they have failed to mention is that not all grains are suitable for human consumption. Growing wheat as a bit of hit and miss business especially on dry land. If rain arrives too late in the season at harvest time the grains start to sprout and cannot be used for human consumption. To feed such grains to livestock is salvaging. Naturally a wheat farmer would prefer to produce a crop of human consumption grade wheat as it commands a higher price. As George Monbiot points out,
"Livestock slaughtered in the autumn, before the grass ran out, would be about to decay."
The use of supplementary animal feed in the cooler parts of the planet during the shortest days of winter therefore allows for a more consistent supply of meat than was previously the case.
The Hutchinson Softback Encyclopedia also goes on to state,
"Meat is wasteful in production (the same area of grazing land would produce far greater food value in cereal crops)."
A classic half-truth. While it is true that more food can be obtained from arable land than if it was used for livestock, such simplistic statements overlook the fact that only 10% of the world?s land is arable. 25% is grazing land.[2] These are average figures so some countries do have higher percentages of arable land such as the UK at 22% and the USA at 18%. For land to be used for growing annuals that is to say most vegetable and some fruits, even in areas of at least reasonable rainfall there has to be access to irrigation water if it fails to rain. Different plants have different growing requirements. Carrots and parsnips require sandy well drained soil. Tomatoes are highly frost sensitive. Potatoes require deep rich soil. While most of Europe and North America has a substantial layer of topsoil some other parts of the world such as Australia the layer of topsoil is patchy to say the least.

The water issue
?A 1998 study in Forbes magazine suggested that it takes 50,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of beef. David Pimentel of Cornell University believes the figure closer to 100,000 litres of water? [3]
The glaring flaw in such estimates is that most if not all this water was in the form of rain on pasture. To therefore suggest that for every 1Kg of beef that is not produced, even 50,000 litres is available for growing crops is being highly misleading. Arable land can of course be used for grazing. It is true in places like Australia where many cattle and sheep are raised on arid or semi-arid land sometimes they are finished off on irrigation pasture. This is a humane alternative to feedlots. What is clear is that vocal critics of meat production have absolutely no idea of what happens in agriculture. In any case farms are businesses; so why should farmers have to starve so others can eat? Western countries already have excess food growing capacity. The real reason for hunger in the world is poverty, not because people in the west eat meat. In third world countries higher mortality rates are counterbalanced with higher birth rates.
The health issue
It has been suggested that the consumption of animal fats is responsible for the rise in the first part of the twentieth century of myocardial infarction, the most common form of heart disease. Such a notion is twisted logic as data collected by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) shows the exact opposite, namely as the per capita consumption of traditional animal fats and margarine and new vegetable oils increased in sales, the rates of myocardial infarction started to noticeably increase. If anything eating traditional animal fats protects against myocardial infarction, the relationship is at the very least, inverse.[4] This further borne out with more recent research that showed the ill effects of consuming trans fat found in margarine, hardened vegetable fat and some other convenience foods. As traditional animal fats contain no dangerous trans fat, it is the sensible choice for your shopping list.
There are many other myths associated with veganism but one of the more daft ideas is,
"Meat is highly acidic". [5]
I have personally tested various meats and fish both raw and cooked using a pH probe. Most tests came out pH neutral. The most acidic meat I tested was a raw piece of rump steak that tested as pH 6.5.Fully charged battery acid could be accurately described as being ?highly acidic? but not raw rump steak. Dr Joe Esposito does a radio show somewhere on the eastern side of the USA. You can download his shows and listen to him preach FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt). Naturally there are no references on his website to verify some of his remarkable claims. Making things up achieves nothing.
What vegans fail to tell you is that beef and lamb contain a complete set of proteins and a good source of haem-iron. This is a form of iron that is far more easily utilised by the human body. A diet that includes beef and lamb will supply in a bio-available form zinc, magnesium, copper, potassium and many B vitamins including the elusive B12 .This vitamin cannot be found in a vegan diet and supplements are essential. My advice to undernourished vegans is to go out to a restaurant and order a beef or lamb casserole. Feel free to your close your eyes with pleasure when chewing on tender chunks of meat.
I have not even touched on the non-food uses for animals such as gelatine used in tyre manufacture or lanolin used on the hulls of international shipping to reduce drag by keeping the barnacles off and save millions of litres of fuel a year. As developed nations are technologically locked into the non food use of animals, even the most ardent vegan nazi has to draw the line somewhere.
References:
[1]. George Monbiot: Why vegans were right all along
[2] Encyclopaedia Britannica 2001
[3] Research | Compassion in World Farming
[4] http://www.westonaprice.org/mythstruths/mtnutrition.html
[5] http://www.drjoeesposito.com/Seven Deadly Sins.html
Assistance was also received from the NSW Department of Agriculture and various farmers.
Further reading:
The Great Fallacies of Vegetarianism
http://www.westonaprice.org/mythstruths/mtvegetarianism.html
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