Saturday, June 14, 2014

1442. Meat Atlas: Facts and Figures About Animals We Eat

By Magda Stoczkiewicz, Heinrich Böll Foundation, January 3, 2014

Food is a necessity, an art, an indulgence. But the global system for producing food is broken. While people in some parts of the world do not have enough to eat, others suffer from obesity. Millions of tonnes of food are wasted and thrown away, and perversely, crops are converted into biofuels to feed cars in Europe and the Americas.
At the same time, the natural world upon which we all depend is being damaged and destroyed. Ecological limits are being stretched as our demand for ever more resources takes precedence over the need to protect biodiversity and the Earth’s vital ecosystems. Forests and precious habitats are being cleared to make way for vast monocultures to supply industrialized countries. Farming is being intensified and wildlife wiped out at unprecedented rates.. 
Over the past 50 years, the global food system has become heavily dependent on cheap resources, chemical sprays and drugs. It is increasingly controlled by a handful of multinational corporations. The social impacts of this system are devastating: small-scale farmers worldwide are driven off their land, both obesity and food poverty are rife, and taxpayers and citi- zens are increasingly footing the bill for one food crisis after another. In this corporate-controlled food system, profits always come before people and planet.
Nothing epitomizes what is wrong with our food and farming more than the livestock sector and the quest for cheap and plentiful meat. Many of the world’s health pandemics in the past years have stemmed from factory farms. Livestock raising is one of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters, and is responsible for the use of huge amounts of the world’s grain and water. Worldwide, livestock are increasingly raised in cruel, cramped conditions, where animals spend their short lives under artificial light, pumped full of antibiotics and growth hormones, until the day they are slaughtered.
What is truly scandalous is that it doesn’t have to be like this. We produce enough calories in the world to feed everyone, even with an increasing global population. We know how to farm with- out destroying the environment and without imposing cruel conditions on the animals we breed, without corporate-owned and controlled seeds and chemicals. Sustainable farming exists in which farmers produce meat and dairy products from numerous smaller farms, grow their own crops to feed their animals, and allow animals to graze freely.
There are millions of local markets, and numerous small, innovative food companies. There is huge public support for sustainable farming: people are building an alternative global food system that is based on food sovereignty, and ensures everyone’s right to safe, nutritious, sustainable and culturally appropriate food.
There is increasing international recognition that the current industrialized and corporate-led system is unsustainable and doomed to fail. We need a radical overhaul of food and farming if we want to feed a growing world population without destroying the planet. This system needs to have food sovereignty at its heart.
This publication sheds light on the impacts of meat and dairy production, and aims to catalyse the debate over the need for better safer and more sustainable food and farming. We hope to inspire people to look at their own consumption, and politicians at all levels to take action to support those farmers, processors, retailers and networks who are working to achieve change.
As a species, we need to be smarter. It is time to acknowledge that the corporate-controlled food system is broken. It is time to curtail the power of those vested interests that want to keep it. Revolutionizing the way we produce and consume meat is just the start. We need to create a world where we use natural resources in a more efficient way. We need to ensure these resources are fairly distributed, and that everyone on this planet, both today and tomorrow, has access to safe, sufficient, sustainable and nutritious food.
Magda Stoczkiewicz
Director, Friends of the Earth Europe

Meat Atlas: Facts and Figures about Animals We Eat

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