Interesting article on food security, but which failed to reach the obvious conclusion. To be more “food secure” in an increasingly unstable world, the single most effective measure would for us to move to a vegetarian diet.
In “What Future Our Food” (see latest edition of Unite the Union’s magazine), agricultural scientist Dr Clutterbuck points out that leaving our food security to the market is not working, and we are becoming ever less self sufficient.
But Dr Clutterbuck’s article – and his website – misses that most fundamental thing we could do to achieve his laudable goals, that food production should be “Environmentally friendly, Socially just and Economically beneficial.” Go veggie!
Research shows that vegetarian diets are well suited to protect the environment, to reduce pollution, and to minimize global climate changes.
Livestock farming has a massively detrimental effect on the world and it is unnecessary. These are some of the most important factors.
1. Self sufficiency:
It may always be better to produce what you are good at and trade this with others, better at producing other foods. But as a nation we should always be able to meet at least our own people’s minimum food needs, which we cannot.
2. Food insecurity:
We are incredibly vulnerable. Remember the “food price spike” of 2008, where some food prices here rose by 40% or more? This was caused by our dependence upon imports. On the global markets, the 12 months to March 2008 saw the wheat price rise 130%, soya by 87% and rice jump by 74%.
3. Over-dependence on meat:
UK food insecurity is made worse by our over-dependence upon meat. 40% of all proteins used for animal feed in the UK are from soya, 90% of which is imported from Brazil and Argentina. If soya supplies from these two countries were restricted (and we were at war with one quite recently) it is hard to see how we could feed our farmed animals, and therefore ourselves.
4. Greenhouse gases:
Livestock farming produces more emissions than all the world’s transport systems.
5. Farming made better:
Stock-free farmers are not at the mercy of feed price fluctuations, animal disease ceases to be a problem. Stock-free farms can often be self sufficient, with better margins and not so reliant upon jumping through hoops for subsidies.
6. Water conservation:
It takes thousands of times the amount of water to produce a kilo of beef than to grow the same quantity of grains, vegetables or pulses.
7. Water quality:
Manure, antibiotics and hormones all find their way from livestock farms into our water system, while fish farms release chemicals and parasites that threaten wildlife.
8. Rainforest destruction:
Livestock production is responsible for 70% of Amazon deforestation.
9. Oceans destruction:
Industrial fishing practices are destroying fragile eco-systems and wiping out whole populations of sea creatures.
Over one third of the world’s cereals are used as animal feed (this could rise to 50% by 2050) which is incredibly inefficient. The UN Environment Programme calculated that the calories lost by feeding grain to livestock could feed more than 3.5 billion people.
11. Eat the good stuff:
Animals and fish consume at least half – sometimes up to 90% – of all the energy input to produce their own flesh. So we could produce massive amounts more food simply by taking cereals, vegetables and fruit straight to our own plates! And there is now such a range of vegetarian products – which can either mimic or replace meat – that all tastes can be served.
12. Wholesome ingredients:
Recent food scandals (with unknown and untraceable meats being found in things like burgers and ready meals) show that appearances can be deceptive; if ingredients are UK produced and vegetarian, then UK consumers need not fear the consequences of being duped.
13. Better animal welfare:
Factory and intensive farming and fishing are very poor for animal welfare. With increasing pressure to produce more for less, cruel practices increase. It almost goes with saying that it is far better for animals if they are not involved in meat production!
You can join in the discussion with Dr Clutterbuck at: https://sites.google.com/site/ukfoodsupply/services
Sources: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Unite Works magazine, Vegan society, Vegetarian Society, www.sustainablefood.com.