This coming week I will be a discussant in a plenary session on "Global Health & Environment" at the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers in San Francisco. One question that the panel will be examining is: What is the most harmonious way for us to produce and consume food going forward? If you have read my book and/or followed this blog, you will immediately know the answer: eat less meat! In my view, the raising of animals for slaughter as food on the dinner table is one of the biggest threats to our ability to keep feeding a growing human population and a major threat to the environment at the same time. It is also a threat to human health, as I noted a few months ago.
We are already using all of the good agricultural land in the world to grow food, but the demand for food for animals who are raised to be killed for food is constantly pushing farmers into ever-more marginal land, and in many places this involves deforestation in order to create new farmland. And, of course, grazing animals produce a lot of methane gas that is bad for the atmosphere. And I haven't even mentioned the water necessary to grow feed for animals, much less humans.
So, who are the big meat eaters in the world? A report by the OECD shows that on a per capita basis, people in Argentina eat more beef and veal than anyone, followed by Uruguay and Brazil, with the US coming in 4th place. The Chinese consume the greatest amount of pork on a per person basis, followed by the residents of the EU (collectively), Korea, Vietnam, and then the U.S. Poultry is consumed by people in Israel at a higher rate than anywhere else, following by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. You can see, then, that the US, in particular, does not top any of the lists, but it is high on all of them--unlike any other country. This needs to change.
And if damage to the environment and your health is not enough of an incentive to cut back on meat, how about the new round of findings that animals are "people" too. They have emotions, senses of humor, and feel pain and fear. Meat on your table isn't just a piece of meat--it was someone's parent, child, or friend.
This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.
If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org