The annual German publication Meat Atlas highlights the environmental impacts of the meat and dairy industries across the globe. Published by the Heinrich-Böll Foundation, together with newspaper Le Monde Diplomatique, Friends of the Earth and Bund, the Meat Atlas provides “facts and figures about the animals we eat” and is available for free download here. Risk factors explored in the study include over fertilization of farm land, the rise of megafarms, the development of superbugs from widespread antibiotic use, water usage, local shops being replaced by massive supermarket chains, climate change, deforestation, food safety and other health concerns.
The current industrialized and corporate-led system is 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.
— Meat Atlas
While per capita consumption of meat in developed countries dwarfs that of those in poor ones, growing economies in the developing world, especially China and India, mean that global consumption will rise by 150 million tons by the mid 2000s. According to statistics from the Meat Atlas, 80% of the growth in meat production over the next 8 years will be in India and China.
The trend towards more meat in the diets of the developing world essentially mirrors other growth areas of consumption, such as fossil fuels, water and other resources as rapid economic growth results booming middle classes. It could be argued that the inhabitants of China and India deserve to enjoy what Western Europeans and Americans have enjoyed for years. But some habits should not be emulated. In fact the opposite should be happening and rich countries should be consuming less. However, the trend towards unregulated markets and unfair trading arrangements being pushed on a global scale is fostering deregulation and a focus on big, quick profits with little concern for the environment, social justice or human health, not to speak of animal welfare.
From Deutsche Welle:
Foundation president Barbara Unmüssig said highly-industrialized meat production in Asian nations aspiring to Western levels could bring side-effects such as food contamination scandals and misuse of antibiotics and hormones in livestock. Unmüssig said the decoupling of grazing animals from pasture through industrialized mass production was leading to “ruinous” economics and fatal consequences for small subsistence farming families.
At present the average inhabitant of the US eats over 165 pounds (75 kg) each year, compared with 132 pounds (60kg) in Germany, 84 pounds (38 kg) in China and under 44 pounds (20 kg) in Africa. Partly because chicken is eaten by many people with a religious prohibition of pork or beef, industrialized poultry production is rising faster and changing more quickly than any other segment of the global livestock industry. Home to 60% of the world’s people, Asia already consumes 40% of its chickens, according to the Poultry Site. In terms of individual beings, chicken slaughter absolutely dwarfs other livestock deaths: compare 58 billion chicken deaths per year compared to 320 million cows and buffalo combined.
The Meat Atlas itself is meant to be a source of information, rather than a manifesto or ideological publication. Of course accurate information is necessary in order to make ethical lifestyle decisions as well as to inform political will. The Heinrich-Böll Foundation’s president eats meat, albeit in limited amounts and organic.
From BBC News:
Our aim is not to make anyone feel guilty. It’s not about preaching or moralising to people. What we eat is a private matter. But it’s important to remember that what we put on our plates has political consequences.