When Russia invaded Ukraine, some of the tragedies were immediate – loss of life, loss of community, loss of culture and enjoyment. Other tragedies were delayed, lacking momentum, but on a larger scale. They were global and war had to be waged to further uncover them.
While scientists and advocates have long urged consumers, governments and businesses to accelerate the shift to plant-based eating to improve human health, protect the planet and promote animal welfare, it has cracked down on global populations. Invaded Ukraine to direct the limelight. The industrial farming system and its failure to truly feed people.
As the conflict escalates, large parts of the world are being cut off from life-sustaining staples like wheat and corn exports from Ukraine and Russia, with the World Food Program warning that 2022 could be a “year of catastrophic hunger”. Millions of people are at risk of hunger in 38 countries with 44.
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While it’s convenient to blame the invasion as an anomaly in another dominant global food system, it’s a lie. The current system produces enough to feed over 10 billion people (the current world population is about 7.9 billion people). But many crops are grown around the world to feed animals, not humans, leaving the problem of world hunger.
Meat companies attribute their role to feeding people, but ranchers consumed about 61% of the world’s corn and 20% of the world’s wheat between 2016 and 2018. In addition, ranchers feed about 80% of the world’s soy to livestock. In the US alone, more than 50% of grain is fed to livestock rather than humans (the world’s cattle consume an amount of food equivalent to the calorie needs of 8.7 billion people – again more than the Earth’s human population).
Our global food system needs a transformation – a change that prioritizes crop production for humans, not animals.
The lost calories could theoretically feed an additional 3.5 billion people, rather than animals using crops directly for human food, according to calculations by the United Nations Environment Programme. It can mean the difference between life and death in many parts of the world, especially now. Meat provides humans with only about 17-30 calories for every 100 calories consumed by animals. And those calories aren’t typically consumed by the hungry, but by consumers in affluent countries like the United States and Australia.
Our global food system needs a transformation—a change that prioritizes crop production for humans, not animals, and a change in everyday consumer choices (eat more plants, eat less meat). It all boils down to creating more food for the planet, in a way that nourishes people equally and helps protect us all from the growing threat of climate change.
With all the terrible losses in Ukraine, maybe there is something to be gained from the tragedy?