“Poor countries sell their grain to the West while their own children starve in their arms. And we feed it to livestock. So we can eat a steak? Am I the only one who sees this as a crime? Every morsel of meat we eat is slapping the tear-stained face of a starving child.”

Philip Wollen, Australian philanthropist and former vice-president of Citibank, in his speech during the Wheeler Centre debate “Animals should be off the menu”, 2012

Producing meat and other animal products is arguably the surest way to waste not only food but also resources. Keeping animals to eat them and their products entails an incredible waste of water: while around one third of the world’s population suffers from a shortage of water, 70% of all the world’s fresh water is used in agriculture. When you consider that more than 15,000 litres of (virtual) water are consumed in the production of just one kilogram of beef, it is hardly surprising that a meat-free diet could halve current global water consumption. Furthermore, to produce one kilo of beef, about ten kilos of grain and/or soya are required for animal feed. This means that vast amounts of energy are needed in plant form in order to gain just a tiny amount of energy in animal form. A total of 70% of the earth’s agricultural land, which in itself makes up 30% of the earth’s total land mass, is given over to animal agriculture. This land is used either as grazing land or to cultivate crops for animal feed rather than to grow plants that could be used for direct human consumption. 

Without the massive grain and soya imports from developing countries, it would be impossible to meet Western consumers’ demand for animal products. So the consumption pattern here in the developed world robs around a billion people in poor countries of their staple foodstuffs.

“A child who dies from hunger is a murdered child.”
Jean Ziegler, sociologist and UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food

from 2000 to 2008, in 2005

Every five seconds, a child under ten starves to death. As parents raising our children in an affluent society, this is something we can hardly comprehend. The unhealthy, unethical and environmentally and socially damaging eating habits engaged in by the majority of people living in the industrialised world every year cost the lives of several millions of people – more than half of them children – in poor countries. Everybody, every day, and every time they eat can deliver a powerful statement against the conditions that permit these injustices. Making the switch to a diet that avoids products that have travelled a senseless and circuitous route via the animal industry, could free up enough plant food to feed the world’s ever-growing population over the long term. In short, a diet excluding animal products diet saves lives, each and every day.


Next to Ethics and morals

Of course, it is also – and indeed above all – a question of ethics/morals whether one consumes and lives in a manner that has such negative consequences on the environment, climate and other people. But since these issues have already been covered (mainly under “Environmental and climate protection” and “Social justice and global hunger”), “Ethics and morals” focuses exclusively on animal ethics.