Food-to-Flesh and the Global Food Crisis

The exploitation of other animals for food and other goods involves more than the human privilege that comes from the direct exploitation of other animals, it also come at the exploitation of the world's hungriest people. So the rise in global food prices is not just linked to the conversion of food crops like corn and soybeans into ethanol and biofuels. This food-to-fuel conversion follows an older system where food crops, also mainly corn and soybeans, are turned into flesh, eggs, and dairy. In part three of "The world food crisis and the capitalist market," Alex Lantier cites the following figures:

Rising living standards and more meat- and dairy-intensive diets in certain developing countries have increased demand for grain—not only for food, but particularly for feed. According to the International Feed Industry Federation, world use of grain in compound animal feeds passed from 290 Mt in 1975 to 537 Mt in 1994 and 626 Mt in 2005. The FAO forecasts a 60 percent growth in grain use for feed from 1996 to 2030, compared to 45 percent growth in grain use for food.

Compared to 1990 per capita levels, China in 2005 consumed 2.4 times as much meat, 3.0 times as much milk and 2.3 times as much fish. India consumed 1.2 times as much per capita in all categories in 2005 as in 1990. Brazil consumed 1.7 times more meat, 1.2 times as much milk, and 0.9 times as much fish per capita in 2005 as in 1990.

These increases are important in absolute as well as comparative terms. For instance, meat consumption in China in 2007 was 50 kg per person, versus 20 kg in 1980. By comparison, US per capita consumption in 2004 was 98 kg.

We should avoid blaming the Chinese and Indians for the global food crisis and remember that U.S. per capita meat consumption is about twice that of China. As The Times Of India reports, the US eats five times more than India per capita.

The instability caused by food-to-flesh has persisted for so long people fail to realize that this crisis even exists. Yet, since the mid-1940s this crisis has been a focus of the vegan movement. The co-founders of the movement made abolishing malnutrition and famine an explicit movement goal. If you consider that 626,000,000,000 kilograms of grain are being feed to other animals exploited for human privilege – hundreds of megatons that could otherwise go to feed people directly – it seems obvious that food-to-flesh privileges those who eat the products of other animals by exploiting the world's malnourished and starving population.

The food-to-fuel crisis compounds the preexisting food-to-flesh crisis, diverting even more of the world's food supply to the privileged. The shifting of food crops to ethanol and biofuel is harming the world's poor and oppressed more than it is those who drive the cars and consume other animals that is drives the rise in food prices (no pun intended). This is not to say that the less privileged people who drive and consume other animals are not going to feel a pinch as they try to hold on to these privileges. More can be said about the food-to-fuel side of the issue, but that's a post for another day.