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Animal Agriculture Wastes Finite Resources, According to New IME Report

Animal Agriculture Wastes Finite Resources, According to New IME Report

For animal rights advocates it’s helpful to have research that supplements the claim that non human animals not ours to use. Here’s another report to add to the arsenal that using animals as resources makes very little sense.

A new report from UK based Institution of Mechanical Engineers provides further evidence that using non human animals as resources makes no sense for future food security.

It is estimated that around 30-50% of all food produced is effectively wasted, according to the report from the IME. This wastage amounts to approximately two billion tonnes of food each year.

The report titled “Global Food: Waste Not, Want Not” was published in January 2013 to ensure future food security. The report identifies a number of inherently wasteful practices in global food systems and the different ways in which food is wasted in economically developed countries compared with economically developing countries. In economically developing countries, the majority of the food waste happens in the production and storage facility, usually due to lack of infrastructure. The report found that countries that are scaled as being developed in terms of economy are more likely to waste food at the consumer end.

While the infrastructure and consumer habit problems are key parts of this report, the IME report also calls for much better uses of finite resources. Animal agriculture wastes finite resources. Land is one of these resources:

“an increase in animal-based production will require greater land and resource requirement, as livestock farming demands extensive land use. One hectare of land can, for example, produce rice or potatoes for 19-22 people per annum. The same are will only produce enough lamb or beef for only one or two people.”

Animal agriculture is also cited as being wasteful of fresh water – one of the most valuable resources on the planet:

“there are large…uses of water that need to be tackled in a world of growing demand. This is particularly crucial in the case of meat production, where beef uses around 50 times more water than vegetables.”

Dr Colin Brown, engineering director of IME, underscored the severity of the water wastage issue:

“We already use twice as much water for our agriculture as we use for all of our other human uses and so if we carry on using more in this way, we are going to run out of what is essentially drinking water.”

Dr Brown went on:

“You can’t put a lot of salt water onto crops. It needs to be relatively good, pure water, and it is hugely wasteful. And unfortunately one of the realities is that the more meat that we eat, and meat is becoming more popular around the world as a food, the more water we have to put on for the same number of people.”

The IME report also cites animal agriculture as wasting energy, “about 3 calories of energy are needed to create 1 calorie of edible plant material, whereas grain-fed beef requires some 35 calories for every calorie of beef consumed.”

The report highlights many more aspects of wasteful production, unrelated to animal based foods – such as the energy-sucking production of fertilisers and pesticides. Wastefulness on the consumer end comes in the form of rejecting cosmetically ‘imperfect’ food and adhering to conservative use-by dates.

Despite pointing out the inherent wastefulness of animal based foods, the IME report does not make any recommendations to either minimise or eliminate animal products as a partial solution to wasting finite resources.

Although outside the scope of the report, it is important to note that using animals as resources themselves is in fundamental opposition to animal rights. The lives of each animal is brought into existence to be exploited. These are not lives that are valued in and of themselves. Animals are being treated as resources in current food production and that is antithetical to the idea that animals have rights.

It is important for the planet, people, and non human animals that animal advocates and environmentalists continue to point out that using animals as resources is not only morally problematic, but also makes no sense for future food security.

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