|Sustainable Facts about Land Usage|
|Here's a reason to wake up!!|
"The world must create five billions vegans in the next several decades, or triple its total farm output without using more land."
Dennis Avery, Director of the Centre for Global Food Issues . 
What's the problem?
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that around 840 million people are undernourished. That's roughly 14% of the human population. On average, around 25,000 people die every day from hunger-related causes. Each year 6 million children under the age of 5 die as a result of hunger and malnutrition - this is roughly equivalent to all the under-5s in France and Italy combined.  With the world's population expected to increase from 6 billion to 9 billion by 2050, one of the most urgent questions we now face is how we, as a species, will feed ourselves in the 21st century.
Land availability is one of the main constraints on food production. The earth has only a limited area of viable agricultural land, so how this land is used is central to our ability to feed the world. At the moment, the problem is not lack of food - it is widely agreed that enough food is produced worldwide to feed a global population of 8-10 billion people - but lack of availability. Poverty, powerlessness, war, corruption and greed all conspire to prevent equal access to food, and there are no simple solutions to the problem. However, Western lifestyles - and diet in particular - can play a large part in depriving the world's poor of much needed food.
"In this era of global abundance, why does the word continue to tolerate the daily hunger and deprivation of more than 800 million people?"
Jacques Diouf, Director-General, UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. 
The Livestock Connection
World livestock production exceeds 21 billion animals each year. The earth's livestock population is more then three and a half times its human population. 
In all, the raising of livestock takes up more than two-thirds of agricultural land, and one third of the total land area.  This is apparently justifiable because by eating the foods that humans can't digest and by processing these into meat, milk and eggs, farmed animals provide us with an extra, much-needed food source. Or so the livestock industry would like you to believe. In fact, livestock are increasingly being fed with grains and cereals that could have been directly consumed by humans or were grown on land that could have been used to grow food rather than feed. The developing world's undernourished millions are now in direct competition with the developed world's livestock - and they are losing.
In 1900 just over 10% of the total grain grown worldwide was fed to animals; by 1950 this figure had risen to over 20%; by the late 1990s it stood at around 45%. Over 60% of US grain is fed to livestock. 
This use of the world's grain harvest would be acceptable in terms of world food production if it were not for the fact that meat and dairy production is a notoriously inefficient use of energy. All animals use the energy they get from food to move around, keep warm and perform their day to day bodily functions. This means that only a percentage of the energy that farmed animals obtain from plant foods is converted into meat or dairy products. Estimates of efficiency levels vary, but in a recent study , Professor Vaclav Smil of the University of Manitoba, Canada, calculated that beef cattle raised on feedlots may convert as little as 2.5% of their gross feed energy into food for human consumption. Estimated conversion of protein was only a little more efficient, with less than 5% of the protein in feed being converted to edible animal protein. These figures are especially damning since the diet of cattle at the feedlot consists largely of human-edible grains.
Feedlot-raised beef is an extreme example, being the least feed-efficient animal product, but even the most efficient - milk - represents a waste of precious agricultural land. Prof Smil calculates that the most efficient dairy cows convert between 55 and 67% of their gross feed energy into milk food energy.
A vegan diet can meet calorie and protein needs from just 300 square metres using mainly potatoes. A more varied diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, grains and legumes would take about 700 square metres. Replacing a third of the calories in this diet with calories from milk and eggs would double the land requirements and a typical European omnivorous diet would require five times the amount of land required for a varied vegan diet.
In looking at land use for animal products this research makes the very favourable assumption that by-products of plant food production used in animal agriculture do not require any land. For example, soybean land is assigned 100% to human soy oil consumption with no land use attributed to the oil cakes used for meat and dairy production. This stacks the odds in favour of animal foods, so the figures in this paper are all the more compelling as to the higher land demands of animal farming.
Most of the land wasted on growing feed for livestock is in developing countries, where food is most scarce. Europe, for example, imports 70% of its protein for animal feed, causing a European Parliament report to state that 'Eurpoe can feed its people but not its [farm] animals.'  Friends of the Earth have calculated that the UK imported 4.1 million hectares of other people's land in 1996 .
"In Brazil alone, the equivalent of 5.6 million acres of land is used to grow soya beans for animals in Europe. These 'ghost acres' belie the so-called efficiency of hi-tech agriculture..." Tim Lang of the Centre for Food Policy. 
This land contributes to developing world malnutrition by driving impoverished populations to grow cash crops for animal feed, rather than food for themselves. Intensive monoculture crop production causes soils to suffer nutrient depletion and thus pushes economically vulnerable populations further away from sustainable agricultural systems. All so that the world's wealthy can indulge their unhealthy taste for animal flesh.
Put out to pasture
Although grain-dependent industrial agriculture is the fastest growing type of animal production, not all farmed animals are raised in this way. Much of the world's livestock is still raised on pasture. Worldwide, livestock use roughly 3.4 billion hectares of grazing land.
Proponents of animal agriculture point out that most pastureland is wholly unsuitable for growing grain to feed for humans. They argue that by converting grass, and other plants that are indigestible to humans, into energy and protein for human consumption, livestock provide a valuable addition to our food resources. The reality is that land currently used to graze cattle and other ruminants is almost invariably suitable for growing trees - such a use would not only provide a good source of land-efficient, health-giving fruit and nuts, but would also have many environmental benefits.
Quite simply, we do not have enough land to feed everyone on an animal-based diet. So while 840 million people do not have enough food to live normal lives, we continue to waste two-thirds of agricultural land by obtaining only a small fraction of its potential calorific value.
Obviously access to food is an extremely complex issue and there are no easy answers. However, the fact remains that the world's population is increasing and viable agricultural land is diminishing. If we are to avoid future global food scarcity we must find sustainable ways of using our natural resource base. Industrial livestock production is unsustainable and unjustifiable.
1. D. T. Avery, 'Intensive Farming and Biotechnology: Saving People and Wildlife in the 21st Century,' The Meat Business, G. Tansey & J. D'Silva (eds) Earthscan Publications, 1999
2. FAO, 'The State of Food Insecurity in the World'2002
4. FAO, FAOSTAT Agricultural Data 2002 www.fao.org
5. C. de Haan, H. Steinfeld & H. Blackburn, 'Livestock and the Environment: Finding a Balance' FAO, USAID, World Bank, 1998
6. Prof. V. Smil, 'Rationalizing Animal Food Production,' in Feeding the World: A Challenge for the 21st Century, MIT Press, London, 2000.
8. P. W. Gerbens-Leenes et al. 'A method to determine land requirements relating to food consumption patterns,' Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 2002; 90:47-58
9. European Parliament, Europe's Deficit in Compound Feedingstuffs and Agenda 2000, Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development Series, Working Document, AGRI-110, 1999. Cited in J. Turner, Factory Farming and the Environment, CIWF, 1999.
10. D. McLaren, S. Bullock, & N. Yousuf, Tomorrow's World, Friends of the Earth, 1998
11. T. Lang 'Towards a Sustainable Food Policy,' The Meat Business, G. Tansey & J. D'Silva (eds) Earthscan Publications, 1999
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