I shall give a few of the facts stated in the letter
- a third of the world's cereal harvest is fed to farm animals
- 90% of the world's soya beans are destined for factory-farmed animals
- for every 6kg of plant protein such as cereals fed to livestock, we get back, on average, only 1kg of meat or other livestock products
- for every 100 food calories of edible crops fed to livestock, we get back just 30 calories in meat and milk
- factory farms are food factories in reverse, they waste food rather than make it
Alistair McCaskill wrote a letter (10/11/2012) saying that if today's population stands at 7 billion and is forecast to rise to 9 billion by 2050, why would it take a doubling of food production to feed this extra 2 billion? Fred Pearce answered, and said we have to allow for rising demand - especially for meat.
Clive Semmens replied to this (01/12/12) by saying that it would be much better to try to reduce consumption - especially of meat - in the more affluent. That would be good for the global environment and for health too. He went on to say that he's not advocating vegetarianism, merely moderation.
This is exactly my point of view. It seems to me that trying to double global food production is just not going to work. It doesn't matter how much genetic modification you have, it's simply not going to happen. Making meat more expensive by taxing it and refusing to allow the opening of more factory farms will help enormously. We tax ice cream and put VAT on it because it is a luxury. We should recognize that meat is just as much a luxury.
That is not going to harm poor people. Firstly, the really poor are the 1 in 8 of the global population who go hungry. Secondly, if meat is twice as expensive but people eat half the amount it isn't going to cost them, and it won't affect them aversely in nutritional terms - just the opposite. The same is true of cheese and butter. Meat, cheese and butter are not and can never be cheap calories or cheap protein.
Maize, soya, wheat and anchovies are the cheap calories and protein. That's why they're fed to animals, after all. The almost billion people who go hungry would be quite happy to have extra calories and extra protein from whatever source. They have the knowledge of how to make these things taste wonderful, whether it's traditional Mexican cuisine or the traditional East Asian cusines. The more affluent of the world might desire burgers and other processed foods, but they should be encouraged to move away from the flavours of fat, sugar and salt. I know what I would rather eat, especially now that we know what goes into beefburgers, and I'm not just talking about horse meat.