Thursday, 22 November 2012

World trends in consumption

Recently, a post appeared on Counting Animals blog demonstrating that per capita consumption of meat in the USA is declining. Also, it is argued that this is not just due to falling incomes — there is an underlying drop in the demand for meat. In terms of consumption, bovine meat is in long term decline, chicken meat appeared to reach a turning point in 2006, and pig meat is starting to fall from its long term level.

As animal advocates, we have to celebrate the good news, and this is undeniably positive.

However, patterns of consumption in other parts of the world — particularly in Asia and South America — are mostly running in the other direction. The magnitude of these trends are such that the overall worldwide trend is towards more animal consumption. After all, the five most populous countries not including the USA (Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and Pakistan) represent about 46% of the world's population.

The statistics for China are very illustrative. The plot below shows the changes in per capita daily animal consumption for China. The data was sourced from the UN Food & Agriculture Organization (faostat.fao.org). The numbers apparently represent carcass weight rather than retail weight.
Per capita consumption trends in China

The per capita consumption of pork in China surpassed that of the USA during the 90s and shows no clear sign of slowing down. The same is true for egg and fish (seafood) consumption. Chicken consumption per person is well below that of USA, however there is a clear increasing trend. When the size of the population is taken into account, this trend represents a huge increase in the number of animals slaughtered.

In an article widely cited by groups promoting mostly incremental animal welfare reforms, it has been claimed that raising awareness of animal welfare concerns has a small but statistically significant effect on demand for animal products. If that's the case, the message is not getting through to the developing & newly industrialised countries.

To me this affirms the need to grow a vegan movement – a committed group of people who say no to the exploitation and slaughter of animals.

When killing animals for food is widely thought to be morally acceptable, factory farming will continue to be the dominant form of production around the world. So-called "free range" will be a niche market for the relatively wealthy. As stated in this PBS video on the trend towards increased meat consumption in China: "boutique organic pigs for the elite, industrially raised pigs for masses.."

We have to demonstrate that there is something better to aspire to. We have to show that living a vegan life, consistent with principles of nonviolence, is easy and is also a healthy way to live. And we show that walking the walk on climate change and environmental conservation means eating a wholly plant-based diet.

We hope that the changes occurring in the USA are the beginnings of something huge.

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