The Fellowship of Life
'Methodist Recorder' Debate
Farming Methods and World Hunger
The letter from Peter Hall illustrates the confusion in many people's minds about intensive farming and world hunger.
He considers that intensive animal rearing is necessary to feed the hungry people in the Third World. Not so, Mr Hall! Intensive livestock farming is a high capital cost, high technology, low labour system. Heaven forbid that we should export such methods to the Third World! They will result in those few farmers who can afford them getting richer, while the poor are no better off.
The one resource that the Third World has in abundance is cheap labour, so the first requirement of any farming system is high labour use – the opposite of this country. Also they are poor, so low capital cost is important. They need hoes, not tractors! Hoes can be made by the local blacksmith – tractors, usually have to be imported and are not only expensive to buy but expensive to run and there are few trained mechanics to repair them when they go wrong or spare parts available. The same applies to chicken battery systems with mechanical feeding.
Another important point is that we in the West use a large amount of animal protein (expensive to produce) in our diet. Most protein requirements can be met cheaply with vegetable protein from such plants as beans and peas. Even cereals provide a valuable amount of protein provided the whole grain is used.
Maize, mentioned by Mr Hall, has the lowest quality protein of any cereal. But, remember, it was introduced from America to Africa by Europeans. So much for exporting Western farming methods!
Pigs and poultry have similar dietary needs to humans. The food which was fed to those million chickens Mr Hall mentions would have supplied the needs of more humans than the chicken meat did. Only about 10 per cent of the food they ate actually produced edible protein – the rest produced bone, feathers and other waste and was used to provide energy for living eg muscle movement, keeping warm etc.
Of course, there are some areas of the world where it is not possible to grow arable crops but where grass is abundant as in mountain areas of Britain. There it makes sense to graze cattle, sheep or goats to convert grass, which man cannot eat, into meat.
What do you feed your cattle on in the winter when they are housed, Mr Hall? Silage and hay? Or cereals and imported oil-seed cake? Did you know that Nigeria exports ground-nuts while people in that country have an insufficient diet? We import them and use them for peanut snacks or, after oil extraction, feed the protein-rich remains to livestock.
Valerie Spouge (19/5/83)
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