Here’s why overpopulation and meat consumption are so intertwined
The two will always intersect somewhere at some point.
Overpopulation is decimating the planet. And so is meat consumption. They’re the two driving forces behind all the major issues that afflict humanity today. Anyone who can even think of suggesting that they are mutually exclusive has a lot of catching up to do with the times. With every additional consumer added to the planet, the chances that we have at solving these issues collectively are greatly diminished.
Whether it is food scarcity, climate change, deforestation, animal cruelty, or ocean garbage, each and every variable gets a push in the wrong direction with the birth of every additional child. Globally, nearly 350,000 babies are born each day. So one can really gauge the gravity of the situation from this number.
Culture and tradition
Meat eating is a deep-rooted tradition for many cultures in the world. These religious traditions are largely set in stone, and their adherents strongly believe that it is these very traditions which hold their communities together.
With so many cultures conjoined to meat eating as a tradition, asking them to change is akin to dislodging their identities. As their populations swell, so do their proponents, and ultimately you end up with massive swathes of their population denying the ill effects of meat on the planet just because it clashes with their identity. It now becomes incredibly hard to ask someone to detach from that once they’ve been sufficiently brainwashed.
Because no rational human being would do the most nasty, vile and monstrous things to sentient beings just because a religious cult or communal outfit asked them to do so. But that is another topic for another day.
Overpopulation and meat consumption
The world’s population is growing at a terrifying rate, and India is slated to overtake China and become the world’s most populous country by 2027. It becomes all the more imperative that the existing population shifts to a plant-based diet if we ever want to live harmoniously with nature. Since there is no scenario in the present standard of living that can even remotely be considered sustainable at the current rate of population growth, it is crucial that we take immediate measures to slow down, or even halt population growth altogether.
Simultaneously, we must make the transition to more sustainable ways of living, which do not leave behind a trail of destruction on the planet in the long term. We must also be careful not to leave out any important stakeholders in the process of transition, be they people animals or the planet itself.
A careful transition
We must not be hasty in our scramble towards environmentally friendly practices.
Many ardent fans and stakeholders of India’s dairy industry has foretold of the impending job losses that would hit the sector should the majority of the country move to plant-based drinks. In an article titled “Indian veganism is a thing, and taking off. Especially in the pandemic” in ‘The Print’, the following excerpt gives the reader an idea of just how deeply rooted dairy is in India:
“The meat and dairy industry are intricately linked, and act as a support system for the marginalised communities of India. These industries pay the daily wages of many poor Indians. The dairy industry alone employs 8.47 million people.”
We can neither afford to think or live like the Gen Xand Baby Boomer generations. In hindsight, it may appear that we did this to achieve self-sufficiency. But we live in a globalized economy today, and it would be in the best interest of any country to take advantage of the innovation produced by another. No matter how much we try, there will always be some aspect of our lives that is made possible only because of international trade and global cooperation.
Coming to this statement from the Business Line, which I’d like to tweak a bit, to stay relevant to the times:
But the dairy and meat industry have a bad track record when it comes to the treatment of animals, human beings, and the planet itself. And so it would be wise to not further perpetuate this madness, and using it as a blueprint for job creation and rural upliftment is a bad idea!
We can do better than this. We have to give rural India real solutions. Not paltry solutions with side effects! The dairy industry uses massive amounts of water and electricity, which can be utilized to quench the thirst of humans, instead of animals who are yet to be born.
After all, India is one of the top water stressed regions in the world. It wouldn’t be farfetched to say that the dairy industry, and by extension, the meat industry is a resource sucker, finishing off the most precious resources of the country, namely land and water. All while millions of Indians have no access to clean water, food or electricity. This study puts things into perspective:
“The consumption of animal products contributes to more than one-quarter of the water footprint of humanity. The water needed to produce feed is the major factor behind the water footprint of animal products. Reviewing feed composition and the origin of feed ingredients is essential to find ways to reduce the water footprint of meat and dairy.”
You can do some further reading on the animal cruelty aspect of meat production, and about how the entire industry thrives solely on the sexual exploitation of female non-human animals here.
There must be some middle ground, some intervening source of livelihood, that can act as a bridge between culture and sustainability in India and across the world. And it exists. It’s called Millets.
Millets are indigenous to many parts of the world. The most widely grown millet is pearl millet, which is an important crop in India and parts of Africa. Finger millet, proso millet, and foxtail millet are also important crop species.
You can read all about how millets can solve malnutrition and can also help in mitigation of climate change here. However, we must remember that millets are an Indian solution to the problem. And likewise, indigenous solutions must be found to the tackle the food security problem in other regions. What works in one place might not necessarily work in another.
But then again, veganism is fraught with its own set of issues. Using oxen to plough fields, exterminating rodents through cruel barbaric methods, and eliminating wildlife for straying into agricultural plantations are all part and parcel of modern day agriculture.
And it is for this very reason that we have to approach the population explosion problem with an unparalleled urgency. The daily 350,000 extra humans added to the planet all come with a varying set of needs, wants, comforts, and desires. While we grapple our way through finding the best form of existence that is kind on the planet, we must simultaneously reduce our population as well, lest our best efforts go in vain.
A few useful sites documenting the massive scale at which the planet is being destroyed by humanity are listed below. It includes not only statistics on population growth, but also details on resource utilization with day, month, and year wise comparison.