Monday, 5 January 2015

Oink Oink; I am taking over the world

What do you think the purpose of agriculture is ? To feed people, right ? Wrong ! The purpose of agriculture is to feed pigs. Very shortly more than half the crops grown in the world will be used to feed pigs. This was the astounding revelation I read in The Economist here.

The problem is  China.  The staple diet of the Chinese is not rice or wheat – it is pork.  Pork is eaten in astounding quantities, every day, every meal.  In India, governments fall over the price of onions, in China they will fall over the price of pork. So much so that the Consumer Price Index is jokingly referred to as the Consumer Pork Index !

The Economist article throws out mind boggling implications of this Chinese fixation with eating a pig. The Amazon rainforest  is being cleared in Brazil to grow soya to feed Chinese pigs. The Chinese are buying up land all over Africa and Latin America, not to feed their people , but to feed their pigs. One of the biggest source of water and soil pollution in China is pig waste. One fifth of the emissions produced in the world is from livestock and the biggest contributors to this are American cows and Chinese pigs, through their flatulence of all things. Pig farming has become so intense in China that they are like factories – pigs are born and live all their life in metal pens, they never see sunlight, they are all artificially bred, they are given antibiotics with every feed , they are fattened beyond their natural size and they are killed as soon as they become big. Because of the routine dosing of antibiotics, they are also one of the sources for the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

The Chinese government is so obsessed with pork prices that it appears to be having a “pig bank” to stabilize pork prices. This comprises both of pork and live animals. Presumably the live  animals form the porcine wing  of the Communist Party.  They also have to subsidise pork production – by an astounding $22bn in 2012 , it appears.

There is little chance of turning the Chinese into vegetarians. They don’t even have a word for vegetarianism in Mandarin – this blogger knows to his cost !!  Their gobbling up of pigs is only bound to increase. Hollywood should forget about movies such as The Zombie Apocalypse. Instead, they should try The Porcine Apocalypse !!


Vincy said...

Oh WoW Ramesh you started blogging again. so glad for it and missed you much in this space.

and the Procine apocalypse may pull the heartstrings of the Chinese folks (only), for the quantum of pork they consume.

I have seen chicken reared in Kerala the way you have explained about the pigs - on antibiotic injections and steroids that fatten them up. Apocalypse, in some form is on its way.

Vincy said...

Hey, I didnt miss the new look of your blog. very professional.

Ramesh said...

Thanks Vincy. Much honoured.

There are a billion plus of them in China plus a fair few spread all over the world. It actually can be a fairly big disaster if pork consumption keeps increasing like this.

Sriram Khé said...

Indeed, that was one crazy set of numbers in the Economist.

There was another one in the National Geographic:
"Just 55 percent of the world's crop calories are actually eaten directly by people. Another 36 percent is used for animal feed. And the remaining 9 percent goes toward biofuels and other industrial uses"
Imagine that! Or, to put it differently, we can practically sustain double the global human population if everybody were vegetarians--we produce that much already. I tell ya, the carnivorous environmentalist is one awful hypocrite ;)
The map that goes with the data is, thus, all the more impressive.
Get them all here:

Shachi said...

What a clever title to this post - and what a sad situation!

I wonder when/how meat eating went from being a luxury or delicacy to being consumed at every meal.

Kids here have no idea where their hot dogs, burgers, fish sticks and chicken tenders come from - it is so very important to educate them from an early age.

We visited a farm/sanctuary here recently, which saves animals from slaughter. The kids had a blast playing with the chicks, goats and cows. On our way back, the daughter asks me: "mumma, is the chicken that my friends eat come from the chicken I played with?" and at the end of our delightful+meaningful conversation..."I'm never going to eat chicken". Show them where it comes from and let them make their own choices!

Ramesh said...

Alas, vegetarians will always be a fringe group except in your "old country".

The natural order of things in nature is also that herbivores are in huge numbers and a much smaller number of carnivores prey on them. It is only humans who have overturned this completely by being the apex predator and multiplying to six billion or whatever.

That's a great link. Thanks.

Ramesh said...

Not just children. If even adults visited a farm or an abattoir, they are very likely to turn vegetarians. For us, vegetarians, the concept of meat eating seems a choice and we can see the tradeoffs clearly. But for hardened meat eating societies, like the Chinese, it is impossible to even comprehend staying away from meat.

Ravi Rajagopalan said...

In any other society this situation would have invited introspection. But my experience with China - albeit from 20 years ago - is that consumption trumps everything. There will be no change in behavior. THe only thing that will make a difference is if the Brazilians stop clearing forests to grow Soya, which will lead to a rise in prices. Given the kind of society Brazil is, this will not happen either.

Ramesh said...

So true,alas. But I'm not so sure that this would have lead to introspection in other societies. When it comes to food, everything else seems to be secondary. Imagine Americans wolfing down any less beef, which has roughly the same effect.

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