But for the sake of some little mouthful of flesh we deprive a soul of the sun and light, and of that proportion of life and time it had been born into the world to enjoy. - Plutarch
Africa the world's second largest continent with a population of approximately one billion, is the world's poorest and most under developed continent. One–third of its population are malnourished; half live on $1 per day, and 80% live on less that $2 per day.
The causes of Africa's multiple problems are multifaceted and complex and include political, military and tribal conflicts, Global warming, corruption, spread of diseases (HIV/AIDS, Malaria), illiteracy, neocolonialism and resource exploitation by foreign countries.
Although the continent is rich in resources, its people are poor and suffering. One of the most acute causes of much suffering is hunger. Most Africans are farmers and are too poor to invest in land improvement, irrigation and fertilizers and are therefore unable to compete on world markets with farmers that receive government subsidies. Thus African farmers are extremely vulnerable to drought, flooding and political conflict.
One of the most under reported causes of hunger in Africa and in fact in the rest of the world is meat consumption. With increased prosperity, people are consuming more meat and dairy products each year. Global meat production is projected to more than double from 229 million tons in 1999/2001 to 465 million tons in 2050, while milk output is set to climb from 580 to 1043 million tons. The global livestock sector is growing faster than any other agricultural sub–sector. It provides livelihoods to about 1.3 billion people and contributes about 40 percent to global agricultural output. For poor farmers in developing countries, livestock are also a source of renewable energy for cartage and transportation as well as an essential source of organic fertilizer for their crops.
But such rapid growth exacts a steep environmental price. When emissions from land use and land use conversion are included, the livestock sector accounts for 9% of carbon dioxide emissions deriving from human–related activities, but produces 65% of human–related nitrous oxide, which has 296 times the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of carbon dioxide. Most of this comes from manure. It also accounts for respectively 37% of all human–induced methane (23 times as warming as carbon dioxide), which is largely produced by the digestive system of ruminants and 64% of ammonia which contributes significantly to acid rain.
Livestock now utilizes 30% of the earth's entire land surface. Most of this 30% is permanent pasture, but it also includes the 33% of total global arable land used to produce feed for livestock, The need for more pasture land is a major driver of deforestation, especially in Latin America where, for example, some 70 percent of former forests in the Amazon have been turned over to grazing.
At the same time herds cause wide–scale land degradation, with about 20 percent of pastures considered as degraded through overgrazing, compaction and erosion. This figure is even higher in the dry lands where inappropriate policies and inadequate livestock management contribute to advancing desertification. The livestock business is among the most damaging sectors to the earth's increasingly scarce water resources, contributing among other things to water pollution, and the degeneration of coral reefs. The major polluting agents are animal wastes, antibiotics and hormones, chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers and the pesticides used to spray feed crops. Widespread overgrazing disturbs water cycles, reducing replenishment of above and below ground water resources. Significant amounts of water are withdrawn for the production of feed.
Meat and dairy animals now account for about 20 percent of all terrestrial animal biomass. Livestock's presence in vast tracts of land and its demand for feed crops also contribute to biodiversity loss; 15 out of 24 important ecosystem services a re assessed as in decline, with livestock identified as a major culprit. Most of the world's crop production, which includes almost 40% of the grain produced, is fed to animals which then get slaughtered to be eaten by a relatively small number of humans who can afford meat.
Considering between 10 to 20 times more people can be fed on a plant based diet than on a meat based diet there is no reason for Africans to starve to death.
Another reasons to encourage Africans to switch to a plant based diet is, of course, health. On average, vegans live 6 to 10 years longer than meat eaters. Are 50% less likely to develop heart disease, have 40 percent of the cancer rate of met-eaters. Plus, meat-eaters are nine times more likely to be obese than vegans are. The consumption of meat, eggs, and dairy products has long been strongly linked to osteoporosis, Alzheimer's, asthma, and male impotence. Scientists also have found that vegans have stronger immune systems than their meat eating counterparts; this means they are less susceptible to everyday illnesses like the flu. Studies have shown that vegan kids grow taller and have higher IQs than their meat eating class mates, and they are at a reduced risk for heart disease, obesity, diabetes and other diseases in the long run. Even older people who switch to a vegan diet can prevent and even reverse many chronic ailments like hypertension and diabetes mellitus.
Last but not least the reason to avoid animal foods is the ethical consideration. All life forms have at least two primordial needs, the need to self preserve and the need to reproduce. Our relentless appetite for animal flesh has brought a lot of suffering for most animals of the world especially livestock. Factory farming, which is in its infancy in Africa but fully developed in the northern hemisphere, brings untold misery to farm animals. Sixty billion farm animals are slaughtered every year in the world which comes out to 23 million a day.
Becoming vegan is the single most important action that one can take to reduce suffering of animals and to decrease ones ecological foot print on our fragile planet.
IFA, for all the reasons already enumerated, supports and advocates veganism in Africa. Our task is challenging and the obstacles many, but IFA is determined to make a difference for both people and animals.
At the end of October of 2009, IFA participated in the 2nd West African Vegetarian Congress, and Anteneh Roba, M.D. was one of the speakers at this august meeting. IFA financially contributed to the conference, and the IFA team was able to distribute nearly 2,000 brochures advocating veganism to the attendees of the conference, as well as another 500 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia a few weeks later. Plans are underway to send more French-language brochures to different parts of Africa.
IFA has formed relationships with different vegan and vegetarian organizations across Africa, including the Ghana Vegetarian Society, the Vegan Student Association of Togo, and the Ethiopian Vegan Association. IFA periodically assists these organizations by sending them books on veganism, animal rights and dietary health. IFA also has plans to work with additional vegetarian societies in Africa in the future.
In mid-2010, with the support of IFA, the first-ever vegan organization—the Ethiopian Vegan Association—was formed. Soon after, on December 9, 2010, the association held its first conference in Addis Ababa. The event was sponsored by A Well-Fed-World and Vegfund, and supported by IFA. Attendees included members of the Ethiopian parliament and Environmental Protection Agency, environmentalists, representatives of various NGOs, and reporters from the Ethiopian news media. Speakers included Keith McHenry, co-founder of Food Not Bombs, and Anteneh Roba, M.D., co-founder and Executive Director of IFA. The conference included lively debates on the environmental consequences of intensive animal agriculture. A local English-language newspaper called The Reporter covered the unprecedented event and also interviewed Dr. Roba.
On the same day of the conference, the members of the Ethiopian Vegan Association launched their first-ever homeless feeding program in Addis Ababa with Keith McHenry from Food not Bombs and the support of IFA. Over 100 homeless people, including children, were fed organic vegan food.
IFA intends to work with vegan activists throughout Africa to bring the message of veganism to the African people—and we need your help to do that.
We invite you to help us spread veganism in Africa.
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