Factory farming spread in the Third World
Intensive farming and meat-eating increase in developing countries
WSPA, The World Society for the Protection of Animals, has produced a very interesting report on the effects of intensive farming in the developing countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America, entitled Industrial Animal Agriculture - the next global health crisis?.
There is a historical tendency in the animal rights movement to associate itself and to side with that part of the human population which is either poor or, rightly or wrongly, seen as "oppressed" and exploited by the others, ie the rich, the multi-nationals, capitalists, whites, men, the West, etc etc.
This derives from the movement's links with the left, links which have both a historical origin and result from some (and I stress the word some) political and ideological affinity.
From the time that Peter Singer wrote in 1975 that "all animals are equal" and compared animal liberation with the blacks struggle and women's liberation, through the various connections that the animal movement has always had with environmentalism and conservation activists (the odd thing here is that in fact their objectives and ours often collide, but old friends tend to forgive, don't they?), to today, animal rights people have positioned themselves and their ideas to the left end of the political spectrum.
That also means blaming the West for just about anything that happens in the world.
This can be seen in the way that meat-eating is often described as a Western type of thing, habit, and even invention.
Well, not an invention really, but something that the rest of the world is now trying to imitate in their desire to be Westernised, modern, economically successful and wealthy.
The problem is that this is an idealised picture of humanity: only the rich and Westerners are nasty, it's a recreation of Rousseau's "noble savage" theory.
In fact, it is not the West that holds the record of animal exploitation, at least in the intensive farming area.
It is ironic that just as the wealthy part of the world is starting to change its views about the healthiness of a nutrition high in animal products, the Third World is increasing animal farming at a rate that outweighs any reductions in the affluent countries.
It seems that, as soon as a poor country achieves a minimum level of prosperity, the first thing it does is to start breeding livestock with intensive methods.
The WSPA report mentioned above says:
"According to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Asia has the fastest-developing livestock sector, followed by Latin America and the Caribbean.2 According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa will be the world's leading producers of animal products by 2020 and much of that meat will be produced in industrial systems."
China, for example, is now the greatest factory farmer in the world, the country with the highest number of animals reared in the appalling conditions of intensive farming.
Interestingly, because of that China is now a sicker nation.
Parts of the Third World are starting to adopt Western nutrition patterns and dietary habits and, as a consequence, are going through an increase in the incidence of diseases linked to a richer diet.
China is a sobering illustration of that: meat consumption almost doubled throughout the country during the 1990s (source: U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization FAOSTAT Database), and this increase was particularly high among urban residents. This dietary shift is thought to be a major reason why non-infectious chronic diseases typically related to diet have become the most common cause of death in China, accounting for 85 percent of the country's annual total deaths, up from 53 percent in 1973, and leading to 3.7 million deaths a year, while at the same time acute infectious diseases are decreasing due to sanitation and water improvements and immunization programs.
In China before 1950 the three most common causes of death were tuberculosis, measles and senility, but in 1985 they were ischemic heart disease, malignant tumors and cerebrovascular disease.
Something similar, in reverse, happened in Europe during the Second World War. Whenever there was a shortage of food, many diet-related diseases, especially cancer and heart disease, decreased dramatically.