In 2009, nearly 63 billion animals around the world who were bred for meat, milk or eggs, were slaughtered. Populations throughout the world are increasing their consumption of animal products, and the numbers are alarming. In the US for example, the average person will consume 2,227* animals within their lifetime, given current consumption trends and life expectancies. In China, where consumption of animal products used to be regarded as a luxury for special occasions, numbers are rising too. Today, the average person in China and the U.S. will each consume a total of 24,700 eggs within their lifetime.
The inputs required for such consumption are considerable. Of total cereal production, humans will consume 46%, and animals 35%. The water required for both drinking and feed production is another important component. For drinking water alone, it is estimated that the global livestock population requires over 16 cubic kilometers (nearly 4 cubic miles) of water each year. In terms of outputs, livestock are responsible for as much as 51% of greenhouse gas emissions. These numbers have caught the attention of the World Bank, which, in a recent blog by a senior climate change specialist argues that while most proposed solutions to global warming are “politically contentious, difficult to enforce and (require) years to fully implement,” some of the most effective solutions may simply involve lifestyle changes, such as reducing consumption of animal products.
*Thanks to Gerard Wedderburn-Bisshop, director of the World Preservation Foundation for providing us with his analysis of data acquired through FAOSTAT.