1. We're feeding food to animals who we then eatSomeone usually then responds with something like:
2. By the second law of thermodynamics this means we're wasting food
3. Therefore, if we stopped feeding food first to animals, there would be more food and we could feed the poor better
There is not a fixed quantity of food produced; if we stopped eating animals we would simply produce less food, and the poor would be as hungry as before.It is not immediately obvious who is correct. We need to know two things:
- Will food prices fall as a result of going vegetarian?
- Will this cause the poor to eat better?
The first question is easily answered. A fall in demand results in a fall in price (see picture: a decrease in demand from D1 to D2 results in a decrease in price from P1 to P2).
However, the mere fact that food is cheaper does not mean it is more available. Given that many poor people sell food as their major source of income, a decrease in food prices means a decrease in their wages. The question we now need to ask is: do wages decrease faster than food prices?
The answer is no:
Even though many rural households gain from higher food prices, the overall impact on poverty [of high food prices] remains negative.So going vegetarian will help decrease poverty.
1. Ivanic, M., and W. Martin. “Implications of higher global food prices for poverty in low-income countries.” Policy Research Working Paper 4594 (2008): 405-16.
Credits: picture is a modified version of this