Meat Gone Global

» September 17th, 2014

As conscientious carnivores go about the noble business of supporting local, small, nonindustrial, and humane animal farms, the international exchange of animal products proceeds with nary a pause. Exploring the underworld of global meat exchange tends to quash any hope for responsible alternatives to industrial animal production.  At the intersection of Neoliberalism and meatonomics is a vivid reminder that our trendy support of boutique animal farms has no bearing on the problem at large. The problem at large, really, could care less about your locally raised pork cheeks.

More often than not, Chinese demand drives the quest for flesh and all that its production requires. To wit, representatives from the English livestock industry are currently invading China to assess market potential for English sheep. The Chinese have more sheep than any nation in the world. Still, they can’t come close to meeting growing consumer demand. The English are happy to halt the reforestation of British uplands to help the Chinese meet their meat. In China, meat consumption has spiked from 4 kg per person in 1961 to 57 kg per person in 2011.  You can count on it: the English will do anything, including degrading their own landscape, to ensure that the Chinese don’t want for righteous lamb chops.

Another global commodity has brought together the Irish and the Vietnamese: pork. The precipitating event came when Vietnamese veterinary authorities opened the door for frozen pork from Ireland. Vietnam has long been identified by Irish officials as a “priority target”—I love how industry uses such verbiage– and the announcement of this deal led to the immediate opening of five Irish pig processing plants dedicated exclusively to supplying Vietnam. Jobs! Currently 80-90 percent of Vietnamese pork comes from backyard herds. That’s about to change. You’ll see it happen as Ireland gets greener.

Yet another example that killing sentient animals and destroying the environment fosters international bonds involves Denmark and Russia. The unifying ingredient here is salmon. Russia, which has banned salmon imports from much of the west, has turned to the Faroe Islands for its salmon stash. The Faroese, who were formerly banned from importing to Russia, are as happy as a fish in water: “We’re in the opposite situation from before Christmas,” said a Faroe Island official. “Before, everyone could sell to Russia except us [due to Russian bans on certain Faroese trawlers]. Now, only we can.” The Russians have also asked the Faroese to exploit their waters for mackerel and herring while they’re at it.

Meanwhile, the Amazon is getting more excited about this international group hug. Driven in particular by European and Chinese demand for cheap soy feed for their livestock, Brazil’s state of Mato Grosso is dedicating more and more forest land–and thus carbon, water, and nutrients–to animals confined in Europe and China. Such “resource flows”—yet another one of those whacked industry terms—come with costs. Said one team of researchers: ”Our estimated environmental footprints suggest potential regional impacts on climate, biodiversity, ecosystem services, and a possible incremental soil phosphorous saturation that could increase the risk of eutrophication in the long term.” Translation: bad.

And there’s nothing that your happy meat can do about it. All meat must be stigmatized. Not just industrial.

4 Responses to Meat Gone Global

  1. The British just signed a deal to export thousands of horses to China—live ones. They are not going to be used as show horses, assuredly. Canada sends live drafts to Japan. You should see these gentle giants packed into tiny crates and being loaded as freight. Anything to make a buck so people can have their horse flesh—and, as it turns out, pork, beef and chicken.

  2. Mountain says:

    “As conscientious [vegans] go about the noble business of supporting [farms without animals], the international exchange of animal products proceeds with nary a pause.”

    “And there’s nothing your happy meat[less] can do about it.”

    It’s well-established that many vegans cheat and eat animal products at times, just as many conscientious omnivores cheat and consume industrial meat at times. But when true to their cause, neither one participates in the international exchange of animal products. To try to smear conscientious omnivores with that, well… forget it, James; it’s non-sequitur.

    • Rhys Southan says:

      Right, I also have trouble seeing why this is specifically an argument against the futility of eating non-industrial meat. Doesn’t this show the futility of individual personal choice in general?

      • Mountain says:

        You say futility, I say diversity. With personal choice, we can be the change we wish to see in the world. We can’t, however, force everyone else in the world to be the change we wish to see in the world.

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