Posts

Showing posts from April, 2016

The Meat Investor Problem

This is the third in a three part series on poverty and veganism/animal rights that I’ve been writing.
My friend Scott Weathers wrote a post recently on “the poor meat eater problem,” wherein people who want to address global poverty but are anti-speciesist have to deal with the worry that their money will hurt a great number of animals. Today I want to turn to a different problem: for many people in developing countries, “purchasing” an animal is a form of investment when savings are difficult to come by and an important business decision. There’s also evidence that this helps boost people’s income, particularly when coupled with other goods (full disclosure: I work at Innovations for Poverty Action, which did the linked-to study). Nearly every survey of poverty in developing countries asks, in a disinterested way, whether somebody owns “livestock”, which type, and how much.
I struggle with this a lot. Part of it is probably good old-fashioned cognitive dissonance. Part of it is probab…

Where Are All These People Who Need to Eat Meat to Survive?

Image
This is the second of a three part series I’m writing on veganism and global poverty.
As an animal liberationist you often have people ask you: What do you say to people in developing countries who need meat to survive? Note that you only get this question in the U.S. and Europe. I've never gotten it here.
After getting this question all these times, I can't help but ask myself now: Where are all these people who need to eat meat to survive? Well, basically, they aren't.
I’ve probably lived in two of the more difficult developing countries to live in as a vegan. In the more rural parts of Peru, the places to eat are generally chicken joints, and in Ghana, meals are almost always a chicken or fish-based soup with some sort of carb ball (maize, grains, potato, yam). Both countries have absorbed the Abrahamic faiths that are particularly anti-animal in their typical manifestations.
Look around, though, and you can almost always find conscientious objectors. Further south in Ghana…

Climate Change is An Act of Theft

Image
West Africa is famous for its power outages. It's known as the dumsur here in Ghana, where power goes on and off and on and off erratically, and it can seriously disrupt business. Apparently it's not just a West African thing though because the New York Times has a very depressing piece today on how early climate change is making days without water - and therefore no hydroelectric power, which is the main source of energy - far more common.

That's in addition to the heat factor - having been in Ghana during the hottest month, I can't imagine it being even worse. Given how intermittent the water is already, having less water and less power is unthinkable.
This brought me back to what I think is the best writing on climate change I've seen, though at six years old it's a bit outdated. Back in 2010, The New Republic had a back and forth between its in house critic Jim Manzi, a very intelligent conservative pundit arguing that it's not worth tackling climate chan…

Will Veganism Solve World Hunger? Maybe, But Not in The Way We Think

Image
This is the first of a three part series I’m writing on global poverty and veganism. The second will talk about the question of people "eating meat to survive" and the third will discuss poverty alleviation programs that "invest" in animal property.
Global hunger has joined the list of reasons to go vegan. The reasoning seems to be this: in order to raise animals to kill and eat, we need to feed them. Because of the loss of energy when you go from one level of the food pyramid to the next, this involves a lot more food than it takes to directly feed humans. All of that food given to animals could instead be given to people starving around the world.
As I'll lay out at the end of the blog, there are some ways veganism (and animal liberation) might help with global hunger, but I don't think this direct reason holds up, at least for people in rich countries. 
The issue with global hunger is not that we don’t have enough food. It’s that we don’t have the food wher…

A Question I Wrestle With At Night

As someone who has long been interested in ways to address the massive global disparity in economic wellbeing – nearly 1 billion people live onless than $1.90 a day, adjusted for purchasing power – I’ve struggled with the question of how to do this while avoiding the historical tendency of Westerners to use alleged afflictions as an excuse to control others.
This tendency is a favorite jab by aid critics: the most notable critic of development aid, economist Bill Easterly, titled his most famous book The White Man’s Burden. It’s a worry worth thinking about, seeing as some forms of aid today, notably food aid,  sometimes do advantage rich countries at the expense of poor ones.
There are a number of facets to this problem. For now, I want to deal with the micro-level question of whether and how poverty (which is actually a pretty difficult term to define) is an affliction.
Now on some level questioning whether poverty is bad (and how bad) may sound silly, and the issue is not poverty exa…