Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Horse meat scandal and the Chaco

20 February, 2013 - 12:26 -- John Burton
Bulldozer in the Chaco, Paraguay

What, you might well ask is the connection between the Chaco, and the horse meat scandal affecting the British food industry?

The answer is very simple: the demand for cheap beef. The insatiable demand for cheaper and cheaper food drives producers to cut corners, and it also drives deforestation.

As a proportion of total income, most of us now pay less for our food than at any time in history. And yet supermarkets are constantly telling us how cheap their food is, and how much cheaper it is than their competitors’.

Consequently animals are pumped full of growth hormones, and fed on protein rich foods, such as soya beans, to make them grow faster. This means that more and more land is needed simply to supply the feedstuff for cattle and chickens.

That combined with the demand for vegetable oils (palm oil and biofuels) is what drives deforestation. Habitats once considered too barren and unproductive for farming, such as the Dry Chaco, are now being bulldozed to create cattle pastures.

We now have carbon calculators to tell us how much carbon our travel is producing. Do we also need calculators to tell us the impacts of cheap meat?

The volume of hormones going into the environment, the acreage of forest being cleared, the amount of carbon generated throughout the entire food chain food... Just to satisfy a market for cheap food. It is all too depressing.


Submitted by Bob Burton on

Your last sentence sums it up. In the same way that the debate on the economy has the bottom line of individuals being most concerned about the price of fuel for their heating and driving, so the bottom line on the conservation agenda is the price of their food (providing there are enough animals and landscapes to enjoy while on holiday).

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