Global Food Security

Written evidence submitted by The Vegan Society

1 Summary


1.1 The Vegan Society

1.1.1 The Vegan Society seeks life and equity for all, and sustainable plant-based agriculture and food systems.

1.2 Key points

1.2.1 Well-planned, culturally appropriate vegan diets can demonstrably support healthy living at every age and life-stage.

1.2.2 Stock-free farming, which avoids all intentional animal inputs, can enable communities to secure their own food supply.

1.2.3 To achieve universal food security, we will need to seek and accept support, involvement and leadership from all groups in the Majority World, especially women farmers and child-headed families.

1.2.4 Governments and international systems need to provide political will, financial investment, strong legal support and accountability to ensure that people in vulnerable situations can secure their own food supply.

2 Evidence: The food security benefits of a move away from animal farming


2.1 The Vegan Society, plant-based nutrition and stock-free farming

2.1.1 The Vegan Society welcomes this opportunity to submit evidence to the International Development Select Committee's inquiry into Global Food Security. The Vegan Society works with partners to share the benefits of plant-based living for humans, non-human animals and the planet. We seek life and equity for all, and sustainable plant-based agriculture and food systems. The Vegan Society is a member of Bond, the UK body for non-governmental organisations working in international development.

2.1.2 Well-planned, culturally appropriate plant-based nutrition has been demonstrated to support healthy living at every age and life-stage [1] . It is the position of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that appropriate vegan diets can also help to prevent and treat chronic diseases including heart disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes [2] . Nutritious, tasty plant-based diets can also make efficient use of fertile land, fresh water and energy.

2.1.3 Stock-free agriculture covers all methods of farming free of the intentional use of non-human animals. Many stock-free farmers use agro-ecological approaches, viewing farms as part of the wider eco-system.

2.1.4 In the following sections, we address the issues as posed by the International Development Committee (using bold type for the Committee phrasing [1] ).

2.2 The success or otherwise of the global food system in guaranteeing food security and eliminating under-nutrition with particular reference to women, children and other vulnerable groups;

2.2.1 The global food system is clearly failing. Food security means everyone has a reliable supply of adequate, nutritious, safe, and culturally appropriate food.

2.2.2 Each individual has the strongest interest in their own food security. We each need to have the right resources if we are to be able to secure our own food supply. However, we must give access to fertile land for all, as a necessary condition to achieving food security and food supply resilience.

2.2.3 Fertile land, fresh water and energy are all much sought-after. Food production based on animal farming needs significantly more fertile land, fresh water and energy than plant-based agriculture and nutrition. Nutritious, tasty, culturally appropriate plant-based diets can have very wide appeal whilst making efficient use of these resources. The Vegan Society have estimated that, in the UK context, we can produce well-balanced, appealing plant-based diets using just one third the fertile land, fresh water and energy currently used to feed Britain [1] .

2.2.4 Human farming of non-human animals greatly increases competition for resources [1] .

2.2.5 Humans using crops first-hand is generally much more resource-efficient than using those resources second-hand via farmed non-human animals. For example, around a billion tonnes of grain is wasted each year by the global 'livestock' industry. Used first-hand by humans, this grain would be sufficient to meet the food energy needs of an extra 3.5 billion humans [1] .

2.2.6 Consuming crops second-hand, after feeding to non-human animals, is particularly an inefficient use of nitrogen (N) compared to first-hand consumption in crops as part of a healthy plant-based diet. As we choose to move to plant-based diets, we can significantly reduce demand for synthetic N fertilisers. This in turn helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and also, to reduce competition for scarce energy resources. The human population can be sustained from plant-based (legume) sources of protein (and nitrogen) for the foreseeable future [1] .

2.2.7 It is therefore clear that a move away from ‘animal-based’ farming will significantly reduce competition for land, water, energy and food. We need instead to move toward appropriate plant-based farming techniques such as field-scale arable, field and garden horticulture, and agro-forestry.

2.2.8 Whenever there is competition for resources, vulnerable groups - including women and children - will always lose out. We need to take concrete actions to reduce resource competition. If we genuinely want to end malnutrition, we need to quickly get fertile land, fresh water and energy resources into the effective control of people currently in vulnerable situations.

2.2.9 We also need to rapidly support and empower everyone, including women and children, to start practicing the skills of stock-free farming and plant-based nutrition.

2.2.10 These steps will enable people to free themselves from their vulnerable situations, and secure their own food supply.

2.2.11 To achieve these outcomes, existing farmers need financial and educational support during 2013, to adopt stock-free techniques, and to stop artificially breeding animals. People interested in becoming farmers and growers will also need access to fertile land, fresh water, tools, seeds, training and finance to enable them to start using stock-free techniques to grow their own food.

2.2.12 People suffering from poor nutrition themselves need support to start exploring market gardening to help with their own food security and their own livelihoods. They also need support in planning, securing and enjoying nutritionally complete plant-based diets. This work must complement effective food aid.

2.2.13 Those of us with power to help must genuinely challenge ourselves to support a secure food supply, and an end to malnutrition and hunger, for all.

2.2.14 We will need support, involvement and leadership from all groups in the Majority World, especially women farmers and child-headed families. International development charities such as HIPPO (Charity No 1075420) offer practical, successful examples such as the HIPPO vegetable growing projects in Kenya.

2.3 The implications of demographic trends, rising income and climate change on the global food system and on key indicators of food security and good nutrition;

2.3.1 We already grow food sufficient for the basic needs of more than 9 billion humans. Government calculations of future food needs must fully account for both current unfair distribution, and for current food waste. We must look at supply and demand, as well as production.

2.3.2 Grain sufficient for the energy needs of 3.5 billion humans is wasted by the global 'livestock' industry (around a billion tonnes each year) [1] .

2.3.3 One third of all food produced for human consumption is wasted (around 1.3 billion tonnes per year) in the supply chain [1] . Around one billion humans contribute to food waste by eating excess calories. More is lost as biofuels.

2.3.4 We need to focus on continuing and expanding the existing sustainable production of plant-based food. We need to reduce losses in the food supply chain. We need to ensure that sufficient, culturally appropriate plant-based food reaches the plates of those who need it most.

2.3.5 We need to encourage and support everyone to choose nutritious, varied diets, based on eating plant crops first-hand. Moving to plant-based diets (including for protein) has great potential for climate change reduction and mitigation [1] .

2.3.6 Human farming of non-human animals is a major source of greenhouse-gas emissions, particularly high warming potential gases such as methane [1] .

2.3.7 However, methane leaves the atmosphere around 10 times faster than carbon dioxide. Therefore, a rapid move away from animal farming, toward stock-free farming and well-planned plant-based diets, can significantly slow down greenhouse gas accumulation in the atmosphere [1] . This in turn will give us more time to take decisive, fair actions to deal with the climate and food security crises.

2.3.8 Sustainability, equity and food security are intimately interdependent challenges shared by the Minority and Majority World. Sustainability means, "Enough, for all, forever". [1]

2.3.9 The Minority World must make major cuts to our global natural resource use, using all ethical means to rapidly come within the well-demonstrated global environmental and resource limits. We must support fair distribution of resource use to the Majority World. This will support long-term social and economic stability.

2.4 The impact of global and local food shocks and how different countries and/or regions cope with food crises and the role of democracy in increasing food security;

2.4.1 Democratic access to fertile land, fresh water, tools and seed stocks, and the skills of stock-free farming and balanced plant-based diets, can enable almost all individuals and communities to secure their own food supply [1] .

2.4.2 The Market Garden Britain 2030 (MGB2030) report aims to set out concrete plans specific to the UK based upon the highly significant International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) recommendations [1] .

2.4.3 The MGB2030 author, Jenny Griggs uses value modes to throw new light on some very old & thorny problems. She describes three 'world views': Pioneers, Prospectors and Settlers (and their approximate prevalence in the British population [1] ).

2.4.4 These ‘world views’ are: Settlers (20%) tend to be socially conservative, preferring trusted channels and known behaviours. They tend to be wary of change, to follow rules, and to seek a lead from authority. Prospectors (40%) tend to focus on making their lives more physically comfortable. They tend to be high energy, fun seeking early adopters but not innovators. They tend to avoid social risks. Pioneers (40%) tend to be society’s 'scouts', testing, innovating and questioning new ideas. They tend to be attracted to ‘interesting issues’. They may have strong ethical beliefs, seeking to ‘make the world better place’, striving to be ‘better people’. They may also have a relaxed outlook, seeking to ‘do their own thing’. They tend to be at ease with change, and global in outlook.

2.4.5 Many suggested solutions to food insecurity suggested within mainstream political and business circles come from Prospector view-points. Prospectors are often unwilling to explore new avenues with only partial information.

2.4.6 Many suggested solutions to food insecurity based around social justice and agro-ecology come from Pioneer view-points. Pioneers are often comfortable acting from 'the precautionary principle', to address potential future risks.

2.4.7 Democratic solutions to food insecurity will involve people of all different world-views engaging in effective, appropriate collaborative work.

2.5 The role of the international system, including food and agriculture organisations and the G8 and G20, and ways in which collaboration could be improved;

2.5.1 The international systems need to provide political will, financial investment, strong legal support and accountability to ensure that people in vulnerable situations can secure their own food supply.

2.5.2 Governments, through the United Nations and other appropriate collaborative bodies, need to set clear, specific, quantified targets. They need to ensure the targets are straightforward to monitor, and that monitoring is both carried out and communicated to citizens.

2.5.3 The international system must explicitly address (in)equality, (un)sustainability and conflict.

2.5.4 Governments must commit to substantial, demonstrably sufficient, specific funding. They must move subsidies away from animal farming toward stock-free agriculture, to support sustainable plant-based diets.

2.5.5 Governments must include sustainable plant-based farming and diets in internationally agreed common visions and goals.

2.6 The best strategies for reducing risk from short term shocks and long term structural factors and for building resilience among the most vulnerable;

2.6.1 Animal farming has significant and particular vulnerabilities, for example, to rising costs to feed the animals, to water shortages, and to creating and experiencing disease outbreaks. Animal farming also creates vulnerability, by increasing competition for scarce land, water and energy resources.

2.6.2 Stock-free farms can be virtually self-reliant using techniques such as seed saving, water cycling, and building fertility with ‘green manures’ such as legumes. Regionally appropriate crops can minimise the need for imported water resources [1] .

2.6.3 The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) identified agro-forestry as ‘win-win’ land use, which can balance production-e.g. of food, fuel, fibre etc.-with protecting habitats, eco-systems and land amenity value. Combining trees with other perennial and annual crops can help conserve water, soil nutrients and biodiversity, and minimise the need for external inputs. Tree farming is therefore a powerful approach for building resilience into agricultural livelihoods, and helping people in vulnerable situations to secure their own food supply [1] .

2.6.4 Community-controlled plant agriculture can create resilience. The more farmers and communities are forced to rely upon outside resources, the more risk they face of their food security being undermined and their resilience being reduced.

2.7 The role of the following in increasing food security and the part that DfID should play in:

2.7.1 Competition for land use – including for biofuels, cash crops, livestock or agriculture and the impact of diet choices on food production capacity; DfID should take decisive action to put support into stock-free, plant-based agriculture. Communities need financial and training support to become skilled in growing and preparing culturally-appropriate food from plant ingredients. Consuming crops first-hand can significantly reduce competition for land, by making more efficient use of the food which we already produce.

2.7.2 Small holder agriculture and large scale farming; DfID should prioritise small stock-free farms as a powerful way to enable individuals, families and communities to secure their own food supply. Large-scale stock-free farming is a useful supplement to community-controlled small holdings.

2.7.3 External interventions - including land deals, corporate investment and donor interventions; DfID should invest in training and equipment to enable farmers to make the transition to plant-based farming. DfID should provide leadership, financial investment, and strong legal support to enable farmers and communities in the Majority World to maintain control and access to all the fertile land, fresh water, seed, energy and other resources which they need to secure their own food supply.

2.7.4 The private sector; DfID, governments, public institutions and the private sector should genuinely submit to being held responsible and accountable for ensuring that both ethics and natural limits are upheld. Their work must be transparent, and seen to be fair. Transparency and reporting, and robust accountability, will allow voters, customers, citizens and others to know the true impacts of their activities. DfID should ensure that outside private interests cannot take control or access to resources away from farmers and communities in the Majority World.

2.7.5 New technologies, including irrigation, and the dissemination and distribution of these, with special reference to small farmers and women; DfID should take a truly balanced position, and embrace a wide range of existing, proven stock-free techniques. These widely known methods include crop rotations, green manuring, agro-forestry, composting, encouraging natural predators and so on. Certified stock-free farmers such as Iain Tolhurst in South Oxfordshire are leading the way in commercially demonstrating and developing these methods. Iain Tolhurst is also delivering and developing training programmes for new stock-free farmers in the Majority World, in Europe and in the UK.

2.7.6 Global policy measures, including monitoring, food stocks, financial shock facilities, food, nutrition and agriculture initiatives; DfID should focus on supporting people in vulnerable situations to secure access to fertile land, and to access training in plant-based agriculture, nutrition and food preparation.

2.7.7 Food markets, trading, storage and distribution; DfID must put in place financial incentives and support choice editing for sustainable, equitable plant-based food supply.

2.7.8 The role of commodity funds and major global commodity companies. DfID should ensure that commodity funds and companies cannot take control of food and resources away from farmers and communities in the Majority World.

3 Recommendations


3.1 DfID should focus on supporting people in vulnerable situations to secure their own food supply. This can be achieved through protected access to fertile land for farmers and communities in the Majority World, and supporting their training in plant-based agriculture, nutrition and food preparation.

3.2 We can fix the global food system and make great strides toward ending hunger by embracing plant-based farming and food at every stage.

December 2012

[1] Smith S, Hood S & Baker A, Vegan Diets Explained, Dietetics Today, 2012;38(12):16-18

[2] Vegetarian Diets, J Am Diet Assoc. 2009;109:1266-1282

[1] Global Food Security,

[1] Walsh, S Environmental impact of vegans versus conventional diets in the UK. Birmingham, UK: The Vegan Society; 2009 [accessed 12 Dec 2012]

[1] Foresight Report: The Future of Food and Farming London, UK, BIS; 2011 [accessed 12 Dec 2012]

[1] United Nations Environment Programme. The environmental food crisis. Nairobi, Kenya: UNEP; 2009 [accessed 12 Dec 2012]

[1] Olewski , J. Global nitrogen use efficiency: is diet a key? In Agricultural Ecology Research: Its role in delivering sustainable farm systems Aspects of Applied Biology, 2011;109:131-135

[1] United Nations Environment Programme. The environmental food crisis. Nairobi, Kenya: UNEP; 2009 [accessed 12 Dec 2012]

[1] Gustavson J et al. Global Food Losses and Food Waste. Rome, Italy: FAO; 2011 [accessed 16 Nov 2012]

[1] Stehfest E et al. Climate benefits of changing diet, Climatic Change 2009;95:83-102

[1] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Livestock’s Long Shadow: environmental issues and options. Rome: FAO; 2006 [accessed 12 Dec 2012]

[1] Lelieveld J, Crutzen P J and Dentener F J, Changing concentration, lifetime and climate forcing of atmospheric methane Tellus 1998;50B:128-150

[1] Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability, [accessed 12 Dec 2012].

[1] Science for a New Age of Agriculture London, UK: Conservative Party 2010 [accessed 12 Dec 2012]

[1] Herren H. et al. Agriculture at a Crossroads. Executive Summary of the IAASTD Synthesis Report 2009 [accessed 12 Dec 2012]

[1] Rose C and Dade P, Using Values Modes, [accessed 12 Dec 2012] )

[1] Tolhurst , I Reducing energy use and waste on the farm: A Case Study Energy Action Plan. Manchester, UK: SOS; 2007 [accessed 12 Dec 2012]

[1] Smith J, Pearce B D and Wolfe M S A European perspective for developing modern multifunctional agro-forestry systems for sustainable intensification. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 2012; 27:323-332

Prepared 10th January 2013