Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Cows vs. Humans

Music magazines are always producing ranks of the best songs and albums, ever. Other magazines like to create tables of how different countries are doing. This Foreign Policy article ranks countries according to their commitment to development. The usual stuff. But this scary table compares how much rich countries subsidize farm animals compared to how much they spend on aid.

Subsidies per Head per Year (in U.S. $)
Country Cattle Chickens Pigs Sheep Aid per poor person in developing world
EU 15 $179.28 $9.24 $28.93 $16.11
Australia $17.12 39¢ $6.49 94¢ 54¢
Canada $68.59 15¢ $18.99 95¢
Japan $163.23 21¢ $3.92 $2.38
New Zealand $2.66 13¢ $2.14 19¢
Norway $965.72 $1.48 $39.98 $94.06 83¢
Switzerland $987.58 $7.63 $139.62 $16.11 61¢
United States $29.06 58¢ $9.03 $4.12 $7.67
All $92.59 38¢ $10.58 $12.85 $29.17


  1. Those Swiss subsidy statistics are mind-boggling, the foreign aid surprisingly low. I suppose they think that because they host a lot of the parties they are exempt.

    However, this is one country where I will eat Swiss chicken without checking origins - construction of new factory farms was banned here in 1992 and all such existing farms had 10 years to close down.

    There is a crown shop in Zurich, very popular with foreign despots on the way to the bank with the aid money.

    And finally, if you like list sites, try this one from the CIA - very useful for geographers.

    "Swiss Davey"

  2. The other cows v. people thing is the way in much of the world people are being moved off land so that soya can be grown there to feed to cows who end up in US hamburgers. It's like a huge third world version of the Highland Clearences. Deadly.

  3. Regarding Ian's comments. The term is "cash crops" and the British and French pionered the business over 100 years ago. Ethiopia and Sudan for example were well used to 4 year droughts and used to routinely keep that much in store.

    Then the colonials arrived and messed all of that up (not quite clear on the details) and forced the locals to grow cash crops. Over 100 years the habit of keeping 4 year stores was killed off because if there was a famine, the colonials would just import a load of food from somewhere else in the empire to keep the people fed and working.

    When the colonials left, they were fucked, the grain silos, storeage skills, and habits had all gone. Hence the "Who's gonna drive me home" dirge and the disasters. One of many great British gifts to the world.

    I'm sorry, ranting again.

    There is nothing new under the sun.

    Out of interest, the McDonalds agrobusiness interventions in the USSR to source local meat actually improved things! I suppose that is more of a damning comment on the USSR than praise of McDonalds.

    Swiss cows have a nice life, they seem to enjoy the $900/year for their 2 years before we eat them.


  4. New Zealand very controversially abolished all subsidies on agriculture about ten years ago - I see from the statistics that there is still a small amount of subsidy left in the system.

    What happened was that the well-run farms continued to prosper, the crap ones floundered, died, and the good farms bought them out. It is an interesting model.

    New Zealand does, however have one major advantage over most other countries - a temperate climate, a land area the size of the UK, a useable agricultural land area larger than the UK, and only a few million people.