On Tuesday, June 28, UK publication The Economist posted a news article on its official Twitter account. The post triggered backlash among Chinese social media users. Many of them blamed the publication for actually comparing Chinese people with pigs.
The article titled “Most of the world’s grain is not eaten by humans.” The article points out that despite the food crisis amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict, enough grain is grown to meet humanity’s needs. Yet, nearly half of all grain is either burned as biofuel or used to feed animals.
To demonstrate how much grain is used as animal feed, the British “Economist” wrote a caption for the article posted on Twitter. The caption read, “In 2019 pigs ate 431million tonnes of grain, 45% more than the people of China did.”
The Economist’s article intended to express that more of the world’s food is eaten by livestock than by humans. Yet, after receiving much criticism, the news outlet deleted its tweet the next day.
Chinese state-run media, the Global Times, published a report regarding the magazine’s tweet. The report read, “If The Economist wants to show pigs eat more than humans, would it have been convincing to use the world population for comparison, rather than singling out China?”
In response, the UK publication replied to an email of Global Times; the magazine writes: “As our intention was never to cause offense, we have rephrased the article to make our meaning absolutely clear.”
The Economist further explained, “In a Graphic setting out how most of the world’s grain is fed to animals or used to make biofuel, we observed that 431million tonnes of grain is eaten by pigs and that, if it were a stand-alone country, this would rank at the very top of the league tables for grain consumption. By way of comparison, we pointed out that this is 45% more than the real-life country that consumes the most rice and wheat, which is China.”