The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) has helped secure agreement from the UN to include sustainable livestock on the agenda for the UN Earth Summit (Rio+20) which commences on June 20.
At the Summit, WSPA will be calling on the UN and governments to recognise the importance and benefits of humane animal farming practices in ensuring we can feed the world sustainably.
New research launched by WSPA in the run up to Rio+20 shows the adverse impact of intensive and inhumane animal farming practices on the 64 billion animals raised for food each year and on the environment, jobs, climate change and water use.
WSPA’s research has confirmed that increased intensification of livestock farming and the consumption of meat and dairy products has a major impact not only on animal welfare but also on the environment and our societies.
The global demand for meat, eggs and milk is due to double from 2000 to 2050 and will have a major impact on land and energy use globally. The majority of the growth is coming from intensive animal farming. This focuses on maximising production by keeping animals indoors in cramped conditions, providing them with little space to move around, selective breeding to maximise growth and feeding on cereals and oilseeds.
“To ensure we can feed the world’s growing population sustainably, the outcomes of Rio+20 must recognise the importance and benefits of humane animal farming practices.
“Developing humane animal welfare practices is central to society being able to tackle environmental and development issues such as climate change, disaster management, deforestation, pollution, water and food security.
“We want to ensure farm animal welfare is a core part of national and global policies for, and solutions to, food security, food safety and sustainable development,” says Dr Mike Appleby, WSPA’s Chief Scientific Adviser for Humane Sustainable Agriculture.
Not only does factory farming lead to animal suffering, but it also contributes to food insecurity, has a huge impact on land use and the environment. For example, livestock production accounts for 70% of land use by people and leads to increasing deforestation. A quarter of global fresh water is used to produce livestock feeds alone.
Livestock farming is also one of the largest polluters, causing phosphorus, nitrogen and pesticide contamination of soil and water.
And livestock consumption has an impact on human health – around 75% of new diseases affecting humans in the last ten years have been caused by pathogens originating from animals or animal production. Excessive consumption of animal products, particularly processed meat is a major contributor to diet related diseases including cancers, heart disease and stroke.
WSPA’s recommendations to the UN
WSPA has five recommendations to the UN, national government delegates and the agricultural industry:
Recognise that good local and global animal welfare farming practice and policies are key to safeguarding people, animals and the environment
Give formal government support to farmers who rear their livestock humanely and sustainably and phase out subsidies and investment to those farmers who do not.
Make it clear that farm animals reared on humane, sustainable farms are vital to a country’s economic development and lifting people from poverty
Address the challenge and highlight the local and global implications of the unsustainable demand for meat, eggs and dairy products.
Support and invest in research and development that shows how animal-friendly farming systems protect and develop rural economies.