Jun 19, 2012
WSPA (the leading global animal welfare charity) has helped to secure agreement from the UN to include sustainable livestock AND animal health on the agenda for the UN Earth Summit (Rio+20) – the first time that the treatment of animals has ever been considered in global discussions on sustainable development at this level. It is one of the few sparks of hope in a text put forward by the Brazilians that is generally devoid of any ambition. WSPA is now calling on global leaders to recognize the importance and benefits of humane animal farming practices in ensuring we can feed the world sustainably and urging them to set goals to ensure animal welfare is core to future sustainable development.
This is supported by new research from WSPA which 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.
If left unchecked, 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. Without policy change, the majority of the growth is projected to come from intensive animal farming. This focuses on maximizing production by keeping animals indoors in cramped conditions, providing them with little space to move around, selective breeding to maximize growth, and feeding on grains and oilseeds.
"To ensure we can feed the world's growing population sustainably, the outcomes of Rio+20 must recognize 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" says Dr Mike Appleby, WSPA's Chief Scientific Adviser for Humane Sustainable Agriculture. "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."
Welfare-friendly and sustainable farms across the world are proving every day that rearing animals in better conditions brings a host of benefits to people and the planet.
With the number of animals farmed for food set to double by 2050, the majority of which are subject to intensive farming methods, billions more animals will continue to suffer, unless humane farming methods are adopted on a wide scale basis.
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 a huge 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 has five recommendations to the UN, national government delegates and the agricultural industry:
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