Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Animal issues

Since the agricultural revolution which began around 12,500 years ago, humans have domesticated animals to serve their needs, and hunted others from the wild. For the food system animals have been essential as a source of food, labour, and organic fertilizer while ownership of animals may also have cultural, economic or symbolic import. Industrial farming techniques have allowed for large scale production of animal products, which has raised new ethical concerns about their welfare and more fundamentally about the morality of using animals for human purposes. The resource-intense nature of livestock production has attracted attention from researchers, civil society and policymakers alike. Finally, zoonotic diseases, those which can be spread between animals and humans, are a common source of human infection.

Photo © Dave Smith via Flickr
24 March 2017

This research article provides a new quantitative analysis of data on global feed use and feed use efficiency by livestock, in order to help shed light on livestock’s role in food security.

7 March 2017

This report by the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) and commissioned by UK’s Eating Better Alliance looks at future policies towards livestock farming and trade in the UK and EU.

8 February 2017

This report by Compassion for World Farming discusses the potential effects of a reduction in meat consumption in relation to the difference between ruminants such as cows and monogastrics such as pigs and poultry.

17 January 2017

This report by the John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future presents itself as the ‘first international landscape assessment of industrial food animal production (IFAP) in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to focus on trends in food animal production, related domestic and international policies, environmental and public health impacts and animal welfare.’

10 January 2017

The FCRN’s Tara Garnett gave a short presentation at an event held in November by the Sustainable Food Trust. The question posed was ‘Do livestock hold the key to a healthy planet and population?’ 

10 January 2017

This report, entitled ‘What’s at Steak? The Real Cost of Meat’ published by the Global Forest Coalition in December 2016, emphasises the negative impact of industrial livestock production on forests, using five detailed case studies, in BoliviaBrazilIndiaParaguay, and Russia. In South America, for example, the report states that 71% of deforestation in the region has been driven by demand for livestock products.

15 December 2016

Twenty-four cross-party European parliament members, together with HSI’s Planting Fresh Ideas, wrote a letter to the European Commission President, First Vice President, and Commissioners, with policy recommendations for reducing EU consumption of animal-based foods.

Photo credit: Sam Beebe, Cows n Canoe, Flickr, Creative Commons licence 2.0
3 November 2016

A chance discovery was made in Canada 11 years ago, when it was observed that cattle in a paddock near the sea are more productive. This led to research showing that feeding cows seaweed not only helped improve their health and growth, but also reduced their enteric methane emissions by about 20%.

18 October 2016

This paper presents the results of a modelling exercise that aimed to identify low emissions pathways for a growing global livestock sector. This article uses 6 case studies, modelled in the Global Livestock Environmental Assessment Model developed by FAO, to illustrate the climate change mitigation potential of livestock achievable through changes in feeding, breeding and husbandry as well as grazing management to increase soil carbon sequestration.

Photo: Jaume Escofet, Beef, FLickr, Creative Commons License 2.0
28 September 2016

The Danish Council on Ethics is calling on the Danish government to regulate the consumption of what it calls ‘climate damaging foods’ by placing taxes on those products with the highest associated emissions.

20 September 2016

Meat consumption is increasing, especially in the emerging economies. The Chinese government has an increasing interest in making steps towards sustainable livestock production, and the more GHG (greenhouse gas) “efficient” pork and poultry industries have seen substantial progress towards sustainability in the recent past.

Photo: Michael Knowles, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0
16 September 2016

This report provides an update on the fields of synthetic biology and the latest breeding techniques involving molecular biology. It sees modern techniques of creating new cultivars as a continuation of selective breeding which was started by humans around 10,000 years ago.

Photo: Flickr, Juan Salmoral, Creative Commons License 2.0
16 September 2016

In a 2013 TED talk entitled ‘How to fight desertification and reverse climate change’ the Zimbabwean ecologist, Allan Savory, claimed that the ‘holistic management’ grazing management method that he has developed and promoted over 40 years, could stop global desertification and reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide to preindustrial levels, within a few decades.

Photo: KeWynn Lee, Before, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0
6 September 2016


This review article provides a summary of the multiple environmental and societal costs and benefits of livestock production. Homing in on climate change, it reviews the range of GHG mitigation options that have been proposed both on the supply side (actions that potentially reduce emissions per unit of production, or absolute emissions, considering both changes in practice and in policy) and those on the demand side (e.g. reductions in meat consumption, waste reduction).

Photo: Peter O’Connor, Cattle Herd, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0
31 August 2016

This report commissioned by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) and written by its High Level Panel of Experts for Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) focuses on sustainable agricultural development for food security and nutrition, specifically in relation to livestock.

Photo: Ano Lobb, Flickr creative commons license 2.0
31 August 2016

A new study published in the journal Nature Communications provides additional evidence that a specific group of controversial pesticides, neonicotinoids, affects wild bees negatively. The work was funded by the UK government and related data of wild bee distributions over time to the introduction of the pesticides in British fields. It is the first to link the pesticides to the decline of many bee species in real-world conditions.

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