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.

16 March 2020

In this podcast from the UK’s Sustainable Food Trust, Patrick Holden interviews ffinlo Costain of Farmwel and Roland Bonney of FAI Farms and Benchmark Holdings on developing more transparent, welfare-friendly and sustainable livestock farming systems.

24 February 2020

This blog post by Joe Herbert, PhD student in Human Geography at Newcastle University and editor for Degrowth.info, argues that the degrowth movement (which advocates for shrinking economic activity) has not sufficiently considered the role of animals in its vision of a “just and redistributive downscaling of material and energetic throughput in wealthy countries as a means to achieve ecological sustainability”.

3 February 2020

This report from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and the World Health Organisation examines how traces of veterinary drugs can pass through the food supply chain and affect either non-target animals or people who eat contaminated meat, eggs or milk. 

28 January 2020

This Guardian article discusses farms that are growing crops organically without using animal manure or blood and bone meal, in contrast to most organic farms. This approach is not yet widespread, with only around 50 such farms in the United States. Relevant organisations include the Biocyclic Vegan Standard and the Vegan Organic Network.

20 January 2020

This book reviews different feed strategies for improving ruminant digestion and their effects on methane emissions, animal health and meat and milk quality.

13 January 2020

This paper assesses how nationally recommended diets across the world compare to average diets in the categories of human nutrition, environmental impacts and animal welfare. It finds that, in most countries, the recommended diets largely out-perform current diets in all three categories because of lower animal product consumption.

19 November 2019

The UK’s Countryfile TV programme has featured research by the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR) at Coventry University, which is using farm-based trials to study whether feeding biochar (a form of charcoal) to cattle can reduce their emissions of methane and ammonia.

4 November 2019

This case study from UK sustainability consultancy 3Keel describes 3Keel’s work with seven European retailers to quantify the amount of soymeal used for animal feed in these supply chains, identify where the soy was produced and determine whether any of that soy was certified as being deforestation-free.

9 October 2019

This report from Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (FAIRR) (a London-based investor initiative focused on the environmental, social and ethical issues of factory farming) estimates that the global meat substitute market is worth almost $20 billion and is predicted to grow by 7-9% annually. 

9 October 2019

This report from environmental NGO Friends of the Earth US outlines the health, environmental, ethical and consumer concerns associated with research into genetically engineered livestock. It notes that gene editing can lead to unintended effects, such as unintended modification of portions of DNA, enlarged tongues in rabbits, extra vertebrae in pigs, and novel proteins produced in error (which could result in allergic reactions).

8 October 2019

This review paper finds that the number of bacterial strains that are resistant to antimicrobials is increasing in both pigs and chickens. The paper synthesises hundreds of studies from low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to develop maps of antimicrobial resistance. Hotspots of antimicrobial resistance are found in India and China, with resistance also developing in Brazil and Kenya.

2 October 2019

This joint report from A Bigger Conversation and Compassion in World Farming details a roundtable that took place in London in June 2019, where scientists, ethicists, vets, academics, faith groups and policymakers discussed the issues associated with gene-edited livestock.

16 July 2019

This article in AgFunderNews explores how the “pasture-raised” label is used in poultry retail in the US. The label, which has not yet been officially defined by the USDA or the FDA, has attracted controversy from some food industry actors and animal welfare advocates, who say that some producers using the label do not have welfare standards as high as customers expect.

9 July 2019

This report from UK animal welfare organisation Compassion in World Farming sets out its vision of how the UK government can contribute to making the food system more “nourishing, sustainable, equitable and humane”. 

3 June 2019

In this research note, the US-based Open Philanthropy Project discusses whether animal welfare might be helped or hindered by climate-focused reductions in meat consumption. For example, the note points out that meat types with a relatively low carbon footprint (e.g. chicken) are often from smaller animals (compared to, say, cows) and thus require more animals to be farmed and killed.

13 May 2019

The UK’s Food Research Collaboration (FRC) has launched a new blog series, “Brexit Briefings Update”. The series aims to revisit policy areas already covered by the FRC’s Food Brexit Briefings series of papers (on food policy issues linked to the UK’s upcoming departure from the European Union), covering any updates that have occurred since publication. The first post in the series is “Farm animal welfare in the UK: setting the bar higher”.

8 April 2019

This book, edited by Mette Vaarst and Stephen Roderick, reviews key challenges and solutions in improving the health and welfare of organic farm animals, including case studies from organic farming of dairy and beef cattle, sheep and goats, pig and poultry.

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