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.

17 July 2018

The UK’s Food Research Collaboration initiative has released a briefing paper on the differences in animal welfare standards between the UK and its likely post-Brexit trading partners, such as the fact that antibiotic use in cattle is nine to sixteen times higher in the US than the UK, by weight of cattle. The report points out that welfare standards risk being weakened to help obtain trade deals, and recommends several measures to protect animal welfare after Brexit, including farmer subsidies for higher welfare standards, mandatory labelling to help consumers choose better welfare standards, and using public procurement policies to promote higher welfare.

Image: Vince Smith, Bottlenose dolphins, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
10 July 2018

A study has found that people who view vegetarianism as a threat to their way of life, and those who believe in human supremacy over animals, are likely to have fewer animal species that they view as worthy of moral consideration (compared to people who do not see vegetarianism as a threat or who do not believe in human supremacy over animals). Moral attitudes varied strongly towards different animal species, for example, 90% of participants a felt moral obligation to care for the welfare of dogs, compared to 51% who felt the same obligation for pigs.

Image: Image: Felix_Broennimann, Pig domestic suckle, Pixabay, CC0 Creative Commons
26 June 2018

This paper, by FCRN member Hannah van Zanten (and whose authors include FCRN director Tara Garnett), calculates that a food system where livestock are fed only on food waste and industrial and agricultural by-products could provide 9 to 23 g of animal protein to the daily human diet (compared to daily protein needs of 50 to 60 g per person) while using one quarter less land than a food system with no livestock. The paper notes that the waste-fed livestock system could allow people in Asia and Africa to increase their consumption of animal protein, but that current consumption levels in other areas are higher than would be possible under a waste-fed livestock system.

Image: USDA NRCS Texas, Cows grazing in a silvopasture, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
11 June 2018

FCRN member Eric Toensmeier, of Yale University, has written an op-ed for the Washington Post in which he discusses the potential of silvopasture - including trees on grazing land - to reduce agricultural emissions. Trees increase production by providing shade to livestock, according to the op-ed.

11 June 2018

Sixty suppliers of meat and fish have been ranked according to their management of nine sustainability categories, in an index prepared by Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (FAIRR), a London-based investor initiative focused on the environmental, social and ethical issues of factory farming. 60% of the companies assessed are deemed “high-risk” on their overall sustainability strategy (or lack of it). Antibiotics are the most poorly managed risk, while waste and pollution are the best-managed risks.

Image: Juan Manuel, Bumblebees, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
4 June 2018

The BEEHAVE model is a freely available simulation tool that can be used to understand how different stressors affect the development and survival of honeybee colonies. A newly launched update, Bumble-BEEHAVE, models the behaviour of six UK bumblebee species.

4 June 2018

FCRN member Afton Halloran has edited this book, which outlines the role of edible insects in food systems around the world. Topics include nutrition, consumer acceptance, environmental impacts, using insects as animal feed and legal regulation.

26 May 2018

This book, edited by John A. Herrmann and Yvette J. Johnson-Walker, explores the One Health concept, which links the health of humans, animals and ecosystems. Topics covered include the links between biodiversity and health, food and water security, zoological institutions, One Health initiatives and the social cost of carbon.

26 May 2018

Over two billion people in developing countries are smallholder farmers and often depend on pollinators, according to this report by the UK Collaborative on Development Sciences. The report finds that insufficient pollination has already been found across many crops in the developing world, which could negatively affect cash crops (such as coffee and cocoa) and intake of nutritious foods such as fruit and nuts. The report points to a lack of data on pollinators in developing countries, and calls for further research, education programmes and sustainable development projects incorporating bee-keeping.

Image: Sheep81, Northern White Rhinoceros Angalifu, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain
22 May 2018

Although humans only make up 0.01% of life on Earth by weight, 83% of wild mammals and 15% of fish have been lost since the start of human civilisation, according to a new study. The study also finds that, of all mammals on Earth, 36% are humans, 60% are livestock and 4% are wild mammals, while 70% of birds are chicken and other poultry with only 30% being wild.

21 May 2018

This book, edited by Anne Barnhill, Tyler Doggett, and Mark Budolfson, provides an overview of the philosophy of food ethics across a range of subject matter. Topics include genetically modified food, animal sentience, vegan and omnivorous diets, body image, global markets and activism.

15 May 2018

This book, by Henry Buller and Emma Roe, examines issues of animal welfare in the food supply chain. Topics include the care of farm animals, the ethics of using welfare as a marketing tool and the links between globalisation of farm animal welfare.

Image: K-State Research and Extension, Pigs, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
9 May 2018

Experts agree that feeding properly treated food waste to pigs can be done safely at scale, according to a seminar report by FCRN member Karen Luyckx of food waste charity Feedback (our thanks to FCRN member Jessica Sinclair Taylor, also of Feedback, for bringing this research to our attention).

Image: Cory Barnes, Honeybee on Flower, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
30 April 2018

European Union member countries have voted to ban three neonicotinoid pesticides. Neonicotinoids have been linked to the decline of bees and other pollinators. Neonicotinoids will be banned from use in open fields by the end of 2018, but will still be permitted inside closed greenhouses.

24 April 2018

Eating Better has published a new report setting out their suggested approach to eating “less and better” meat and dairy. They set out eight principles, including: eat less meat and dairy; reduce waste; choose smaller scale, higher standard producers; and avoid livestock fed on imported feedstuffs such as soy. The report also includes a guide to assurance and labelling schemes to help people choose better meat and dairy.

26 March 2018

This report from the UK NGO Sustainable Food Trust shows that one in three small abattoirs in the UK have closed in the last decade, which could mean that marketing locally-produced, traceable meat will not be possible in some areas.

Image: Memphis Meats Press Kit, Southern Fried Chicken
19 March 2018

Social scientist and co-founder of the Sentience Institute Jacy Reese discusses public attitudes to diets and the potential of lab-cultured meat to end animal farming, as well as possible pitfalls.

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