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.

23 June 2020

This three-volume set offers an interdisciplinary review of agriculture and the environment, covering the history of agriculture, soils, irrigation, nutrient management, crop production, livestock and agricultural innovation.

17 June 2020

This systematic review examines the effects of anthropogenic land use change (such as deforestation, urbanisation and agricultural intensification) on the transmission of zoonotic diseases from mammals to humans. 

26 May 2020

This opinion piece on The Poultry Site by FCRN member Laura Higham of FAI Farms considers the nature and food systems dimensions of the COVID-19 pandemic and the steps we must take to redefine our relationship with animals and the natural world.

26 May 2020

Local authorities in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the COVID-19 virus is thought to have originally started spreading to humans, have announced a ban on eating wild animals along with a ban on hunting wild animals except for scientific research or population regulation. The city will also buy out wild animal breeders. 

20 May 2020

According to this article in the Guardian, slaughterhouses in several countries are being badly affected by COVID-19 outbreaks, with the US being particularly affected. The factors behind the outbreaks are thought to include crowded working conditions, a workforce who often live in shared houses, people working despite being ill because of economic insecurity, and the slaughterhouses not being shut down during the pandemic.

5 May 2020

This paper combines data on zoonotic viruses in mammals with trends in species abundance. It finds that wild land mammal species with larger populations generally harbour a greater number of zoonotic viruses. Furthermore, among mammal species that are threatened, those that are threatened because of exploitation (e.g. hunting or wildlife trade) or loss of habitat host approximately twice as many viruses as mammals that are threatened for other reasons.

31 March 2020

This article in the Guardian explores the links between food production and COVID-19. It points out that, while the virus is likely to have been transmitted to humans via a pangolin at a “wet” market in Wuhan, China, the virus may have come to pangolins from wild bats. Some smallholder farmers, the article suggests, began to rear “wild” animals (such as pangolins) for income when their previous livestock farming was undercut economically by industrial farming methods, and may also have been pushed onto marginal land (nearer to forests, bats and the viruses hosted by bats) by industrial agriculture’s expansion.

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).

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