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.

Image: Shpernik088, The chicken meat industry 14, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International
19 November 2018

Chicken processing plants in the United States will be allowed to apply for a waiver to increase their processing speed from 140 to 175 birds per minute, in response to a petition from the National Chicken Council. Civil Eats reports that workers in meat processing plants are already injured five times more frequently than all other private workers, and that both animal welfare and labour welfare advocates have previously sought to block increases in processing speed.

12 November 2018

In the book The End of Animal Farming, author Jacy Reese examines the social forces, technologies and activism that he argues will lead to the end of animal agriculture.

6 November 2018

WWF’s 2018 Living Planet Report finds that population sizes of thousands of vertebrate species have declined by 60%, on average, between 1970 and 2014, land degradation seriously impacts 75% of terrestrial ecosystems, and current species extinction rates are 100 to 1000 times higher than the background rate. The report attributes these impacts to rising demand for land, water and energy, and explores the impacts of agriculture, fisheries and deforestation.

Image: USDA, Chickens, Flickr, Public domain
6 November 2018

Labelling schemes to indicate higher welfare standards for broiler chickens have contributed to some changes in the governance of poultry welfare in Australia, argues this paper - but those changes are mostly incremental, and the labelling schemes may even bolster the perceived legitimacy of intensive poultry farming.

8 October 2018

FCRN member Christopher Schlottmann and Jeff Sebo, both of New York University, have written a book discussing empirical, ethical, and social dimensions of food, animals, and the environment, providing both big picture and more detailed analysis, including updated statistics.

Image: PollyDot, Honey bees beehive, Pixabay, CC0 Creative Commons
2 October 2018

The common weed killer glyphosate targets an enzyme only found in plants and microorganisms. However, a new paper finds that glyphosate can harm honey bees even though they lack the targeted enzyme. Glyphosate does this by changing the balance of microorganisms (some of which contain the relevant enzyme) found in the bees’ guts, making the bees more susceptible to infections.

Image: NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre, Dramatic Views of Hurricane Florence from the International Space Station From 9/12, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
25 September 2018

The flooding caused by Hurricane Florence in North Carolina has drowned millions of chickens and thousands of pigs that were left on farms during the storm. The floodwaters have also caused at least 13 manure storage lagoons to overspill, spreading potentially dangerous bacteria and excess nutrients to the surrounding areas.

Image: Rob Mitchell, Cow and calf, Flickr, Public Domain
25 September 2018

In this study, researchers investigated the views of urban Brazilian citizens on dairy production. The study also explored the public’s awareness of and their views on the acceptability of four common husbandry practices: early cow-calf separation; zero-grazing; culling of the newborn male calf; and dehorning without pain mitigation. Their goal was to understand Brazilians’ concerns around and acceptance of dairy farming.

Image: skeeze, Honeybee flying insect, Pixabay, CC0 Creative Commons
18 September 2018

When given a choice between food with or without an added neonicotinoid pesticide (thought to be harmful to bees), bees initially show no preference for the pesticide, but over time choose to feed on the pesticide-laced food. This means that pesticide-treated crops may become disproportionately attractive to bees, increasing the bees’ exposure to harmful compounds. The study did not identify the mechanism by which bees develop a preference for the pesticide.

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.

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