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.

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.

Photo: USDA, pigs, Flickr, creative commons licence 2.0
16 August 2016

In this blog David McCoy, director of Medact, argues that UK farmers and government should work hard to reduce on-farm antibiotic use. With evidence building that antimicrobial resistance in farm animals can be transferred across to humans, the issue is becoming increasingly urgent.

Photo: Stephen Luke, farm, Flickr, creative commons licence 2.0
16 August 2016

One Dutch animal rights NGO and a growing public antipathy to the extremes of industrial animal farming have caused several major supermarkets in the Netherlands to stop selling meat from fast-growing chickens.

Photo credit: (Flickr: crustmania, creative commons 2.0)
9 June 2016

Taking as their starting point a hypothetical zero-deforestation for agricultural production, where people would refrain from clearing any further forests for agricultural purposes, the researchers behind this study look at both supply side and demand side measures to assess how changes in production and diet can assist in halting deforestation

1 April 2016

Ministers of the European Parliament have voted to adopt a new EU regulation aimed at improving the welfare of animals, encouraging farmers to practice good husbandry that helps prevent disease outbreaks and importantly intensify the fight against antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

Photo credit: (Bernard Spragg, NZ. Under creative commons licence, Flickr)
31 March 2016

This paper finds that the EU’s climate targets for 2050 for methane and nitrous oxide can be met by a combination of technological improvements in agriculture (found to have a potential to cut emissions by nearly 50% in optimistic scenarios) and through a reduction in beef consumption. The study authors argue that these targets can be met even with a continued high consumption of pork and poultry.

31 March 2016

This new paper published in Nature Climate Change, assesses the mitigation potentials achievable through improved livestock management practices and moderating meat consumption. It estimates that livestock-oriented measures could account for up to half of the mitigation potential of the global agricultural, forestry and land-use sectors but emphasises that the gap between technical potential and social and economic feasibility is likely to be large.

16 February 2016

This policy briefing by the Eating Better alliance, aimed at UK Government, Devolved Administrations and the EU, recommends that action be taken to shift eating patterns towards less and better quality meat, and more plant-based foods.

16 February 2016

The second SoW-AnGR by the FAO reviews the developments that have been made in the area of using, developing and safeguarding the genetic resources (i.e. the diversity of breeds) of our mammalian and avian livestock since the first SoW-AnGR report was released in 2007.

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