The responsibility of institutions and companies to improve animal welfare in our food system has been addressed on several occasions, particularly from an ethical perspective. But something just as relevant: The objective data Provided by the many scientific studies addressing this issue.
In a context in which climate change is very present, in 2015 the United Nations approved the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with 17 global goals that, once met, make a sustainable future possible. Furthermore, the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development defines sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.
in relation to animal welfare – as we have explained in our Equalia article How to assess animal welfare– should be taken into account Physical and mental condition of animals.
We analyze how animal welfare relates to the three fundamental pillars for a sustainable planet.
took over agriculture half of living area, has become one of the biggest impacts of man on the ecosystem. And 77% of the land used for agriculture is devoted to the production of food for the maintenance of livestock for human consumption.
Industrial livestock farming requires such a large amount of feed that it occupies a vast amount of land which directly affects biodiversity. According to two recent studies, one published in Nature and another by the Chatham House think tank, Global cattle production could wipe out thousands of species in coming decades,
This is due to the fact that, in order to meet the population’s demand for meat, the industry continues to invade forests and natural environments where many animal species co-exist, losing their habitat. There is a great danger of extinction.
On the other hand, macro-farms have one common feature, and that is the overcrowding of animals. These confinement conditions result in environmental degradation from excrement and concentrations of harmful gases (ammonia or carbon dioxide). In fact, intensive livestock farming is responsible for 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions.
For the current food system to be socially sustainable, it mustEnding hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture, Animal welfare in intensive farming is at the heart of food security, as according to the World Health Organization, 60% of all infectious diseases reported worldwide are zoonoses. That is, diseases that spread from animals to humans.
Although the relationship between intensive livestock farming and zoonoses is complex, there are a few examples that may help to understand the link between food security and macro-farms.
Let’s imagine we go to the Amazon and deforest a section of the jungle. This will affect not only the absorption of CO₂, but also Due to the loss of vegetation, many animals will migrate in search of shelter and food. they just lost
These wild animals may move into nearby human habitations, opening up an interaction between wild animals and humans that has never happened before. This makes it easier for some pathogens to move from one species to another and diseases such as Ebola or avian influenza have appeared.
Finally, intensive farming methods that move away from animal welfare resort to the use of antibiotics to compensate for the terrible conditions in which the animals are found. This widespread process in macro-farms leads to greater resistance to antibiotics, not only on the part of the animals, but also on the part of the people who consume them.
With respect to economic sustainability, a food system will be sustainable when all activities involved are financially or commercially viable for all parties involved in the food system: workers, governments, consumers, and companies. however, There are still some supermarkets with incomplete animal welfare policies Because they don’t include the egg ingredient in their cage-free commitment.
According to the FAO, animal consumption accounts for 14% of the total calories and 33% of the protein in the diets of people around the world. And, as we have already seen, 77% of arable land is used to produce feed for livestock. These figures represent a clear problem: the destructive use of natural resources.
Animal feed consists of products that can directly nourish people. Not to mention the high occupation of land used to grow food for animals, rather than for human population or for the regeneration of forests and woodlands.
Are we using land appropriately in terms of food production as opposed to feed and pasture production? In this line, there are more and more studies that believe that reducing the proportion of foods of animal origin in the diet can have great benefits, not only economic, but also environmental and health.
Animal welfare at the heart of sustainability
We’ve looked at small brushstrokes on the impact of animal welfare in this article. There are many direct and indirect effects on the sustainable development of the planet.
It is not just about improving the lives of animals destined for consumption; it’s about to be a global outlook and to understand that, as the United Nations says, only one health (onehealth,, In other words, human, animal and ecosystem health are completely interdependent, so neglecting one of them will inevitably lead to neglecting the rest.