Changes in livestock farming required
The animal article of the month for October is ‘Opinion paper: What needs to be changed for successful future livestock farming in Europe?’
The authors of this opinion paper formulate that the future success of the European livestock farming sector is at a critical stage, at least if success includes besides positive economic output, non-market values such as public acceptance of practices and sustainability issues.
Discussions about the sustainability of livestock farming in Europe and other developed countries increasingly take ethics and the welfare of farmed animals into account. In many of the production systems that are in use to produce animal food products, there are deficits related to animal welfare. This includes health problems such as lameness in dairy cows or keelbone-fractures in laying hens as well as pain related procedures such as tail-docking in piglets. In addition to these production and management related issues, many people from the public desire more natural environments for the animals in order for a system to be considered as animal-friendly.
Outdoor access for the farm animals seems to be a key indicator for animals’ wellbeing from a lay perspective. Especially in Northwestern-European countries such as the Netherlands, Germany or Denmark it looks as if the gap between public opinion about acceptable livestock farming and the state-of-the-art on farms is becoming wider despite the many efforts made by the sector to improve farm conditions for animals and communicate with the broader public.
The authors argue that if livestock farming in Europe aims at keeping its license to produce in the long-run, the sector should adjust its strategy and strive an open dialogue with all stakeholders, including the public leading to fundamental changes in breeding, husbandry and management. Claiming cost-leadership seems not a promising strategy for European agriculture.
The current criticisms may provide a chance for the European livestock sector to position itself as the moving force in animal welfare in order to lead the sector into a more animal-friendly and more sustainable future. However, badly managed, there is also the risk that the European livestock industry will decrease its importance instead of gaining a competitive advantage as a global animal welfare leader.
The paper: ‘Opinion paper: What needs to be changed for successful future livestock farming in Europe?’ is freely available to download for one month
Source of pictures: Landpixel