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Agri 2022

Peter Stevenson

Peter Stevenson, Speaker at Agriculture Conferences 2022
Compassion in World Farming International, United Kingdom
Title : Rethinking the role of livestock to meet the Sustainable Development Goals


Industrial animal agriculture out-competes small-scale food producers in the Global South, thereby impairing their livelihoods and SDG 1. Industrial livestock production uses human-edible crops to feed animals which they convert very inefficiently into meat and milk; this undermines SDG 2’s objective of achieving food security (SDG 2). Industrial livestock’s huge demand for feed has fuelled the intensification of crop production which, with its use of monocultures and chemical fertilisers and pesticides, has led to overuse and pollution of ground- and surface-water, soil degradation, and biodiversity loss. All this works against the environmental objectives of SDGs 2,6,14 & 15. Increasing demand for land to grow soy and cereals for the rising number of industrially farmed animals, and as pasture for cattle, leads to expansion of farmland into forests and savannas with massive loss of wildlife habitats and biodiversity as well as release of stored carbon into the atmosphere; this impairs SDGs 13 (combatting climate change) and15 (halting deforestation and biodiversity loss). Industrial livestock production contributes to the emergence, spread and amplification of pathogens, some of which are zoonotic so undermining SDG 3 on health. Industrial production is also dependent on the routine use of antimicrobials which leads to antimicrobial resistance in animals which can be transferred to people again impairing SDG 3. To halt livestock’s harmful impact on the SDGs and to turn the sector round to being supportive of them, we need to rethink the role of livestock. Animals only make an efficient contribution to food security (SDG 2) when they are converting materials we cannot consume – grass, crop residues, by-products and unavoidable food waste - into food we can eat. Only feeding animals in this way will lead to a substantial reduction in global meat production and consumption. This will benefit public health (SDG 3) in high consuming countries and is essential to meet the Paris Agreement’s climate goals (SDG 13). We need to shift from industrial livestock production to sustainable forms of animal farming.  The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services and the European Commission identify organic farming, agro-ecology, agro-forestry, and low-intensive permanent grassland as sustainable practices. Such nature-based farming can support the environmental objectives of SDGs 2,6,14 &15. Such farming can also improve the productivity and hence livelihoods of farmers in the Global South so benefiting SDGs 1 & 2.

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