“Let us face it: our lives are miserable, laborious, and short”, stated old Major, the prize Middle White boar in George Orwell´s renowned Animal Farm. His remark was addressed to his ‘comrades’ (the other animals living on the farm with him) and made in reference to the conditions in which the animals lived. He poses the question of whether the conditions in which they live are the natural order of things and argues that they are not. He concludes that man is the cause of the animals’ trouble and ought to be removed from the equation of their circumstances so that they may live free from hunger, overwork and slaughter.
In the next weeks, we will explore how much truth the Major’s statements hold in today’s animal farms. In the third topic for our online series, Open Up, we will delve into the prevalence of harmful practices in the livestock and fishing industries. Throughout the course of this topic, we will address a number of malpractices which have surfaced in the chicken, dairy, beef and fish industries in recent years. And as you will see, malpractices in the aforesaid industries are of social, environmental and economic concern.
By addressing some of the pertinent issues plaguing this industry, we hope to shed new light on, and raise awareness of these issues amongst consumers and companies alike. We hope that thereby we can bring consumers closer to their food and increase the demand for sustainable food globally.
It is argued that the growing demand for meat and animal by-products, especially in the west, is unsustainable. This is due to the pressure it places on natural resources such as land and water required for intensive food production; and is unethical because the intensive rearing of animals inevitably leads to unethical practices.
The objective of a company to operate as efficiently as possible in order to keep ahead in a competitive global market has set the stage for stakeholders in the livestock industry (and not to mention other industries) to dishonour certain sustainability principles.
Issues resulting from chicken meat and egg production, such as the use of growth hormones and battery cages, have raised much public concern. And then there are the dairy and beef industries, rampant with environmental and human rights issues. Amongst other environmental issues in the industry, grain fed cattle raised for beef is highly resource exhaustive. The crops used as cattle feed could be used more effectively by feeding populations in developing nations. And as for human rights, cases of child and forced labour and poor working conditions within these industries have surfaced in recent years in the United States of America and in Asia.
The fishing industry too has a great impact on society and the environment. Fish stocks are exploited by three to four times their sustainable yield which means that the size of these stocks decreases and fish cannot procreate at a productive rate. Overfishing itself leads to the degradation of natural ecosystems and damage to these ecosystems leads to a decline in animal health and welfare and a decrease in biodiversity limits the functioning of valuable ecosystems services.
A healthy ecosystem is vital for the survival and supply of fish. A scarcity of fish leads to a restriction on natural resources for those who are dependent on them, thus resulting in further societal implications.
To reduce these implications and secure a sustainable future for the livestock and fishing industries, companies need to ensure that their methods of production are managed in such a way so that they do their utmost to account for the impacts of their production practices on societal, environmental and economic levels.
Certifications addressing different sustainability aspects do exist, for example, there are labels that allow for traceability of fish, ensuring that they are not sourced by illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices. However, in addition to certifying fish based on their origins, a great reduction in the sourcing of some highly endangered fish species will need to be established. Companies should look to market species that are in abundance and not facing risks of extinction. For meat like chicken, one could find free range chicken that might address the welfare of the animals, yet it has hard to know if these chickens were slaughtered by a labourer whose labour rights were respected.
Hence more emphasis should be placed on companies to produce their products in a sustainable manner. So, join us as we explore the world of meat in the next few weeks and hopefully, we can bring about the change that would satisfy not only old Major’s concerns for the welfare of his fellow comrades, but also the concerns we have for the people producing the meat, the planet and the economy.< Back