The Benefits of Farm Animal Welfare for Sustainable Food Production

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GRF 2nd One Health Summit 2013: Presentation by Basia Romanowicz, WSPA

GRF 2nd One Health Summit 2013: Presentation by Basia Romanowicz, WSPA

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  • We see farm animal welfare as an integral to solving the challenges we face today in terms of food security and sustainability – the welfare of our production animals is at the heart of solutions, directly linked to food security, livelihoods, environmental impact andpublic health.The solutions we recommend need to be economically viable for farmers, good for business and provide safe and sufficient food. That’s why we have invested in research to demonstrate solutions which are positive for animal welfare, while also meeting these sustainability chakllenges.
  • When we talk about animal welfare we refer to physical wellbeing, mental wellbeing and the natural state that the animal is in.Vets and farmers tend to stress physical aspects of welfare. But it is now recognised – including by OIE – that health is affected by other aspects of welfare, e.g. crowded and stressed animals have compromised immune systems. This is why we refer to animal welfare as the best vaccine. This has significant implications for human health as well as economics and livelihoods.
  • If you are interested in this area, our report on the links between aw and zoonoses (e-coli, campylobacter, salmonella and avain flu) – available from our website
  • So firstly we asked the most fundamental question: whether it was possible to gain sufficient food production from farming systems which deliver good animal welfare. Karl-Heinz Erb and his team at the Austrian Institute of Social Ecology at Klagenfurt University, compared different systems of animal production using globally accepted data sets. Their conclusion from that work was that good welfare systems can be highly productive and can produce sufficient food to feed the world, now and in future projections.They also rang an alarm bell, that growth of consumption, following a business as usual pattern, especially with growth of meat and dairy consumption to Western levels in emerging economies, will lead to food shortages.It was also clear that adoption of sustainable diets in wealthy countries can increase the operating space for food production as demand grows.Now we know that the issue of food security is never this simple. But it does show in principle that animal welfare can be integrated into highly productive food production.
  • There is a lot of research being done to reduce the environmental impact, and espghg emissions from livestock.We worked with Best Foot Forward, an Oxford based environmental assessment agency, to look at dairy carbon footprint.The first question was: what impact does animal welfare have on greenhouse gas emissions. Here we can see that improving fertility, lameness and mastitis can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 10%. This is relevant whatever the production system.
  • So we wanted to ask a similar question – what are the implications of farming system for the most challenging aspects of water use. Arjen Hoekstra and his team modelled water footprints for grazing, mixed and industrial systems. As grazing systems are often rainfed, they sometimes have a high green water footprint, but this does not have the cost of grey water management, or the opportunity cost of blue water from lakes and streams, which could be put to other uses.The results showed that Water footprint efficiency is counterintuitive – intensive is not equally or less efficientDemand for blue water, and grey water output, are major factors in assessing environmental impact of livestock productionGrazed beef has much higher green water input, but lower pact on blue and grey water; no increases efficiency for blue and grey water in industrial pork production
  • Finally, let’s look at livelihoods. This is a research project that we did with Anni McLeod from the FAO, looking at the role of farm animal welfare in protecting livelihoods.There is a very strong link between pastoralists’ livelihoods and the welfare of their animals. Provision of adequate fodder and veterinary care goes a long way in proving welfare and productivity at the same time. Ranchers and pastroalists must also use suitable breeds of animals, plan for provision of feed duting drought and adjust stocking densities to climatic conditions.Improving welfare during animals transport and slaughter is also good for economics – it has been shown to reduce losses of meat as a result of bruising when animal are injured. Improving welfare at slaughter also creates much safer working conditions for slaughterhouse workers.In the case formal markets, certification of high welfare products brings benefits for producers and for the whole supply chain.
  • If you would like to stay in the room after this session – we will be talking furter about .. And expanding on the other areas of work that WSPA do/ links to One Health


  • 1. The Benefits of Farm Animal Welfare for Sustainable Food Production Davos November 2013 Barbara Romanowicz
  • 2. Farm animal welfare: good for people, business and environmental sustainability Economics, busine ss, livelihood Environment Animal welfare in food production Water, land and natural resources Public health Sufficient and safe food production 2
  • 3. Aspects of animal welfare Physical Mental Health, growth, reproduction Suffering Stress Natural Environment Behaviour
  • 4. Food security: can good welfare systems deliver? • Animal welfare and productivity can go hand in hand • It is possible to increase consumption where needed, especially if sustainable diets increase the operating space elsewhere Erb et al [2009, 2011]
  • 5. Animal welfare improvements benefit greenhouse gas efficiency • What is the impact of animal welfare on greenhouse gas emissions? • Improving cow fertility, lameness and mastitis reduces emissions by up to 10% • Highly specialised, intensive dairy farming had higher greenhouse gas emissions than moderate yield, dual-purpose milk production
  • 6. • Water ‘footprint’ of livestock farming is often very high • Research assessed water footprint of beef, pork and poultry in Europe, Brazil, China and USA Gerbens-Leenes, Mekonnen and Hoekstra (2011) UNESCO-IHE
  • 7. Animal and human welfare hand in hand Key themes: • Healthy, well fed animals are more productive and resilient to drought • Improving animal welfare creates high value markets • Improving welfare during transport and slaughter benefits productivity, workers and animals • Animal welfare can boost jobs and livelihoods
  • 8. Thank you!