livestock – fact or prejudice?

Human and livestock have lived in ecological harmony for 10,000 years.

True! It is only with the emergence of modern industrialized agriculture that livestock production has become ecologically harmful.


Livestock competes with humans for food and water

Technically speaking, pigs and chickens are in competition with humans because we can consume similar foodstuffs. However, in the past this was not a problem as livestock was allowed to roam relatively freely on farms. As they roamed, they consumed waste products and food that was not going to be consumed by humans. In modern times, livestock could be used as a means to manage certain food niches (ex. Restaurant food wastes), creating a solution, rather than a bigger problem of competition.

Livestock is necessary for human survival

Historically speaking, livestock production has played an essential role in the development of human societies and was necessary. In modern times, namely is developed countries, livestock is not necessarily critical to human survival as there are a variety of substitutes. However, in developing words and certain climates, livestock continues to be an essential source of nutrition. It may also be economically necessary.

Animal proteins are essential for human health and survival

In the past, animal proteins were necessary for human survival. They are not currently a vital part of the human nutrition, although animal proteins are shown to have a positive effect on health. Additionally, there are many examples of human-animal coevolution (ex. Maasai tribe in Africa).

Livestock contributes significantly to climate change

The means in which humans are managing livestock culture is more to blame than the animals themselves. There is currently a lack of balance between livestock production and the natural environment. When compounded with other environmental issues, such as increased demand for feedstuff (which is a direct competition with humans), land conversion and waste management issues, it could be said that livestock production plays a contributing role to climate change.

Livestock facilitates the exploitation of otherwise unusable marginal lands

Land is considered unusable for crop production when it receives less than 300mm of rain per year. However, there will still be shrubs and grasses which can serve as fodder for certain species of livestock. In response to this fact, livestock is often produced on such areas (ex. Reindeer production on tundra land). This can put a significant amount of environmental stress on already sensitive ecological environments.


Livestock diminishes and contaminate water sources

Problems with Nitrate contamination in water can be traced back to livestock production. However, issues with water contamination are not necessarily the fault of the animals. Instead, it is often ineffective and poorly enforced water protection legislation that leads to poor waste management practices.

Livestock diversifies and stabilizes crop farming

Livestock can contribute in various ways on a farm. They can provide environmentally friendly work, consume plant waste that is unfit for humans, produce manure which can be used for fertilizer (as opposed to chemical version) and provide farmers with other items to sell which can supplement incomes.

Livestock threatens biodiversity

Livestock can help to diversity farms and the use of native species of livestock best suited to a given location can protect the streamlining of species (ex. There were previously about 800 recognized unique breeds of cow {with many localized adaptions}. However, now 2/3 of all the cows have some Holstein blood). This is known as a biodiversity decrease within a species. Additionally, in places where livestock is produced, instances of diverse types of flora have shown to be diminished.

Livestock provides environmentally friendly draft power


Livestock poses public health risks

This is largely dependent on management and living conditions of the animals. However, there are problems associated with improper antibiotic use, poor waste management and disease transmission.

Livestock is beautiful




One Reply to “livestock – fact or prejudice?”

  1. Insightful! My general take away is – livestock = good, modern management practices = bad. This is so upsetting to me…but it’s always a treat to visit an ethical/ sustainable farm! As a veg, I think most vegs are so quick to jump to “all animal farming is evil!!!” but that’s just not true!


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