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.

source: wikipedia.org
source: wikipedia.org

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.

source: footage.framepool.com
source: footage.framepool.com

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

True!

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

True!

source: peta.org
source: peta.org

 

factory farming and human health

The article Factory Farming and Human Health by T. O’Brien, M. Adock, J. Rifkin and B.M. Pickard is an examination of the effects of factory farming on human health in order to make the argument that large-scale farming is a danger to human health. The authors discuss the causes of the negative health effects such as close quarters for animals, exposure to excrement, dirt, a lack of sunlight and poor ventilation. As a result, bacteria is mutating and becoming more dangerous to human and animal health. Animal feed, including how livestock is being fed other animals and animal products that it would not otherwise consume and its role in infection transmission, is also discussed. A major point in the paper is that current hygiene restrictions are not effective because they do not address the root cause of the health problems.

The most pertinent information presented in the article is as followed:

  • The time of year affects the number and types of microbes present.
  • Animals can be more than transmitters of infections like Salmonella. They are not only disease carriers.
  • The acceptable limits for bacteria in food are surprisingly high. 1 in 3 fresh chickens and 41% of frozen birds are contaminated with Salmonella in the UK.
  • The bacterial mutations caused by factory farming are more detrimental to the health of humans and is becoming more prevalent.
  • How we treat the animals that we consume affects human health.

OBrien, T., Adock, M., Rifkin, J., & Pickard, B. M. (2001) Factory farming and human health. The Ecologist, 30-34.

kill-it-and-eat-it locavores give cities indigestion

This article describes how urban farmers who chose to slaughter their own meat are facing new regulations and even bans on home butchering. This is coming after many residents filed complaints that home slaughtering is inhumane and that there are no animal welfare standards in effect. Officials have acknowledged that a growth in urban farming does warrant upgrading the current code, but the merits of keeping versus banning home slaughter is still being debated. However, approximately 20 cities throughout the country have faced new, harsher regulations on keeping and butchering animals. The author goes on to explain that commercial food regulation is a federal issue, while butchering for personal consumption is a city matter. Those who support personal food choice and an individual’s right to produce their own food suggest that burdensome regulations may drive home butchering underground. Policy makers are still trying to figure out how activities such as cooking lobster at home and feeding pet snakes mice would play into proposed restrictions.


http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-03-08/kill-it-and-eat-it-locavores-give-cities-indigestion

a description of moose and cost-benefit analysis of moose conservation

Moose/Eurasian elk [Alces alces] are the largest of all the deer species. They can be found in the temperate and subarctic regions of Europe, North America and Asia in boreal and mixed deciduous forests. The males of the species are well-known for their massive antlers that can spread 1.8 meters from end to end. The adults average between 160 and 210cm in height with weights reaching 820kg. Their faces are long with muzzles that hang over the chin. There is also a flap of skin that swings beneath each moose’s throat that is known as the bell.

Despite their enormous size, moose are agile swimmers. During the spring, summer and fall they are often seen in marshes, lakes, wetlands and rivers. They are able to paddle several miles at a time and fully submerge themselves for more than 30 seconds. Their large hooves also act like snowshoes to support their massive bodies in snow and mud. Furthermore, they are quite agile and can run at speeds of up to 56 kilometers per hour and trot steadily at 32 kilometers per hour.

Moose are herbivores that have a preference for consuming higher grasses and shrubs because of their large stature which results in difficulty lowering their heads to the ground. Their winter diet is heavily dependent on shrubs and pinecones, although they also consume mosses and lichens. When food stuff is more widely available during the warmer parts of the year, moose consume a variety of aquatic plants both at and below the water’s surface (4). On average, adults animals consume approximately 30kg of browse daily, although their stomachs have the capacity to hold over 50 kg of food.

The animals mate in September and October. The bulls (males) which are typically solitary in nature, congregate in large groups, bellow loudly to impress the females and establish supremacy by partaking in battles. After mating, the females and males separate until the following year. The gestation period is 243 days. The females typically birth one or two calves that weigh approximately 14kg. The calves are able to run faster than an adult human by the time they are five days old. The young stay with the mothers until the following mating season. Their average life span for bulls in the wild is 7 years, but some animals live until approximately 20 years of age.

Unfortunately, there have been decreases in moose populations throughout the world and the cause is unknown.  The question then becomes, what does the conservation of these four-legged creatures cost and are those costs worth it?

MOOSE; EURASIAN ELK [Alces alces]

 

Costs

Category

Item

Quantity

Price

Total

Construction
Fencing for underpasses and jump outs As needed [1]  

600,000

 

25 and 50-year fence replacement As needed2  

750,000

 

Human Injury
  Bodily Damage – Car Accidents  

300

 

6,500 – 2,000,000

 

1,950,000 – 60,000,000

Maintenance
  Forest Damage 250,000 $66 – 132

per head of moose

16,500,000 – 33,000,000
Property Damage – Auto Accidents  

800

 

5,000

 

3,500,000

Farm Damage 250 10,000 250,000
Fence Repair and Upkeep As Needed2  

1,500

 

Counter Measures
Moose Feed 2,500 137 205,500
TOTAL 21,970,550 – 42,955,500
Benefits: consumptive
Hunting
  Retail Sale of Meat 6,250 16/kilo * 250 kg 25,000,000
Subsistence Food Value 5,500 2,200 12,100,000
Meat Salvage 216,000 8/kilo 1,296,000
Hunting Permits 415 10,000 4,150,000
By-Products 50,000 4/kilo 200,000
Benefits: non-consumptive
  Tourism Trips 35,000 300 10,500,000
Hunting Tourism 25,000 450 11,250,000
Luxury Hunting Trips 100 10,000 100,000
TOTAL

                                                                                               154,946,000

 

Final Values:

Benefits                                                                154,946,000

Costs                                           42,955,500 /   21,970,550


Difference                              111,990,500 / 132,975,450

 

Conclusion:

The benefits of moose are economically valued at between 2.7 and 7 times that of their imposed costs. Therefore, a continuation of thoughtful hunting practices and encouragement of nature tourism is encouraged. Furthermore, due to recent population decreases it is advisable that efforts to protect this resource are made. It is suggestible that some of the profits from hunting licenses and local tourism be invested in conservation and public education endeavors.

Notes:

  • In many locations, moose populations have decreased without explanation, although it has been suggested that predation, higher temperatures, and disease are the cause. As a result, many states are reducing the number of permits awarded, electing to switch to a lottery system for permits, or eliminating moose season completely.
  • The price for hunting tags is an average taken from the figures provided by Alaska’s, Maine’s, and New Hampshire’s Department of Fish and Game website.
  • Values provided for meat are based on the average of 550 pounds of useable flesh harvested per animal.
  • Luxury wildlife hunting expenditure estimates are based on all-inclusive hunting packages offered by trained professionals in Alaska.
  • Costs for bridge building, repair, maintenance, property and bodily injury are based on estimates in for costs in Canada, Norway, and Alaska.

[1,2] Costs not included in the final totals.

Additional reading:

Moose Die-Off Alarms Scientists

Researchers track New Hampshire moose in hopes of pinpointing cause of population decline

States Initiating Research on Moose Declines; Minnesota Halts Hunt


sources:

Conservation, N. Y. (2006). Moose Facts. Retrieved from
http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/wildlife_pdf/moose1.pdf
Game, A. D. (n.d.). License Prices. Retrieved from Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Retrieved from
http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=huntlicense.prices
Game, N. H. (2011-2014). Moose Hunting in NH. Retrieved from New Hampshire Fish and Game. Retrieved from  http://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/Hunting/Hunt_species/hunt_moose.htm#fees
Geographic, N. (n.d.). Moose. Retrieved from National Geographic
http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/moose/
Huijser, M. P., Duffield, J. W., Clevenger, A. P., Ament, R. J., & McGowen, P. T. (2009). Cost–Benefit Analyses of Mitigation Measures Aimed at Reducing Collisions with Large Ungulates in the United States and Canada: a Decision Support Tool. Ecology and Society. Retrieved from
http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol14/iss2/art15/
Inc., N. E. (2006). The Value of Alaska Moose.
Retrieved from http://www.aswcd.org/ValueofMoose.pdf
Restoration Through Recreation, L. (n.d.). Alaskan Adventures Fishing, Hunting Trips, Videos, Alaska Speaker. Retrieved from
http://www.alaskan-adventures.com/alaska_hunting.htm
Storaas, T., Gundersen, H., Henriksen, H., & Andreassen, H. P. (2001, January 1). The economic value of moose in Norway–a review. Alces. Retrieved from
http://www.thefreelibrary.com/The+economic+value+of+moose+in+Norway–a+review.-a092803197
Wildlife, D. o. (2013). Moose Hunting. Retrieved from
http://www.state.me.us/IFW/licenses_permits/lotteries/moose/index.htm