Environment / Food Security / ILRI / Intensification / Opinion piece / Pro-Poor Livestock

NGO of ‘eat less meat’ mantra takes holistic view of livestock’s role in meeting global eco- and nutritional challenges

Ethiopian livestock-keeping family

Ethiopian livestock-keeping family (photo credit: ILRI/Apollo Habtamu).

Dan Murphy, a food industry journalist, has published a commentary on a Pork Network website about a livestock chapter in the State of the World 2011: Innovations That Nourish the Planet, published by the Worldwatch Institute, in the USA. ‘The book aims to provide a blueprint for coping with the impact of population growth, resource limitations and climate change on world food production, nutrition and agriculture.’

What takes Murphy by surprise are the recommendations, set out by the chapter’s ILRI authors, with approval from the senior editors at Worldwatch, which is, he reminds us, a ‘Washington, D.C.-based think tank and eco-activist NGO’ famous for trumpeting the “eat less meat to forestall global warming” mantra.’

‘. . . The section I reviewed in detail was a chapter called “Improving Food Production from Livestock.” In it, Mario Herrero, a senior researcher at the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi, Kenya, and a group of senior Worldwatch scientists combined to pose a provocative question:

To meet the nutritional, economic, and environmental needs of the world’s approximately one billion people living in poverty, how can livestock producers globally find ways to increase milk, meat, and egg production—but without harming the environment?

‘. . . [U]nlike many activist screeds, which demonize producers and demand imposition of a vegan agenda to solve the world’s eco- and nutritional challenges, the Worldwatch team stated unequivocally that

Farm animals are an ancient, vital, renewable natural resource [upon which] a billion people throughout the developing world rely on for their livelihood. Livestock sustain most forms of agricultural intensification—from the Sahelian rangelands of West Africa to the mixed smallholdings in East Africa to highly intensified rice production in Asia.”

‘. . . Raising livestock is critical not only for animals’ ability to make even marginal grasslands productive—and for their undeniable nutritional value—but for its economic value to hundreds of millions of people who otherwise would possess few resources of value upon which to base their existence, the report explained.

‘Most importantly, the Worldwatch team acknowledged that livestock production is “agriculture’s most economically important subsector,” with demand for animal foods in developing countries projected to double over the next two decades. . . .

‘After reading this chapter, I have only one complaint: Why aren’t its contents the focus of the Institute’s positioning on the challenges of climate change, population growth and environmental protection the group so relentlessly preaches?

‘These insights ought to be in the headline, not buried in the middle of Chapter 14.’

Read the whole commentary by Dan Murphy in Pork Network: Worldwatch wisdom, 12 Dec 2011.

Related stories on the ILRI News Blog

Read more about this ILRI-authored livestock chapter in Worldwatch’s flagship publication‘State of the World 2011′: Sustainable livestock production is part of the solution for nourishing people and the planet, 28 Apr 2011.

Read about a recent disagreement between Worldwatch and ILRI authors regarding credible figures for levels of greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production: Livestock and climate change: Towards credible figures, 27 Jun 2011.

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