Map of the global distribution of cattle in 2006, by Tim Robinson et al., May 2014 (photo credit: ILRI/Livestock Geo-Wiki).
A new article on the super-cool general-interest news site Vox starts like this:
The Earth currently has about 19.6 billion chickens, 1.4 billion cattle, and 980 million pigs being raised as livestock. If you added them all up, they’d weigh more than humans and all other wild animals combined.
This articles describes a fascinating set of 2014 maps available on a Livestock Geo-Wiki maintained by a multi-partner collaboration led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB-LUBIES). Here you’ll find regularly revised and updated global maps of livestock distributions and production systems.
Want to know where the world’s 1.4 billion cows live? Where the world’s 19.6 billion chickens are? The world’s 980 million pigs? Check it out.
Why do such livestock stats matter? Because livestock are a dominant force on the planet — for better and for worse.
Demand for meat is expected to rise 73% between 2010 and 2030.
‘Livestock is already responsible for both the food and livelihoods of roughly 1 billion people on the planet. And, the authors of the PLOS One paper note, that number is expected to skyrocket in the decades ahead.
‘As developing countries get richer, demand for meat is expected to rise 73 percent between 2010 and 2030. Demand for milk is expected to rise 58 percent, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. (Though the rate of demand growth is expected to level off in China and Brazil.)
‘That will almost certainly put heavier pressure on the environment. Livestock is already responsible for some 14.5 percent of the man-made greenhouse-gas emissions that are warming the planet. Animal manure can disrupt the nitrogen cycle or contaminate waterways.
‘Then there’s health to consider. As the livestock sector keeps expanding, people, cattle, chickens, and pigs are all pushed in closer proximity with wild habitats — raising the possibility of infectious pathogens spreading. And the use of antibiotics in the livestock sector increases the odds of antibiotic-resistant bacteria developing.
‘Obviously these aren’t easy issues to address. But, the PLOS One authors note, better maps are a good start. They note that the maps have already been used to estimate the environmental impact of livestock and to study avian flu or foot-and-mouth disease.
‘The maps are expected to keep getting better over time, as the model used to estimate livestock improves. The authors also note that they are working on maps for the world’s 1.87 billion sheep and goats.’
Read the whole article on Vox by Brad Plumer: These maps show where all the world’s cattle, chickens, and pigs are, 5 Feb 2015.
Read the full PLOS ONE paper, Mapping the global distribution of livestock, by Timothy Robinson, of ILRI’s Livestock Systems and Environment Program, and G R William Wint, Giulia Conchedda, Thomas P Van Boeckel, Valentina Ercoli, Elisa Palamara, Giuseppina Cinardi, Laura D’Aietti, Simon I Hay and Marius Gilbert.
Read more about this work on the ILRI News Blog: New maps for navigating a sea of changes in livestock production, by Matthew Davis, 30 May 2014.