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How the anti-meat mantra of rich countries hurts development in poor countries

ILRI Director General Jimmy Smith (photo credit: ILRI).

Rich countries making bad food choices and consuming too much meat should not force their ideas about environmental and health issues and agricultural sustainability on the world’s many hungry people who eat too little livestock-sourced nutrition says, says Dr Jimmy Smith from the International Livestock Research Institute in Africa.

‘The developing world has much to learn from rich western economies, but eating less meat is not one of those lessons.

‘Kenyan-based livestock research chief, Dr Jimmy Smith, says producing more meat and making it more available to international markets will be critical to helping the economic and nutritional health of developing countries and their small scale farmers.

While some in developed societies keenly promoted meat-reduced or meat-free lifestyles, he said it was unfair to impose such broad-brush views on countries where diets already lacked enough animal-sourced nutrition.

There was no moral equivalence between those making bad food choices and consuming too much meat, and the many hungry people who had no food choices at all and consumed far too little.

‘Dr Smith is the director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), an agricultural development body chaired by Australian Professor Lindsay Falvey. . . .

‘Dr Smith manages ILRI’s effort to improve food security and reduce poverty through research for better and more sustainable use of livestock.

‘That work focuses on helping small producers develop more efficient animal feeding, health and breeding regimes to lift their flock and herd productivity and farm profitability.

‘“What will help lift livestock productivity among smallholder farmers and herders in low-income countries, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental harms, are today’s many scientific advances in genetics, breeding, feeding and nutrition,” he said. . . .

Outlines of the Australian continent are superimposed on maps of Asia and Africa (map credit: ILRI/Catherine Pfeiffer and Samuel Itheria).

Dr Smith noted many of the scientific advances relevant to underdeveloped agricultural communities were coming from Australia, which had similar subtropical, tropical and semi-arid agricultural ecologies to developing countries (see maps above).

In fact, Australia was the only developed country providing technical aid from a base which shared the same ecological conditions as the recipient countries in South East Asia and Africa.

‘“We can learn a lot from what has happened in parts of the world like Australia,” he said.

‘“It’s true that the concentration of livestock in farming systems has not always been good for the environment, but that means we can be aware of the negatives and avoid them.”

‘At the same time, however, Dr Smith said livestock production often made far more productive use of rangelands or other land which otherwise had negligible value as a cropping environment.

‘He was also quick to rebuff suggestions livestock production was a less productive use of scarce water resources than cropping.’

Cattle, sheep and goats in developing countries invariably survived on water not potable for human use and that water consumption was well below the feedlot-fed beef production figures frequently quoted by misguided cattle critics. . . .

Read the whole article by Andrew Marshall at Farm Online (Australia): Simplistic anti-meat mantra hurts third world, 17 Apr 2017.

Read a report on Jimmy Smith’s presentations in Australia
Simplistic livestock solutions no help for poor people in transition from smallholders to ‘smartholders’, ILRI News blog, 19 Apr 2017.

Read other news clippings reporting on Jimmy Smith’s visit to Australia
Devex: Q&A: Calls for greater investment of ODA into livestock sectors, 18 Apr 2017, reported on in an ILRI Clippings blog article: Jimmy Smith in Australia makes the case for greater investments in pro-poor livestock development, 19 Apr 2017.

Watch 2-minute video interviews of Australian Nobel Prize Laureate Peter Doherty about ILRI and its work
Peter Doherty on international livestock research and ILRI
Peter Doherty on the role of science supporting Africa’s food production
Peter Doherty on zoonotic plagues
Peter Doherty on genomics, trypanosomosis disease resistance, and increased yields
Peter Doherty on challenges and opportunities of pig production in Southeast Asia
Peter Doherty on poultry genetics and the importance of eggs in African diets

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