New study injects new life into the livestock 'goods' and 'bads' controversy

A new two-volume report, Livestock in a Changing Landscape, released in March 2010, makes the case that the livestock sector 'is a major environmental contributor' as well as a major livelihood of the world's poor.

The report's co-editor, biologist Harold Mooney, says: 'We want to protect those on the margins who are dependent on a handful of livestock for their livelihood. . . . On the other side, we want people engaged in the livestock industry to look closely at the report and determine what improvements they can make.' Among the key findings in the report are:

  • More than 1.7 billion animals are used in livestock production worldwide and occupy more than one-fourth of the Earth's land.
  • Production of animal feed consumes about one-third of total arable land.
  • Livestock production accounts for approximately 40 percent of the global agricultural gross domestic product.
  • The livestock sector, including feed production and transport, is responsible for about 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
  • About 1 billion poor people worldwide derive at least some part of their livelihood from domesticated animals

While overconsumption of animal-source foods – particularly meat, milk and eggs – has been linked to heart disease and other chronic conditions, these foods remain a vital source of protein and nutrient nutrition throughout the developing world, the report said. The authors cited a recent study of Kenyan children that found a positive association between meat intake and physical growth, cognitive function and school performance. Published this year by Island Press, Livestock in a Changing Landscape is a collaboration of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Swiss College of Agriculture (SHL), Woods Institute for the Environment, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Scientific Committee for Problems of the Environment (SCOPE), Agricultural Research Center for International Development (CIRAD), and Livestock, Environment and Development Initiative (LEAD). Other editors of the report are Laurie E. Neville (Stanford University), Pierre Gerber (FAO), Jeroen Dijkman (FAO), Shirley Tarawali (ILRI) and Cees de Haan (World Bank). Initial funding for the project was provided by a 2004 Environmental Venture Projects grant from the Woods Institute. Here is a presentation made by ILRI Director Shirley Tarawali at the launch of the publication and workshop of the way forward 4-5 March 2010 in Switzerland.

View more presentations from ILRI CGIAR.