Compassion took part in the major global agriculture meeting of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) on 16-18 June. Representatives of more than 150 governments debated the issues surrounding animal farming. Many delegates from developing countries were keen to promote small-scale livestock farming in the face of challenges from western-style intensive farms.
Joyce D'Silva, Compassion's Director of Public Affairs, reminded delegates that although the discussion focussed on 'livestock', it was good to remember that the term 'livestock' refers to individual sentient beings. Joyce also pointed out that concern for the welfare of animals is not just confined to the western world. Surveys of citizens have shown that, for example, people in China are as concerned about a range of welfare issues as people in the UK.
Many delegates spoke about methods to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cattle in particular. Joyce requested that any measures such as changing the type of feed are subject to a health and welfare impact assessment, as such changes could have hugely negative effects on the animals themselves. For example, feeding more cereals and less grasses to cattle may reduce the amount of methane they produce, yet this could mean that more cattle suffer from painful lameness.
Compassion welcomes the FAO's proposal for a dedicated committee to investigate all the issues surrounding animal farming, from the development of small-scale farms and global food security, to the impact of animal farming on the environment and animal welfare. Although the urgency of dealing with these crucial issues seems obvious, certain countries with large-scale livestock interests appear to be cautious about this proposal for positive change. Joyce asked the assembled delegates: "One billion people will be going to bed hungry tonight. How long does the world have to wait?"