Veterinarians find themselves on the front lines of the sustainability movement. While some decisions are driven by misinformation, consumers, food companies and governments increasingly insist on documentation of sustainability in food production, and efficiency is key to improving sustainability in animal agriculture. From the veterinarian’s standpoint, that means we need better disease prevention, parasite control and feed utilization while we also address consumer demands for animal welfare and antibiotic stewardship

Global attention

During 2016, several events drew international attention to the issue of sustainability in agriculture, and specifically in livestock production. These include the 2016 Global Agricultural Productivity (GAP) report, which focused on sustainability, the Global Conference on Sustainable Beef, which took place in Alberta in October, and release of new sustainable-agriculture recommendations from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

UN Sustainability Report

In October 2016, the FAO released its “Proposed Draft Recommendations on Sustainable Agricultural Development for Food Security and Nutrition, Including the Role of Livestock.”

Recommendations specific to livestock production include:

·         Improve animal health and welfare.

·         Recognize, protect and support pastoral systems for livelihoods and sustainable resource management.

·         Promote and support sustainable grazing systems.

·         Promote and support mixed systems.

·         Promote the sustainability of intensive systems.

Under the heading of animal health and welfare, the report focuses on five areas:

1.       Enable access to veterinary and extension services, vaccinations, medications, including antimicrobials, adapted to the specific livestock production systems.

2.       Improve animal health management including biosafety and biosecurity, particularly focusing on infectious diseases, zoonoses, and reducing exposure to environmental hazards.

3.       In respect of the One Health approach and in the spirit of FAO, OIE, WHO collaboration, promote the prudent and responsible use of antimicrobials in agriculture and prevent their unnecessary use, including the phasing out of use of antibiotics for animal growth promotion in the absence of risk analysis.

4.       Improve animal welfare delivering on the five freedoms and related OIE standards and principles, including through capacity building programs, and supporting voluntary actions in the livestock sector to improve animal welfare.

5.       Promote access to good quality feed, and facilitate training on sustainable feeding practices.

Read the UN draft recommendations on sustainable agriculture.

Part 1 of this series focused on the 2016 Global Agricultural Productivity (GAP) report from the Global Harvest Initiative.

The next part of this series will outline recommendations for livestock production included in the UN’s 2016 Sustainability Report.