Livestock production causes global warming, strains land and water resources

Published: Sunday 31 December 2006

  Down to Earth Livestock production has become a major envioronmental management challenge. When its full commodity chain is included, the sector contributes to global warming, causes stress on land by grazing, increases demand for water for feed crop production and leads to water pollution by animal waste and chemicals
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80 per cent of the growth in livestock production is due to industrial production.Production of pig and chicken have gone up; cattle, sheep and goat down

 Down to Earth It contributes 18 per cent of total greenhouse gas emission, accounting for 37 per cent of anthropogenic methane emission and 65 per cent of nitrous oxide

Down to Earth 26 per cent of earth's land is used for grazing. One-third of total arable land produces animal feed crops. Effects are most visible in Latin America. 70 per cent of original Amazon is now pasture, and a large part of the rest is used for feed crop cultivation

Down to Earth 8 per cent of total human water use goes for irrigation of feed crop. On the other hand the sector is single largest contributor to water pollution. Key pollutants

Animal waste, antibiotics and hormones during raising
Fertiliser and pesticides for feed crop
Chemicals from tanneries
Sediments from eroded pastures

Down to Earth There is a dramatic increase in pasture over last two centuries due to increasing demand of livestock product. It has created deforestation, and encroached upon wildlife areas. Livestock production is also moving towards urban centres, where transport hubs are located

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Down to Earth Industrial livestock production now competes directly with other sectors over scarce resources like land and water

Down to Earth Average increase in income has caused major boost to livestock products consumption. Global meat production is going to be double, 229 million tonnes in 1999 to 465 in 2050. Milk production in the same period is expected to go up 580 million tonnes to 1043. It calls for an immediate halving of its environmental effect of current level

Down to Earth Increasing consumption is not distributed equally among world population. Developing Asia has a remarkable increase of 130 per cent in meat product consumption between 1980 and 2002, while sub Sahara reflects a decline of 11 per cent due to poverty

The biggest problem in the sector comes out of lopsided economy as input prices do not internalise real cost of environmental degradation. This causes severe inefficiency and results in unreal low output prices that spirals more demand

Livestock economy contributes only 1.5 per cent of total global GDP. Though not major economic activity, it is of great political and social importance. It gives 40 per cent of gross domestic agricultural products and employs 1.3 billion. It needs greater focus from policy makers as it provides livelihood to a billion of poors in drylands

Source Livestock's Long Shadow, Environment Issues and Options, Livestock, Environment and Development and Food and Agricultural Organization, 2006


Debate 'Livestock boom'
[February 28, 2006]

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