By Ben Williamson
I recently attended the Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock conference and came away feeling, well, more positive than I had in a while. Here’s why:
1. Commitment to transparency
While factory farms can often be accused of secrecy (and rightfully so) there was talk of increasing transparency in the livestock sector for sustainability reasons. Yes, this was couched in a own-the-story-or the-activists-will-own-you form of paranoia. But the commitment to increasing transparency and letting the public decide for itself should be commended.
2. Enthusiasm from younger farmers
Nowhere was the appetite for genuine sustainable farming practices more evident than in the panel highlighting the work of several next-generation farmers. The younger people displayed more enthusiasm for greater environmental stewardship from planting trees to creating buffer zones to decrease soil erosion; lower use of synthetic fertilizers, and more. That the younger farmers saw the land, not only as a resource but also their home to be protected, is a step change from where we are today.
3. Appeal to communities
Several of the speakers noted the social aspects of sustainable agriculture that are often overlooked. As we know from recent reporting, factory farms are not only bad for animals, they’re also bad for local communities; putting family farmers out of work and depopulating whole towns. Reducing intensification and putting the farmer back into farming would have positive knock-on effects for generations. Student farmers recognized the need for the industry to provide greater education to students from different background as a way of putting the life back into farming.
The sustainable livestock community knows it has more work to do to fight the intensification of farming with disastrous consequences for animals, communities and the planet. The question is whether or not they will be able to get there before it’s too late.