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Dozens of countries agree to discuss livestock sustainability

WASHINGTON, D.C. — More than 60 countries have released a joint statement about the future needs, problems and impact of livestock around the world.

The statement, The Future of Livestock: Enhancing Sustainability, Responsibility and Efficiency, was released during a policy seminar presented by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Panelists discussed the difficulty of balancing the need for livestock for food and the environmental impact the industry can have.

“If children don’t have access to animal-based protein, our children could be stunted,” said Shenggen Fan, director general of IFPRI. At the same time, methane produced from livestock is blamed for about 17 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions, and more than half of the emissions from the agricultural industry.

He said in excess of 800 million people suffer from hunger, while others have illness based on poor nutrition, like obesity. Some people eat too much meat while others around the globe have access to none at all.

The demand for animal-based food, from meat to milk and eggs, is projected to increase in many areas of the world as a result of a growing population, more economic flexibility and changes to consumer behavior. At the same time, consumers want livestock production to be more sustainable and producers more aware of animal welfare.

A secondary impact of an increase in meat-based diets is an increase in jobs in rural areas, promoting investment and trade.

The statement called for a sustainable development goal by 2030; voluntary guidelines to support the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security; voluntary guidelines for sustainable soil management drawn up by the Global Soil Partnership; global animal welfare strategies; and a global plan for animal genetic resources.

The goal of the statement is to safeguard the supply of and access to sufficient, safe, nutritious and affordable food from livestock production and to meet the economic, environmental and social challenges the livestock sector faces. Additional areas of interest include ensuring food security and nutrition, improving livelihoods, conserving natural resources, protecting the environment and addressing climate change and improving animal health and welfare.

The livestock industry employs approximately 1.3 billion people (about 1 in 7 worldwide), many poor and vulnerable, the report states. It is a primary source of income and employment in many regions of the world and helps to develop rural areas.

The agricultural ministers of the countries involved would like to reduce food waste, improve access to veterinary services and strengthen international cooperation. To assist with sustainability, they suggest increasing innovation, integrating systems and organic farming, while phasing out unsustainable policies and practices.

“We … call for concerted action by all relevant stakeholders to engage in shaping livestock development to support the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” the report states.

“We, the agriculture ministers, conclude that concrete action across all stakeholders and international cooperation is necessary in order to make livestock production and animal husbandry more sustainable, responsible and efficient. We are facing up to our responsibility to take action to promote and progress discussions on this subject in international (forums).”

Local, regional, national and international rules, standards and voluntary agreements need to be agreed upon. The ministers say research and development need to be improved to promote technologies, veterinary medical products such as vaccines and genetic techniques and to implement the technologies and practices already available.

Moving forward, the ministers will work together and with local stockholders to implement the actions agreed upon in the statement. Learn more reading online at