Human development and biodiversity will not be the only focus of the Rio+20 Earth Summit in June, for which representatives of hundreds of states and non- governmental organisations (NGOs) will gather to discuss sustainable development.
The delegates will also deal with the wellbeing of farm animals and sustainable farming, thanks to the efforts of the London-based NGO World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), the governments of the G-77 countries, Switzerland and New Zealand.
Together, they have helped to draft a part of the Rio+20 outcome text, to be negotiated in June, to “call upon all States to prioritise sustainable intensification of food production through increased investment in local food production”, especially in regard to women, smallholders, youth and indigenous farmers.
The draft text further demands an increase in “the use of appropriate technologies for sustainable agriculture”.
The WSPA, which sees itself not only as an animal advocacy group but also as one that supports sustainable agriculture, defines sustainable livestock production as part of a food and agriculture system that is ecologically sound, equitable for farmers and rural communities and other sectors of society, and humane in its use and treatment of livestock.
The livestock sector provides livelihoods to about 1.3 billion people worldwide – more than one-sixth of the global population – according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
A significantly higher proportion – about 70 percent – of the world’s rural poor, however, relies on livestock production for their livelihoods.
Industrial farming, which threatens the livelihoods of these people, especially smallholders, while simultaneously damaging socio-economic systems and the environment, came about during the second half of the twentieth century.
“The ancient contract of responsible stewardship, once honored by farmers for thousands of years, was replaced by intensive factory farming methods that exchanged ethical farming practice for increased economic profitability,” said a 2010 article in the journal “Holistic Nursing Practice”.
Profit came “at the expense of animal welfare and the increase in potential adverse health consequences to the general public”, it added.
“Factory farming is not sustainable,” Dinah Fuentesfina of WSPA Thailand told IPS. “Factory farming also is bad for the climate,” she added.