From concrete to chickens – how to live the good life

10.05.11 WSPA Blog from N.Y

What have DIY, livestock farms and childhood anaemia in India got in common? They all featured in the event I spoke at on One Planet Homes and Food at the UN yesterday.
Our intention as the organisers – us, the World Society for Protection of Animals and BioRegional - was to present a new, coordinated vision for solving some of the biggest problems facing global society today. The concept of One Planet Living provides a great way of explaining the idea that we are living beyond planetary means – in this case in the context homes and food - as they both top the list in any analysis of environmental and social impacts of the way we live.
What came out clearly from the diverse speakers was an emerging understanding that we can demonstrate a new way to make our lives more sustainable and just, well, better.
Feeling nervous that no one would turn up – it was a busy lunchtime at the UN and our event was out of the ‘compound’ – I watched, thrilled, as more and more delegates including Government representatives came in.
I spoke about how we need to consider the role and impact of livestock farming. WSPA is proposing a five point plan [see our briefing] to tackle food consumption - particularly meat and dairy systems. There are huge benefits from a more humane sustainable livestock production and consumption system. This will be core to advancing Rio+20 discussions on the future of food and farming. The rearing and use of animals has a major impact on the environment, society, and the global economy. Ensuring the animal’s welfare is an effective tool to help achieve a green economy, tackle poverty and enhance livelihoods globally.
I spoke about how some farmers are already benefitting from higher welfare systems – from backyard chicken farmers in India using a new hardy breed which grows well on local food and scraps; to dairy farmers in Europe gaining better returns from healthier cows. In The US a major retailer is using a new a tiered rating system for farm-animal production systems - with more than 1,200 operations, raising more than 140 million animals annually, covered. Shoppers can choose the more welfare-friendly meat in their shops right across America.
What is exciting is that we can have a win-win-win scenario – better welfare, livelihoods and environments. For instance, integrating livestock and crops in humane mixed farming systems provides a solution to some of the environmental problems often associated to livestock farming, particularly in the model of concentration and intensification of livestock operations that has been growing in many parts of the developing world. Farms that integrate crop and livestock are also shown to be more resilient against climate change.
It’s clear the attendees found the combination of food and homes – that’s where the concrete came in – an intriguing one. The next step will be how to work with them to ensure we get good outcomes in the run up to and at Rio.

Vicki Hird, WSPA

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