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Livestock - fulfulling social, environmental and economic roles : is it possible?
chapterposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by David Swain, M Gill
History has shown that when societies fail to consider the sustainable use of natural resources they eventually collapse. Science has enabled modern agriculture to increase productivity. In developed countries farmers have successfully provided an abundance of food and in so doing achieved economic success. There is a growing recognition that future livestock farming systems need to simultaneously address social, environmental and economic goals. With the advent of widespread environmental degradation, molecular technologies to redesign animals and a disconnected consumer, it appears more important than ever to question how we might derive resilient and sustainable agricultural systems. Economic drivers are inevitably the most powerful incentives for change within both an interventionist and neo-liberal market framework. Environmental degradation is often a by-product of agricultural intensification resulting from farmers responding to consumer demands for cheaper food. Societies in developed countries have become disconnected from modern agriculture and thus consumer action may not always be able to target the perpetrators of the problems. Policies by their very nature take a broad approach and are thus insensitive tools for capturing the opportunities presented by the diversity of livestock production systems. Reconnecting farmers with consumers via mechanisms which encourage more direct engagement can provide a forum to address environmental concerns. In so doing this helps to minimize the conflicts between social, environmental and economic goals and builds knowledge and understanding.