The surprising benefits of animal welfare

The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) today launched a global campaign to improve the lives of tens of millions of farm animals worldwide. The campaign will raise public awareness of the intrinsic relationship between animal welfare and environmental and economic sustainability.

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development [UNCSD, or Rio +20] in June 2012,  in Rio de Janeiro – occurring 20 years after the precedent-setting 1992 “Earth Summit” – will focus on mobilising participation by businesses and catalysing a global transition to a ‘green economy’.  In the run-up to Rio +20, WSPA will lobby the UN and national governments for the active inclusion of animal welfare in the conference negotiations, where global principles on key sustainability and development issues will be agreed.  

WSPA spotlighted evidence that reveal human health, food safety and environmental benefits deriving from the humane, sustainable treatment of farms animals.

  • Meat from grass-fed cattle can contain as little as half the fat of that reared in intensive, grain- fed farms. 

  • Cage-free poultry farms in the UK were found to be significantly less likely to harbour bacteria that can cause dangerous food poisoning.

  • Grass-fed beef production can use just half the fossil fuel energy of intensive industrial farming.

WSPA is also urging consumers to petition their governments to put animal welfare on the Earth Summit 2012 agenda. WSPA's case studies show that there are many examples of economic benefits to farmers and rural communities, including..

  • In India, high-welfare, free-range chicken farming is significantly boosting the livelihoods of rural women.

  • In the United States, farms that allow cows to graze on pasture are creating long-term local jobs.

  • In Brazil, environmentally-friendly chicken farms are protecting the local landscape from pesticides and pollutants.

Dr. Lesley Lambert, Chief Policy Advisor at WSPA said: “Right now, member states of the United Nations are preparing their positions for the UN Summit in Rio next year. It is critical that they include animal welfare considerations at this stage, since these issues are key to tackling some of the biggest global challenges facing us today. We have a unique opportunity to give animal welfare its rightful place in the sustainable development discussion and WSPA’s campaign will create an engaging and interactive way for everyone – no matter what their current understanding of animal welfare – to join this debate.”

WSPA is committed to ensuring that animal welfare is placed at the heart of policy-making on agricultural sustainability and international development by providing compelling evidence that high welfare farming is a viable, environmentally friendly alternative to further intensification. WSPA will also present compelling case studies demonstrating that humane, sustainable farming systems provide a viable alternative to intensive industrial production methods. WSPA will take this evidence to each preparatory session of the UNCSD in the run-up to the Summit in Rio de Janeiro [20-22 June].

“This is our chance to influence the debate and shape policies that can protect millions of animals worldwide,” said Dr. Lambert, “A genuinely sustainable future for farming will be at its most effective if it is based around good animal welfare, protecting livelihoods and respect for the environment. It is essential that the Earth Summit in 2012 recognises that farm animal welfare is core to the Rio agenda and places it at the heart of all future policies on sustainable development.”

“Not everyone realises the links between free range eggs and development projects in rural Asia, for example, but each of us has an impact on the problems facing the world today” Dr. Lambert concluded.

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