The ethics of meat production and quality - a South African perspective
The global livestock industry has recently been inundated with criticisms about the impact of animal production systems on anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), animal welfare, environmental sustainability and human health and well-being. Although it is accepted that the estimate of GHG emissions from animal agriculture has been exaggerated by the FAO’s publication “Livestock’s Long Shadow”, the 18% estimate is a gross exaggeration. Industrialisation in the agricultural sector in some developing countries without “enlightenment” has been associated with environmental problems like among others, land degradation and water pollution. It is estimated that global livestock production will double by 2050 to satisfy demands, which suggests a faster than expected growth compared to any other agricultural sector. Demand for meat, milk and eggs is expected to increase by about 30% in the next 8 years. These trends resulted in calls for stricter environmental and animal welfare legislation. By contrast, there are also growing concerns about the world’s ability to provide in the considerably growing protein needs of a rapidly growing human population, especially in developing countries where it is unlikely that the demands will be met. The importance of the latter is emphasized by the UN’s focus on ‘the right to food as a global goal’ and the fact that Rio+20 will also have to be held accountable for the effects of environmental legislation on humans’ physical and economic access to food. The purpose of this paper is to focus on some of these conflicting issues and the effects of a shift to intensive production systems on the ethics of meat production, quality and animal welfare in African countries with knowingly limited natural resources.
Keywords: Ethics, meat production, meat quality, intensification, environment