On the need for expanding sustainability frameworks and veterinary vision in developing countries

Divine bovine, painting by Karen Bezuidenhout.

A new science paper argues for broadening traditional approaches to livestock sustainability and veterinary vision in developing countries. Two of the three livestock science authors—Brian Perry and Tim Robinson—have formerly worked at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) while the third—Delia Grace—co-leads ILRI’s Animal and Human Health program.

The following statements are excerpted from their paper.

‘This paper explores sustainability with reference to livestock systems, reviews the threats to, and opportunities for, sustainability, and introduces the concept of including One Health as a supplement to the traditional three sustainability pillars of economics, society and environment when addressing livestock. Three case studies, drawn from recent experiences of the authors, provide concrete illustrations of concepts discussed using a novel analytical framework that includes sustainability and health trajectory thinking.

‘. . . In agriculture, sustainability frameworks usually have three components, or pillars, namely enhance environmental quality, sustain the economic viability of agriculture and enhance the quality of life for society. These are also adumbrated in the most recent expression of sustainability, manifest in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development launched in January 2016, which aims to end poverty, protect the planet  and ensure peace and prosperity for all (UN, 2016). . . .

[S]ome argue that these attempts to square the circle are unachievable and that sustainable intensification in the livestock sector is a contradiction in terms (Garnett et al., 2013); genuine sustainability can best be achieved through drastic reduction in livestock product consumption, and major shifts in the type of livestock products consumed (less muscle, more offal), along with limiting livestock production to pasture and byproducts: in effect, sustainable de-intensification (Röös et al., 2016; Swain, 2016).

‘While the environmental impacts of livestock are prominent in the cited frameworks, the negative health externalities, with impacts comparable in magnitude have been under-examined. . . .

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