Today, Chatham House in London is holding a conference entitled ‘Sustainable Intensification: miracle or mirage? Compassion has a clear view about Sustainable Intensification: it’s an oxymoron! Intensification of livestock farming has brought the EU farming industry to its knees. Many farmers, their farm animals and the environment are in a sorry state as a result of the intensification of farming, pushing out small-scale farmers in the pursuit of big agri-businesses with high inputs and high outputs (of products but also pollution).
Intensification of livestock farming is exactly why Peter Roberts founded Compassion in World Farming – as a farmer he could see first-hand the damage being caused to farmers, their animals and the environment. The intensive model in the EU, USA and now being aggressively pushed elsewhere is entirely unsustainable on every level. To become sustainable for people, the planet and farm animals, farming in the ‘west’ must de-intensify.
I was struck by the words of a prominent speaker: “We produce enough food for every man, every woman, and every child on the planet”. He then went on to outline the shameful reality that a billion people go to bed hungry each night. He called for greater support for the 500 million small farmers who produce the majority of the world’s food. I couldn’t help but agree, and told him so. I suggested that ‘sustainable intensification’ was a loaded term, so often used as a flag of convenience by industrial agricultural interests to push factory farms, chemicals and GM. I pointed out that factory farms waste food, not make it. That enough cereal to feed three billion people is currently fed to industrial livestock who give back a fraction of the food value in terms of protein and calories. I also suggested that the discussion would have been better framed around the more open question of how to feed tomorrow’s population properly and sustainably. Instead the conference focused on the grossly ill-defined term of ‘sustainable intensification’; a wasted opportunity.
Compassion’s most recent research shows that intensifying livestock farming through moving to grain-based animal feeds would make food security harder to achieve, particularly in the most vulnerable areas of the world, including parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Pursuing intensification of livestock is just unacceptable. We call on governments and investors to support extensive farmers in both the industrialised and less industrialised parts of the world, to achieve better food security and healthy diets for all. You can read our new Statement on Sustainable Intensification here.