A 2007 report by Compassion in World Farming revealed that the vast majority of the sixty billion animals farmed for food worldwide every year are intensively reared.
Such modern factory farming raises many ethical concerns, particularly for animal welfare and working conditions, but also regarding food safety, with imported meats from countries where welfare and safety standards are low.
Industrial animal production’s main concern is maximizing productivity and profit. Selective breeding and genetic engineering, along with poor conditions and mistreatment (including confinement, overcrowding and over-feeding) causes great suffering to animals throughout their short life span.
Measures to reduce GHG emissions in the meat and livestock industry can also come at a cost to animal welfare.
One way to tackle the problems surrounding industrial meat production is to eat less meat. But this raises ethical problems of a different sort – the livelihoods of 1.3 billion rural people around the world depend intimately on their animals.
Some argue that the answer lies in producing and consuming ‘better meat’, and heading towards a more sustainable system that combines high animal welfare with good environmental performance.
The Food Ethics Council has been working on this issue for some time, including a series of reports for WWF-UK on livestock consumption and production, and we are proud to have played a significant role in setting up the Eating Better alliance, which champions ‘less but better’ meat consumption.