7 Who’s got the power
The rise of the social animal In the Dutch political arena animal welfare is a major issue when it comes to food provision. The industry – agribusiness, breeders, processors, supermarkets – is currently making a major and highly risky manoeuvre by trying to reconcile animal welfare with efficient production. But might it be possible to actually achieve higher returns by enhancing animal welfare?
he issue seems to be the most important in the
consumer preferences and perceptions are ensuring
global debate about meat consumption and the
the gradual elimination of rapid-growing broilers, price
world food supply has tended to be whether we can
stunts with meat and eggs from cage-housed hens –
afford an increasing number of farm animals within
i.e., situations in which high-production animals are
the world’s current agricultural capacity. Animal
kept in suboptimal conditions – by more pleasant
welfare has traditionally played a relatively small role.
variants. The Wageningen scientists Piter Bijma,
The question of whether we need to recalibrate our
Liesbeth Bolhuis and Bas Rodenburg, involved in
diet towards less animal protein overall has so far
breeding, behaviour and adaptation physiology are also
been answered in the negative by the growing
studying opportunities to improve the living conditions
number of people in the world who can afford to eat
of animals. This is relevant for the design of housing
meat in many societies. The welfare of animals is
systems, as well as for issues such as genetic selection.
simply not a focal point.
The future belongs to social animals housed in suitable environments.
In the Netherlands and many other Western countries, however, the animal welfare issue is literally and
metaphorically on the menu, and is taken seriously
Traditional breeding programmes are focused on
by industry and science alike. Legal measures and
individual winners, with the fastest-growing animals
Food for all | Who's got the power
Published on Mar 15, 2013
Wageningen University Dies anniversary book 2013: Food for all - Sustainable nutrition security.