The livestock revolution

The livestock revolution

By Ferran Garcia

The so-called agricultural Green Revolution (RV) is widely known, which consisted mainly of the "industrialization" of agriculture and the joint and intense use of machinery, irrigation, hybrid seeds, synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, among other elements.

The livestock revolution

The so-called agricultural Green Revolution (RV) is widely known, which consisted mainly of the "industrialization" of agriculture and the joint and intense use of machinery, irrigation, hybrid seeds, synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, among other elements.

A VR that is increasingly questioned and controversial given the enormous impacts that it is having on the environment and peasant societies.

For some time now, there has also been talk of the Blue Revolution (RA) [1] , in this case, referring to the "industrialization" of fishing through ever larger vessels, with greater catching capacity, massive and not very selective fishing techniques and the emergence of intensive aquaculture in the style of RV agriculture. . The effects of AR are also beginning to show in the same sense as green.

But there is another food revolution that is not so widely discussed or disseminated, although with great impacts: livestock.

The logic of the Livestock Revolution (GR) follows in the footsteps of the other two described above and is based on the same non-ecosystem but reductionist and industrialized logic. These are some of the points on which this RG is based:

A. Genetics.
A crucial aspect of the livestock revolution is the massive use of so-called improved breeds. Actually, animal genetic improvement did not start with GR, the statement is obvious but it should be remembered. Animal genetic improvement has traditionally been carried out in search of the characteristics desired by each population. Productive improvements, resistance to diseases or better adaptation to the environment, for example. The current genetic improvement differs from the previous one in two major aspects: uniformity and corporate oligopolistic control.

Genetic erosion. FAO estimates that at least 30% of domestic animal breeds are at serious risk of extinction, which means the disappearance of 3 breeds every 2 weeks.

Especially serious is the situation in areas where RG is clearly established: Europe represents 75% of this and affects 73% of European breeds, while in areas where RA has not yet fully reached, as in Africa, the% drops to 7%.

Single breed. A paradigmatic case of a single breed is milk production in Spain. 96% of all milking cows in Spain are of the breed friesian-holstein and the uniformity is even greater if we take into account that 86% of all matings are by artificial insemination and that the number of bulls used is very low [2] , the vast majority of current dairy cows are inseminated by less than a hundred bulls, most of them originating in the breeding centers of Canada, USA or Central Europe.

Corporate control. Parallel to the corporate control of seeds, there are very few companies that have the necessary technical and financial capacity that genetic selection of GR requires. It is structured in a pyramidal shape where a few selection centers disseminate the genetics obtained to livestock farms through a network of genetic distributors.

A single company, Genus, is a leader in the genetic supply of cattle, pigs (with 40% of the pigs in the USA) and shrimp in the world. One of the leaders in chicken genetics, Hubbard, is part of the business network of Aventis, a company that produces GMOs, such as Bt Starlink corn, prohibited for human consumption [3] .

B. Animal health and antibiotics. The strictly productivist vision of corporate livestock derived from the RG entails a clear loss of animal health. A good part of the animals are in a, let's call it, a subclinical and controlled chronic disease, it is a loss of health caused by a set of factors such as facilities, food and ultimately by a poor adaptation of the animal to its environment that generates a significant stress situation [4] and the loss of much of their natural ability to respond to disease. To compensate for this poor health, a "recovery kit" is used, which basically contains antibiotics to deal with growing infections and reproductive hormones to compensate for the loss of animal fertility. [5] . In Europe, half of the antibiotics used are destined for animal production, of which almost 1/3 are administered with feed in a preventive manner. [6] The equivalence between the massive use of fertilizers and pesticides in agriculture and substances stimulating production and antibiotics in corporate livestock is clear. [7]

C. Corporate livestock.
A magnificent example of livestock "industrialization" is chicken production in Europe. Poultry production is characterized by the so-called “integration” and that consists of a company in the agri-food sector (generally feed manufacturers, animal genetics companies, slaughterhouses, food processing or distribution companies) reach an agreement for their breeding with farmers who put their work and who pay a fee for raised chicken. There is a great variety of contracts but in general the farmer is paid a salary for his work (usually linked to the productive results) but he does not control absolutely anything of the process (neither the feeding, nor the handling, nor the veterinary treatments, nor the facilities, or animal genetics, nothing). In reality he becomes, for all intents and purposes, a worker in the integrating “mother” company, which assumes the financial risks but also the benefits.

In Spain, chicken production is fully integrated (there is talk of 98%) [8] . The main chicken producer is the SADA Group, which controls 30% of Spanish chicken production. All SADA farms use the feed of the NANTA company, the leading Spanish feed producer for chickens. All NANTA feeds mainly use additives (vitamins, minerals, pigment agents, growth promoters, etc.) from Trouw. The genetics used mainly by SADA are from the Hybro company. SADA, NANTA, Trouw and Hybro belong to the same company with Dutch capital:

Nutreco. Nutreco is a transnational company in the agri-food sector that, in addition to being one of the leaders in the production, feeding, genetics and commercialization of chickens in Europe, is the absolute leader in the production, feeding and distribution of farmed salmon.

Environmental aspects . The RG added to the current political framework of the European CAP or the American Farm Bill, have transformed the rural space by drawing an agrarian structure based on territorial concentration and a constant increase in the size of livestock farms. Each time the farms are bigger and are in fewer places. The main impact of this is undoubtedly being the environmental degradation that affects these black holes, a model totally disconnected from the territory, its ecosystem and significantly exceeding the environmental capacity to integrate livestock in a sustainable way.

Another feature of the RG has been the separation of two clearly complementary activities: agriculture and livestock, increasing the unsustainability of the models. Two activities that are essentially sustainable and that can use almost all renewable elements have become, separately, activities with a clear negative energy balance.

Social aspects. That same conjunction between politics and the productive model applied to livestock is leading to the extinction of diversified, family and sustainable peasant livestock and is replacing it with a corporate livestock based on large farms that already have little peasant farming.

Productive models that are highly demanding of constant investment, together with a reduction in the monetary margin per unit of food and the need therefore to enter the growth-indebtedness spiral. Increasing control of agrobusiness In the decisions and in the livestock production model, an increasing control of the food processing and distribution agribusiness in this production and the oligopoly that exists throughout the food chain, have led us to the current situation where the RG has been accompanied of adequate pro-corporate policies.

Beyond our borders.
But the RG has not only meant serious environmental and social problems where it has spread to be the practically unique production model, such as the European Union, the impacts of the RG go beyond the borders where it is applied. GR is based on a very narrow range of animal genetics that responds with high yields under certain conditions. It is not only animal genetics, it is genetics plus the set of elements necessary for that genetics to be expressed in the sense that has been selected and that is the maximization of the production of an animal product. The range of genetics and the accompanying package is therefore very small and in high demand by RG. That, apart from facilitating oligopolistic control of each element of the GR, makes it difficult for a region to obtain all the elements of the magic formula in its territory. Then the need to import these elements appears: genetics, facilities, pharmacology and, especially, the optimal diet for GR. It is not surprising then that in the EU, 75% of all agri-food imports are destined not for human food but for animal consumption, and that of all of them, 75% is soy. The “magic” oilseed demanded by the RG and that Europe, under the agreements of Blair house at the beginning of the WTO, it could hardly produce.

In order to obtain the products that European corporate animal feed needs and that it imports, basically, from impoverished regions, we must resort to export monocultures, in the case of soybeans, transgenic. Monocultures that are a major cause of hunger, poverty, rural migration and environmental disasters.

In this way a criminal circle is closed where corporate livestock implants exporting monocultures in impoverished regions to nourish themselves and returns the result of that production in the form of milk, meat or eggs with dumping [9] that ruins the little peasant agriculture and livestock that monocultures had left standing.

Food Sovereignty.
But as for almost everything, there are alternatives and for this situation the alternative is called Food Sovereignty.

The concept of food sovereignty was developed by Via Campesina [10] and brought to public debate on the occasion of the World Food Summit in 1996, and offers an alternative to neoliberal policies. Food sovereignty is the right of peoples, of their countries or unions of States to define their agricultural and food policy, without dumping against third countries.

Food sovereignty includes:
Peasant access to productive resources, sustainable peasant production models, a priority for food production for local markets and new international food trade rules. In reality, the application of a right as basic as that of food is defended, and the SA is without a doubt the best tool to make it effective throughout the world.

The market, therefore, must be primarily local and our diet should be based on the products of our ecosystems, produced not by corporate livestock but by peasant livestock, and bought in local markets, or cooperatives. For products from other ecosystems incorporated into our diets, we must look for authentic fair trade channels that follow exactly the same premises of peasant, sustainable and equitable production in the distribution of monetary benefits. We must demand that guarantee from fair trade organizations.

The FAO tells us that the demand for food of animal origin is going to grow very intensely in the so-called developing countries, approximately 3% per year between 1999-2020 in the consumption of milk and meat, and that this represents a magnificent opportunity for poor peasants to get out of that situation and increase their income through livestock production. Two considerations in this regard, the first is to ask ourselves to what extent the levels of consumption of livestock products in industrialized countries are socially and environmentally sustainable and if this scheme is the one that we must work to implement throughout the planet (currently developed countries obtain the 27% of the energy and 56% of the proteins that we consume from livestock products, by 11% and 26% of impoverished countries). The second is whether we should repeat the same mistakes with the Livestock Revolution as with the Agricultural Green Revolution. The latter has not only failed to alleviate poverty and hunger but is one of its causes. How has the intensive production and export of coffee, sugar, cotton, soybeans or fruits helped the rural poor in Honduras, Thailand, Mali, Argentina or Brazil? And the “revolutionary bluish” production of shrimp in Ecuador or Madagascar?

Green revolutionLivestock Revolution
Corporate control of seeds and others
productive resources
Seeds / Fertilizers / Pesticides /
Land / Water / Etc.
Corporate control of animal genetics and
other productive resources
Animals / Food / Pharmacology /
Environmentally unsustainable production models and negative selection towards
peasant production. Destruction of the rural family fabric.
Strictly productivist vision of agriculture without taking into account the others
aspects inherent to food (social and environmental).
Trend towards monocultures and
Tendency towards single-livestock farming and
export of livestock products
Oligopolistic corporate control of resources, production models,
food processing, distribution and international trade of

* Ferran Garcia Moreno
Veterinarians Without Borders

The economist
Corporate information and
] and
The University of calculated a loss of fertility of dairy cows of almost 50% in the last 25 years.
In 4 years (2000-2004) the sales of pharmaceutical products destined for animal “health” grew by 24%.
Carlos Buixadé.
Selling a product below its cost

Video: Livestock on the Land - Full-Length Film (May 2021).