Experts, academics, small-scale farmers, civil society and intergovernmental organizations came together today at the Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre 2012 to discuss the importance of introducing better animal welfare systems and supporting small-scale farmers in their implementation. With the proliferation of animal welfare standards set by the private sector, small-scale farmers risk not being able to stand up to the competition in terms of resources, technology and knowledge and seriously risk being increasingly marginalised. The speakers of the conference, jointly organized by Slow Food and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), collectively raised a voice in favour of making farmers the protagonists of this moment in which animal welfare is progressively being recognized as a common good and its benefit for farmers, animals and citizens alike are being understood.
Speakers included top animal welfare expert Mateus Paranhos Da Costa, who spoke about the importance of training programmes and how they can significantly improve the conditions of farm animals. Speaking about the situation of animal welfare in Brazil, Mateus underlined the importance of changing the focus from pointing out what is wrong to understanding how to solve the problem. Richard Haigh from the Zulu Sheep Presidium contributed to the meeting with his practical experience raising sheep and underlined that farming must revolve around responsibility, relationships, attitudes and legacy. Aurelia Maria Castellanos Quintero, of the Cuban Association of Animal Production emphasized the importance of spreading good practices of farmers through effective communication.
FAO data indicates that around 1 billion people depend on animals as a source of income, food, cultural identity and social status. It is estimated that 60% of families that live in rural areas keep animals. Animal welfare is of crucial importance to these communities, due to the fact that a secure supply of food depends on the health and productivity of animals, and these in turn depend on the care and nutrition that animals receive. The livelihood of farming families and the link with animal welfare will therefore be an issue of attention in 2014, the UN declared International Year of Family Farming.
The conference Animal Welfare: a Win-Win Opportunity for Animals, Farmers and Consumers, set the basis for a collaboration that will lead to an in-depth analysis of the links between animal and food security and safety, human and animal health, protection of biodiversity, economical and environmental sustainability and the livelihood of small-scale farmers. The collaboration will also target young farmers and leverage their high sensibility on these issues.