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Case Study: Keeping the pact between humans and livestock in harmony with new claims of society

A case study is presented about the harmony of livestock and related legislative requirements.
Farmer with white cows beside a yellow trough in a field
© University of Turin

The domestication of sheep, goats, cattle and pigs, which began between 12,000 and 10,000 years ago, effectively established a mutually beneficial pact between the human species and those progenitors of all “farm animals” as we know them today.

This pact is so important that it has guaranteed the spread of both human and livestock species throughout the planet and has influenced their evolution to each other. In particular, the domestication of ruminants guaranteed to humans, endowed with the possibility of digesting lactose until adulthood, to permanently insert in their diet milk proteins of high biological value, some important minerals, vitamins and clean water thanks to rumen purification.

Ruminants had instead the chance to spread themselves on the earth and not become extinct, having the guarantee of a shelter from bad weather, predators and parasites, and constant availability of food and water. The pact made it possible to transform the vegetable fibers, indigestible to humans, into milk and meat and to have manure to fertilize lands. The consumption of ever greater quantities of milk and meat into the diet of humans has led to further brain development. (from Latte Etico – – please see a link to this article in the ‘See Also’ section).

The mission of the breeder and all the other operators in the livestock sector is to respect this pact, they aim to guarantee bred animals’ health. However, the perception that breeding is an enemy of animals and environment is becoming increasingly widespread in common feeling. People think that farmed animals suffer because they are mistreated and forced to live a life far from their natural behaviour; that farms are a source of pollution for the planet, steal huge amounts of water resources and are the main culprits of antibiotic-resistance.

The scientific community has given, and will continue to give, a fundamental contribution in the research of the mechanisms that lead to the reduction of the impact of livestock on the environment and of the critical issues that determine any malaise for animals, even with regard to their ethology. Currently, the scientific debate is very focused on these issues and many of the results achieved are moving to farms to mitigate the environmental impact and improve the care of the animals.

The European Community and member states are committed to reducing the environmental impact of livestock and to guarantee the welfare of animals by issuing regulations and laws to which breeders have now adapted. The legislation obliges farmers to properly control and conserve raw materials used to feed animals; to trace the use of drugs and, soon, to reduce the use of antibiotics; to control the quality of productions; to ensure animal welfare; to manage waste; and to take all necessary preventive actions not to endanger the environment.

The breeder is supported by experts in genetics, management, nutrition, health and farm facilities that can simultaneously reassure the ethical concerns of people; objectively improve the quality of bred animal life; and ensure adequate income. Never forget that breeding is an entrepreneurial activity that must guarantee economic income of both owners and their employees. The breeder, the veterinarian and the animal husbandry know well that an animal that suffers and does not feel well represents economic damage for the company: well-being is simply a requirement of production.

Veterinary medicine has the mission of guaranteeing the welfare of individual animals, technicians know how to structure breeding and manage nutrition for this purpose. When establishing the identikit of the good breeder who earns well from his work, one simply identifies the one that best cares for the welfare of individual animals. (from Latte Etico –

Agricultural and breeding activity is of extreme importance for the survival of the entire planet:

  • It produces the food used to feed population.
  • It allows land protection by the use of territory that otherwise would be abandoned.
  • It guarantees the survival of the races that would otherwise be extinguished.
  • It keeps cultural traditions alive.

What we would like you to do

Please share your thoughts on the debate surrounding agricultural and breeding activity in the comments section below.

© University of Turin
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Farm to Fork: Sustainable Food Production in a Changing Environment

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