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Kyrgyzstan: A farmer woman milking a cow. ©FAO/Sergey Kozmin

Putting Small-Scale Farmers at Centre Stage in the Efforts Towards Higher Animal Welfare


FAO and Slow Food addressed together the challenge of enhancing the welfare of farm animal while at the same time supporting small-scale farmers in this process.


Experts, academics, small-scale farmers, civil society and intergovernmental organizations came together on 29 October 2012 at the Salone Internazionale 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, including the ones set by the private sector, small-scale farmers seriously risk not being able to stand up to the competition in terms of resources, technology and knowledge and being increasingly marginalized.


The speakers of the conference Animal Welfare: a Win-Win Opportunity for Animals, Farmers and Consumers, jointly organized by the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity 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 was a concrete example of the successful collaboration between FAO and Slow Food that was called upon by FAO Director-General Jose’ Graziano da Silva in his opening speech at the Salone del Gusto – Terra Madre. 

Slow Food is a non-profit, global, grassroots organization with over 100,000 members in 150 countries who are linking the pleasure of good food with a commitment to their community and the environment and practice small-scale and sustainable production of quality foods.


The five days 2012 edition of the Salone Internazionale del Gusto and Terra Madre registered an overall attendance of 220 000 people from over 95 countries. Over 16,000 people, took part in 56 conferences. At the heart of these conferences, and the event as a whole, were young people, whether farmers, activists or students.

To take better into account and to respond more adequately to the new interest and sensibility of younger generations towards themes such as animal welfare and sustainability of the livestock sector, FAO made full use of social network communication media. For this purpose, the conference was live twitted and broadcasted.


The conference Animal Welfare: a Win-Win Opportunity for Animals, Farmers and Consumers set the basis for a collaboration that will lead to higher attention to the role and needs of small-farmers in the process of enhancing sustainability of the livestock sector and animal welfare. More specifically, it will conduce also 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 conference recognized that the collaboration should also target more specifically young farmers and leverage their high sensibility on these issues.