Re: Water and food security - E-consultation to set the track of the study

Geoff Orme-Evans Humane Society International, United States of America

Dear HLPE,

We believe the upcoming Report on Water and Food Security should include an analysis of impacts and policy options regarding industrialized farm animal production, which is relevant to all four of the outlined categories.

Food security is often incorrectly used as a justification for the inhumane confinement of animals on industrial farm animal production facilities, while in reality, the industrialization of animal agriculture jeopardizes food security by degrading the environment, threatening human health, and diminishing income-earning opportunities in rural areas. Support from governments and international agencies for more humane and sustainable agricultural systems can ensure adequate food consumption and nutrition throughout the developing world.

Worldwide, industrial systems now account for approximately two-thirds of egg and poultry meat production and over half of pig meat production.  Based on calculations by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, developing countries produced approximately half of the world’s industrial pork and poultry.

These industrial facilities concentrate tens of thousands (or often even hundreds of thousands) of farmed animals along with their waste, frequently in welfare-depriving cages, crates, and pens. The growth in farm animal production is projected to increase strain on water resources, particularly due to the high water demands involved in growing animal feed. According to the FAO, “The livestock sector…is probably the largest sectoral source of water pollution, contributing to eutrophication, ‘dead’ zones in coastal areas, degradation of coral reefs, human health problems, emergence of antibiotic resistance and many others.”

In addition to its role in land use and degradation, animal agriculture uses significant amounts of the water supply available to humans globally.  Raising animals for food requires substantially greater quantities of water than raising plants for human consumption. For example, water levels in the Perote-Zalayeta aquifer in Mexico have reportedly declined precipitously since industrial pig production first took hold in the region in the mid-1990s.  And rapidly increasing demands for meat and other animal products in Africa’s urban centers has also been implicated in water and land scarcity,  further jeopardizing food security in the region.

Not only are water supplies shrinking, the farm animal sector is increasingly polluting the available water. Industrialized farm animal production, in particular, is a key culprit in the degradation of water supplies. For example, intensive pig production in Southeast Asia has been implicated in the flow of surplus nutrients and minerals into the South China Sea.

Therefore, we believe the upcoming HLPE report should include an in-depth analysis of the water issues posed by industrial animal agriculture, as well as policy options to help mitigate these impacts. In order to ensure long-term food security, particularly for vulnerable groups in the developing world, development finance and policies must favor small farmers who give proper care to their animals, act in accordance with the basic ethic of compassion towards animals under their control, and practice and promote more humane and environmentally sustainable agriculture.


Geoff Orme-Evans

Humane Society International