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Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition • FSN Forum

Re: Maximizing the Impact of the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition

Martin Zerfas
Martin ZerfasHumane Society InternationalUnited States of America

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.

Although industrialized animal agriculture may increase production for larger farmers, it simultaneously crowds small farmers out of the market and reduces employment opportunities, demonstrating that economic growth at a national level does not necessarily improve food security. Small farmers who try to directly compete with large animal agribusiness are at risk of being pushed out of the market because they lack the political and economic power of the larger companies, or the ability to exploit economies of scale. For example, rural women in many developing countries tend to engage in smallholder egg and poultry meat production, but increased levels of intensification in egg and chicken meat production have been shown to decrease the number of women involved in poultry keeping.

Protein obtained from plant-based sources such as pulses is, according to the FAO, "significantly less expensive" compared to animal foods. Producing meat, milk and eggs actually takes more away from the world's total food supply than it provides. The FAO's report "Livestock's Long Shadow" estimated an annual deficit of 19 million tonnes of protein when comparing the protein contained in animal feed with the amount of protein yielded from animal source food production.

Animal agriculture also affects food security through its well-documented role in climate change, resource depletion, and public heath issues related to overconsumption and non-communicable diseases. Given forecasts for the continued expansion of animal agriculture production globally, and especially in emerging and developing economies, stakeholders should consider inceasing plant-based interventions to enhance food security, while also questioning the increasing reliance on meat, milk and eggs in this regard.