torsdag 6 maj 2010

What future for animal husbandry?


I write the column Down on the Farm in TCS Daily on 9 December 2003.

Animal rights activists may love organic agriculture, but chickens hate it
It's Christmas time in Europe, and that means of course it's time for animal rights activists to start complaining about agricultural practices: chickens that don't have enough ranging room, pigs that don't have soft enough beds, etc.
Animal husbandry issues are not new, but they gained prominence in the public debate in the 1990s when the notion spread that agriculture in the EU was not the rural idyll of old, but rather a high-tech industry.
The Greens started working to bring an alternative view of nature into society. At first they met with little success. Their ideas were unable to progress through the institutions, because they wanted to eliminate the entire system. Success came when they managed to get the concept of sustainability into the political vocabulary.

Sustainable agriculture became the perfect political compromise also when discussing animal husbandry, since it stopped the increasing polarization between rational, industrial agriculture and the Greens' intransigent demands for a radical rearrangement. It won everybody's support: the producers', the consumers', the politicians', and most mainstream environmentalist groups'. Animal welfare questions were addressed successfully at the highest levels, and agriculture began to change significantly. But maybe the activists were a bit too successful...
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