Sadly, livestock has turned into a threat to the environment, to biodiversity, and even food security
leading to a widespread backlash and movement towards plant-based food and veganism. This development is largely the consequence of applying the efficiency paradigm to livestock production: animals are regarded as input-output models maximized for feed efficiency, milk yields, growth rates, reproduction, without consideration of their larger role in the global eco-system, their welfare, and the quality of the food gained from them.
This is where pastoralism comes in as the ecological alternative
- It is solar-powered, requiring no fossil fuels
- It directly converts biodiversity into food, without any chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
- It does not confine animals, but keeps them moving and thereby healthy.
- It supports livestock diversity by creating and conserving breeds optimally adapted to their respective environments
- It is the only way of food production in the world’s non-arable areas which compose ca. 70% of our agricultural land.
- Animals are considered as family members in most pastoralist societies.
About ecologizing the livestock sector
- We need to support and encourage the existing pastoralist systems by ensuring them secure access to their customary grazing areas, by providing them with veterinary and social services, and by putting in place processing and marketing infrastructure for their high value products.
These principles are encompassed in the concept of Livestock Keepers’ Rights.
In order to nudge policy makers for granting such ‘rights’, we first have to make the ecological and economic importance of pastoralist communities visible to policy-makers. Biocultural Community Protocols are one of the tools for doing this.
- We need to make ALL livestock production land-based, feeding animals on local resources and introducing as much as possible some degree of mobility into their management systems. I know this sounds sort of extreme, but instead of sedentarizing nomads, we should nomadize livestock systems. Animals were made to move!
Overall, I feel we should re-conceptualize livestock from mechanical input-output machines to intelligent partners in solar-powered, biodiversity conserving food production!
In essence, that is what pastoralists do and that’s why we should learn from them to design sustainable livestock futures.