Livestock a major threat to environment

Livestock a major threat to environment - Livestock a major...

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Livestock a major threat to environment
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1. Livestock activities Livestock activities have significant impact on virtually all aspects of the environment, including air and climate change, land and soil, water and biodiversity. The impact may be direct, through grazing for example, or indirect, such as the expansion of soybean production for feed replacing forests in South America. Livestock’s impact on the environment is already huge, and it is growing and rapidly changing. Global demand for meat, milk and eggs is fast increasing, driven by rising incomes, growing populations and urbanization . Figure1.1: The urban and rural population of the world, 1950 - 2030 Global production of meat is projected to more than double from 229 million tonnes in 1999/2001 to 465 million tones in 2050, and that of milk to grow from 580 to 1043 million tones. The environmental impact per unit of livestock production must be cut by half, just to avoid increasing the level of damage beyond its present level. 2
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Figure 2.1: Meat Consumption and GDP levels The livestock sector is undergoing a complex process of technical and geographical change, which is shifting the balance of environmental problems caused by the sector. Livestock production is shifting geographically, first from rural areas to urban and peri - urban, to get closer to consumers, then towards the sources of feedstuff, whether these are feed crop areas, or transport and trade hubs where feed is imported. The livestock sector enters into more and direct competition for scarce land, water and other natural resources. One-quarter of the earth’s land, excluding Antarctica, is used as pastureland, and beef accounts for one-third of the global water footprint of farm animal production. Figure 2.1: What does it take to make a ¼ lb. burger 1. Land degradation 3
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The livestock sector is by far the single largest anthropogenic user of land. The total area occupied by grazing is equivalent to 26 % of the ice-free terrestrial surface of the planet. In addition, the total area dedicated to feed crop production amounts to 33 % of total arable land. In all, livestock production accounts for 70 % of all agricultural land and 30 % of the land surface of the planet. Expansion of livestock production is a key factor in deforestation, especially in Latin America where the greatest amount of deforestation is occurring – 70 % of previous forested land in the Amazon is occupied by pastures, and feed crops cover a large part of the remainder. About 20 % of the world’s pastures and rangelands, with 73 % of rangelands in dry areas, have been degraded to some extent, mostly through overgrazing, compaction and erosion created by livestock action. The dry lands in particular are affected by these trends, as livestock are often the only source of livelihoods for the people living in these areas.
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