(Down to Earth: Agriculture)
Dec 27: Transforming lives: The job creation potential of a just livestock transition
- GS-3- Livestock
Transforming lives: The job creation potential of a just livestock transition
Context: From Indonesia to Mexico, livestock operations are transitioning into plant-based operations and creating safer and better-paid jobs. Farmers are transforming old hog barns into productive mushroom farms, replacing chicken with hemp and growing oats where dairy cows once grazed.
- Not only are these operations providing safer jobs with better pay, but they also significantly reduce emissions caused by livestock production.
- More resources and support services are available to farmers pursuing just livestock transition than ever before.
- With this guidance, farmers can identify new market opportunities for plant-based operations and access guidance on making the transition away from livestock production financially viable.
- As the demand for plant-based products continues to expand rapidly, farmers are seeing an opportunity to get out of livestock farming. Animal farming has trapped many of these same farmers in notoriously exploitative contracts, with poor working conditions, low income, high vulnerability to market forces and extreme stress.
Healthier, safer work
Industrialised livestock production is a dangerous business that poses a serious threat to human health and psychological well-being. The impact of injuries, illness and trauma affects the individual worker and has devastating effects on the families and communities in which they live. For instance, new strains of bird and swine flu, which have the potential to become zoonotic diseases, emerge each year posing a major threat to human health.
- Leads to mass culling of millions of birds
- Leaves governments with enormous compensation claims
- Leaves many farmers without any means for regaining their lost income. Some of these farms will never recover.
- Furtherexacrbates the condition of meat-packing workers, who are among the most dangerous, with daily reports of amputations, burns, head injuries and psychological trauma, with an added situation of being from socio-economically vulnerable population. Many of them are undocumented and lack access to healthcare and other worker protections
Climate-friendly food systems
In addition to creating safer, healthier jobs, a transition away from industrialised livestock production empowers farmers to protect the climate and the very land on which they work.
- Two-thirds of global animal production in the world is industrialised, severely endangering our planet’s ecosystems, natural resources, livelihoods, human health and animal welfare. To remain within environmental limits and planetary boundaries, researchers have shown that the global production of animal-sourced foods must be reduced by at least half.
- Livestock production exacerbates climate change but a rise in global temperatures is equally damaging for livestock production, posing a major threat to farmers’ livelihoods.
- Climate change diminishes the quality of feed crop and forage, decreases water availability and negatively impacts animal and milk production.
- Further, climate change increases the emergence of livestock diseases, reduces animal reproduction and exacerbates biodiversity loss.
- Globally, a 7-10 per cent decline in livestock is expected as global temperatures rise, with associated economic losses between $9.7 and $12.6 billion, solely due to climate change.
Enormous job-creation potential
Transitioning to environmentally and socially sustainable economies can drive job creation, create better jobs, increase social justice and reduce poverty, according to the International Labour Organisation.
- It is estimated that a just energy transition will create 24-25 million jobs, far surpassing the 6 or 7 million jobs lost by 2030.
- A shift to a plant-based food system will create over 15 million new jobs, through the transformation.
- This move can revitalise rural economies and mitigate the adverse effects of urbanisation.
- Overall, the jobs in plant-based food production would be safer, more equitable, support gender parity and strengthen rural economies when coupled with increased public services.
- It is critical to meet climate and environmental goals, but all principles of just transition must be respected and thoroughly implemented b7y countries going this route.
- Such measures should also be complemented by policies aimed at increasing plant-based food consumption to prevent emissions leakage and to enable an overall transition to more sustainable food production and consumption.
The science and socioeconomic data clearly indicates that business as usual is no longer an option. The longer we wait, the harder it will be to facilitate a truly just transition that leaves no one behind. The decisions we make in the coming years will impact generations of farmers, labourers and the global workforce and will have irreversible impacts on the planet. We have the opportunity to safeguard the climate while protecting the people who produce the food we eat, with a solution that is as good for the environment as it is for global economies.
That solution is a ‘just’ livestock transition.
Can you answer the following questions?
To enable a just livestock transition, ambitious political action is required at all levels. Discuss