The Great Unravelling: Destocking Industrially-Farmed Animals on Land and Sea

May 23, 2021

There's a universal shufflng of feet around the globe. It's an extremely uncomfortable shuffling, tinged with a heavy dose of denial. Creative, inclusive global policy-development on immediately destocking industrially-farmed animals must happen now - and be given top priority. We are looking the other way. This failed system is contributing to a plethora of problems:  Pandemics, food and water insecurity, climate change, continued land-clearing, dying oceans, loss of rainforests. Antimicrobial resistance is a huge one. (What happens if the next  pandemic is bacterial?) The suffering of billions of animals, a dangerously food-insecure and nutrition-insecure system where just a dozen crops and around 5 species of animals feed the world are all caught up in this.

This antiquated, extractive system continues to be propped up. Why? Do we really think 'market forces' will make things right? A huge risk. Time to cut it loose. Projections ahead predict around 60 per cent of the total meat market will be alternative proteins by 2040, a huge jump from the 1 per cent at present time. Even more exciting as well as ground-breaking, 9 out 10 of the world's most popular dishes will soon be feasible with reasonably-priced alternative proteins.

Now is the perfect time to make continuation of industrial-scale animal agriculture on land and sea unlawful, and progressively, systematically, wind it down. Particularly so when despite enormous leaps in availability, variety, investment and adoption of alternative proteins, meat consumption continues to rise, and will double by 2050 . Most of this will be in developing countries.

One thing is for sure: Industrial animal agriculture is not currently feeding the world and even less so by 2050 with a few more billion mouths to feed. Industrial animal agriculture on land and sea, is destroying our planet, our very survival of life on earth. It must go, allowing creative interventions and alternative proteins themselves to flourish exponentially, and in so doing feed the world, even  while experiencing an increasingly extreme climate. It also paves the way for concerted federal funding and initiative focus by governments, allowing open-access research, benefiting everyone and preventing siloing and confining intellectual property with just a handful of companies.

With government and international policy focus, research tools can also examine ways to make a better food system for all, the workers, small producers (with generally much stronger supply chains through the Covid 19 pandemic). Women farmers, the natural environment, indigenous communities and traditional knowledge, as well as supporting players in the industry as they transition across to new innovations - they are all beneficiaries here. Important destocking policies can be determined, which will need to  be as diverse as they are creative, putting compassion at the centre for the billions upon billions of animals caught up in this unjust system. This destocking will not happen overnight, which is why we need to act on this now, to commence The Great Unravelling.

73 Cows, the British Academy of Film And Television Arts (BAFTA) Best Short Film 2019, focuses on small farmers not wishing to  send cattle to slaughter any more and their journey to provide their animals as a herd, with a new home (sanctuary) and make their farm profitable without using animals.  It is also a harrowing plea from the 2 farmers in this film to give others like them compassion and support. How many other farmers are out there caught up in a cruel, expensive system they do not like, who really care for their animals,  but can't find a way out? Using our best minds, our supraminds, we can solve this! No more top-down thinking, rather a stupendous societal plasticity fully-expressed in higher thinking for this monumental transformation, this great unravelling.

The forthcoming United Nations Food Systems Summit is the place for Policy development and with it, incentivized, immediate destocking outcomes. The aim of the UN Food Systems Summit is to put food systems at the centre of the 2030 Agenda and transform them. It targets heads of state and government to question current policies and not regard this as business as usual. The Summit is action and results oriented on 'action tracks' such as healthy food for all,  sustainable consumption, sustainable production, income and economic development, poverty reduction and resilience. No negotiation, with objectives firmly anchored in the Sustainable Development Goals heads of government agreed to 5 years ago.

We are now talking about implementation. At the present time, this is currently being underpinned by a broad dialogue process across the world community via various forums,  civil society, business, academia, with extensive participation by young people. There will be a follow-up process after the Summit.

Looking at an ideal food system  overview, we can see industrial animal agriculture on land and sea,  fails across all 5 critical attributes: Ideal food systems are efficient, contribute to global health by producing affordable, nutritious foods and boosting demand, they are inclusive of smallholder farmers and marginalized groups, including women, youth, landless, refugees and displaced people, sustainable via technological innovations and governance approaches  - and they are resilient, bouncing back quickly from health, climate, economic shocks.

Industrial animal agriculture fails in all 5 areas. It always has.

Whatever we think of race to zero terminology, it is generally considered in conjunction with robust plans, offers a viable way to reach the Paris Agreement. The Great Unravelling of industrial animal agriculture on land and sea would be significant contribution.

With Policy we can fast-track this process. Who wants to look to 2050 or even 2040? Do we have the luxury of time? We need to be brave and bring on a clean, transformed 2030 instead in all sectors of the economy, bottom-up! Transformed, resilient networks across producers of energy, food, materials and knowledge!

The indicators are there that huge changes are already underway and our timing is perfect for this: A number of positive examples of alternative protein growth have emerged even through Covid 19. A 50 year old meat company has gone plant-based and seen its profits soar, with a 70 per cent increase in 2020 in revenue compared to the previous year. In Germany, less meat was produced last year as demand for vegan products surged ahead. Companies produced nearly 39 per cent more meat aternatives in 2020 than in previous years, while meat products went down 4 per cent.

Seafood companies urgently need to be part of this change. Financials of the world's largest seafood companies examined by one body concluded some are maintaining profits and their share price through management strategies that are reaching their limits. It goes on to say that the financials of companies most exposed to seafood are starting to reflect the reality of the oceans. Fish feel pain, billions of marine life are hauled from our oceans. It is difficult to comprehend the sheer scale of industrial fishing, which  covers an area of the world's oceans  four times that of terrestrial agriculture. Market forces, left alone with this, would fish until there's nothing left.

The cultured meat industry is predicted to be worth $572 million by 2027, an  compounded annual growth rate of 15 per cent. The substitute meat market is expected to climb 8.4 per cent annually over the next three years. Memphis Meats, recently renamed Upside Foods, will be debuting their cell-cultured meat product in 2021, subject to regulatory approval. They already have a large-scale pilot facility  in San Francisco, and being an end-to-end facility, everything will be done in the one location. According to the company, this represents an international model of creating real, delicious, resource-efficient meat.

We are ready for this!

Even on home shores here in Australia, notorious for a population of big meat eaters, and for many, eating meat is associated with sense of identity, patriotism, and 'supporting' agriculture (while overlooking all the other producers!) exciting news has just been revealed: Australia's meat consumption is at its lowest point in 25 years as Australians adopt a more flexitarian diet, via alternative proteins, and the emergence of dietary habits with a conscience. This could be even better if our federal government saw the benefits as we move away from a principally extractive economy, to value-adding via alternative proteins. No time for fear and division: Australia as a major producer of pulses, including those on-trend high-protein, lower carbohydrate sweet white lupins, has so much to gain.

There is only one commercial plant protein plant in Australia and it has recently received a $45.7m investment from a global agrifood company. Launched in Horsham Victoria last year, this facility has used its fractionation process to develop protein isolates from yellow peas, mung beans, chick peas, red and yellow lentils and all are ready for commercial launch. How much better it would be to have these dotted around our great, dry continent, instead of abattoirs! Inefficiently growing food and extracting water to feed animals for human consumption just doesn't stack up. It even appears quite ludicrous when compared with alternative proteins.

Let The Great Unravelling begin - even in Australia. This would also help bring Australia back into the world community as leaders in sustainability, in our race to zero. The United Nations Food Systems Summit 2021 is our only chance to be fearless, with stated policy outcomes on immediate destocking  of industrially-farmed animals.

 

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