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Call for essential role of livestock to be recognised in Europe

Sheep Central, May 27, 2024

A MULTI-STAKEHOLDER group of livestock food chain organisations in Europe is calling for the development of a strategy for a sustainable livestock value chain, stronger agricultural leadership within European institutions and mainstreaming education on agriculture ahead of the 2024 European elections in early June.

It follows the release of statistics showing the EU’s livestock population declined further in 2023 from a year earlier.

Compared with 2022, European pig and bovine populations decreased by 1 percent, while sheep declined by 3pc and goats by 5pc.

In 2023, the EU had 133 million pigs, 74 million bovine animals, 58 million sheep, and 11 million goats. (More detail on the EuroStat website here).

European Livestock Voice is a multi-stakeholder group of like-minded partners in the livestock food chain, that have decided to unite to balance the debate around a sector playing such an essential role in Europe’s rich heritage and future.

The associations involved, which represent sectors ranging from animal health to feed, to breeding and animal farming and farmers, aim to inform the public about the societal value of livestock production and its contribution to global challenges, offering an alternative narrative to current debates.

It was launched in Brussels shortly after the 2019 European elections to raise awareness at European level on the realities of livestock farming

The initiative was driven by concern that the sector as a whole had observed increased misunderstanding of practices, and simplistic proposals on where and how to make improvements.

For five years, European Livestock Voice has been trying to increase understanding, raise concerns, inform those interested and, above all, reduce the gap in awareness between our barns and our institutions in Brussels.

In a statement, the European Livestock Voice partners said 2019-2024 period had been “overall been a mixed bag” when it comes to livestock farming.

“So we are looking forward and hoping for more understanding, and more listening from the new Members of Parliament to be elected in June to our shared issues, which are so vital, not just for Europe’s rural communities, but for all of Europe’s citizens.

“It’s time for the EU to recognise that agriculture, and more precisely the livestock value chain is about more than just farming.

“These are the connecting fibres for our entire lives.

“Whether Europe’s citizens are city-dwellers, rural tenants, or coastal denizens, we all rely on the livestock value chain every day of the year.

“Whether it’s for food, clothing, fertiliser, medicines, everyday care products, maintaining the landscape, or even travel, we all depend on farmed animals.

“We are convinced that animal-based farming, under all its forms, has brought, and will continue to bring, many benefits to Europe, and practices are constantly improving for an ever-more sustainable future for agriculture.”

The member partners of European Livestock Voice have also developed a 5-point action manifesto, headlined “Agriculture is the Farbic of Life” for the June elections.

“We are mainly calling for the development of a European strategy for a sustainable livestock value chain by the European Commission to ensure the necessary investment and support needed are fully predictable.

“In this respect, the most recent statistics presented by Eurostat this week, showing major reductions in goat and sheep numbers in particular, should give us all cause for concern.

“To support this strategy, we are calling for agricultural leadership to be strengthened within the European institutions, and for impact studies with a feasibility component to be made more commonplace, to better assess the effects of trade-offs, which are so important in livestock farming.

“Mainstreaming education on agriculture must also be the basis from which we forge a more inclusive vision on sustainability, with every citizen given the responsibility to make choices that feed into this over-arching vision for a sustainable future for Europe.”

Source: European Livestock Voice, EuroStat

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