Livestock strongly defended at the UN Food Systems Summit

James Nason July 31, 2023

Carlos Cherniak address from 10:19 to 17:20

THE chair of a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation sub-committee has delivered an impassioned defence of livestock at the UN Food Systems Summit event last week, calling out interest groups for attempting to sideline the importance of meat in UN food policy setting recommendations.

Argentina Ambassador and permanent representative to the UN in Rome, Carlos Cherniak, and chair of the UN FAO livestock subcommittee, was addressing the 2023 UN “Food Systems Stocktaking Moment” in Rome,  a follow-up to the 2021 global UN Food Systems Summit.

At that event two years ago, he said, some groups and interests had tried to instill a hostile global narrative about the livestock sector based on “obscurantist beliefs” and biased perceptions “that had nothing to do with science”.

Carlos Cherniak.

“To be frank and to be politically correct at the same time is so difficult,” he said in an address to the committee in Rome.

“So sorry, I will try to be very frank.

“…Two years ago an attempt was made to demonise the sector and blame it for all the deficiencies concerning food systems.

“Two years ago the message coming from the action tracks was that animal proteins should be replaced by alternative sources of food,” he said.

“All of us, we can remember that.

“And thank you all who was engaged in organising this side event, because without this side event, livestock could have been invisibilized again in this stock-taking moment.”

As reported at the time, the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit in New York included many avowed opponents of agriculture in influential roles, with many vocally advocating for the global adoption of EAT Lancet’s so-called “Planetary diet”, which recommends cutting meat consumption to just 14 grams per person per day.

The diet has been heavily criticised by scientists including Dr Alice Stanton from the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin for the devastating impacts it would have on global human nutrition.

A timely effort to restore evidence-based science to the global policy recommendation process, proactively led a range of scientists and industry experts from around the world helped to provide a more balanced, science-based outcome in the 2021 summit’s ultimate recommendations.

Instrumental in that process were Peer Ederer and Theo De Jager from the World Farmers Organisation,

the International Livestock Research Institute in Africa, the Department and Water and Environment in Australia, supported by Australian Sustainable Animal Protein Production (ASAPP) including, Paul Wood AO, Rod Polkinghorne OAM and Holly Cuthbertson from Birkenwood Australia, Meat & Livestock Australia, Dairy Australia, the National Farmers Federation and the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef; the US Government with support from the North American Meat Institute and Frederic Leroy, ALEPH, Vrije Universiteit, Brussels.

Members of the globally collaborative group, which has grown in size considerably since its beginning,  have continued to build on that wotk through the Dublin summit declaration of October 2022, along with evidence assembly and accurate representation.

The UN has a stated goal of achieving global food security.

Acheving this without animal farming was a “chimera”, or fantasy, Ambassador Cherniak said, particularly in developing countries.

“It is critical to emphasise that this discussion (in Rome this week) is including the very protagonists of the sector without whom any debate around sustainability is simply unimaginable.”

Speaking in Rome this week, Ambassador Cherniak said the creation of an FAO subcommittee on livestock in 2020 had been an important turning point, which has enabled global collaborative discussions on how to enhance animal production.

“This message is science, not narrative”

Livestock are now identified as part of the solution to improve food systems, Ambassador Cherniak said.

Science-based evidence clearly showed that meat, eggs and milk, “to name just a few” animal-sourced products, provided a range of irreplaceable macro and micro nutrients that are difficult to obtain from plant-based food.

“That is to say to obtain healthy physical, and cognitive development, infant, adolescent and humans in general require consuming animal proteins.

“This message is science, not narrative.”

Ambassador Cherniak said was still much more to be done and discuss to enhance the livestock sector, and that important work would continue in September when the Food and

Agriculture Organisation gather to host the first ever global conference on livestock.

“This event will be a great opportunity to make countries and different stakeholders and scientists come together and share experiences on how to reduce emissions, the relationship between livestock and land use, and also herd management.

“Again my point here is that the sector is indeed improving its efficiency, for instance throughout the imitative net zero.”

Ambassador Cherniak said livestock were important to achieve the “three dimensions of sustainability” particularly in developing countries.
“Animal farming is a critical activity that boosts regional economies, creates employment, and fosters livelihood incomes.

“At the same time in the case of nomadic pastralists, livestock produces not only a way to provide food for local communities but essentially represent the core of some cultures.

“Livestock is a cross cutting activity that is not only indispensable for global food security but also locally for social inclusion and economic growth.

“I am and the team of the subcommittee of livestock are eager to continuing engaging in discussing how to improve the sector and of course to continue engaging in discussion on how to improve the sector and of course count on me to keep on showcasing the extraordinary contribution of animal proteins to achieving (the United Nations’) Sustainable Development Goals.”


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  1. Abdullah Reed, October 7, 2023

    Thanks for sharing this. I hope it reaches more people.

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