Factory farming 'spreading disease around the world'
Felicity Lawrence, consumer affairs correspondent
The Guardian, Wednesday 21 August 2002 02.18 BST
The worldwide spread of factory farming is increasing poverty and threatening health, according to a report yesterday by Compassion in World Farming.
The report collated for the first time data on livestock production in developing countries and economic analysis from World Bank and UN reports. The animal welfare organisation also examined figures on disease transmitted through food production around the world.
It concluded that the "live stock revolution" was putting small farmers out of business, thereby compromising developing countries' ability to feed themselves, and leading to a global increase in antibiotic-resistant infections.
"In developed northern countries we are moving away from this sort of intensive farming - as we realise the extent of the environmental problems, and the cost to human health - but we are exporting these problems to developing countries instead," wrote Leah Garces, author of the report, Detrimental Impacts of Industrial Animal Agriculture.
Global demand for meat is expected to double over 20 years, with developing countries becoming the main producers for the rest of the world. But as developing countries industrialise their livestock, their ability to feed themselves declines as small rural farmers are forced out of business, the report argued.
A case study showed how, until the 1970s, Brazil's livestock had been reared on small farms where animals and crops were interdependent and self-sustaining, with animals providing cash for food in years of poor harvest. By 1991, the industry was "vertically integrated", a few companies controlling meat processing, production of grain for feed, and farming itself. Thousands of small farmers could no longer compete.
This pattern was repeated across Asia, Africa and Central America, and was driving urban migration and environmental degradation.