According to some estimates, mankind will cross the seven billion person threshold on October 31st, 2011. Despite that unrelenting growth, thousands are dying each and every day of hunger as we climb towards nine billion people in the next 40 years. A recent summit in Ottawa focused on the role of animal agriculture in feeding those nine billion.
There were a wide variety of speakers on a broad range of topics. Of chief concern to many of the participants was the need for animal agriculture to strengthen the public trust required to continue to engage in business normally. Charlie Arnot of the Center for Food Integrity spoke about the dynamics of trust in our food system.
People need to have confidence that animal agriculture reflects their values. People need to believe that those doing the task are competent at their job. Finally, there is a need to positively influence others about the importance of animal agriculture. These three factors all combine to build trust in the system. Trust provides a business with the social license and the freedom to operate in a responsible manner.
A gap is emerging in public perception that while consumers trust farmers, they don’t consider large-scale operations to be agriculture in the traditional sense. Moving forward, Arnot proposed that industry needs to establish the ethical grounds for its approach to doing business and be willing to look at its own practices and deal with issues that could reduce public trust.
Arnot proposed that the launching point of an ethical argument for animal agriculture is that the only hope to feed the world is through modern practices. For him, the ethical choice is to be better producers of food, and for that we need to use technology and management skills to the best of our abilities.
Animal agriculture is a key part of feeding a hungry world. As producers continue to be more efficient, it is important that farmers and industry maintain public confidence in our methods of production on social and environmental grounds.
Nathan Stevens is the Research and Policy Advisor for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKNX Wingham, and UCB Canada radio stations in Chatham, Belleville, Bancroft, Brockville, Woodstock, Brantford and Kingston. It is also found on the CFFO website:www.christianfarmers.org. CFFO is supported by 4,200 family farmers across Ontario.
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