‘Open letter on the value of animal agriculture’ – penned by a global farming community

Almost 70 groups and individuals representing farmers, producers, vets and researchers from across the world have written an “open letter” to highlight the valuable role that animal agriculture has held during the Covid-19 pandemic.

From Europe to the US, from New Zealand to Africa and Canada leading farming associations, agricultural academics, producer associations, and other high-level industry stakeholders are “pushing back” against what is described as “misinformation” around animal agriculture that has circulated throughout the outbreak.

The European signatories include: Pekka Pesonen secretary general of Copa-Cogeca; Minette Batters president of the National Farmers Union (NFU); Prof. Nigel Scollan director at the Institute of Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast; the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences; the British Veterinary Association; the European Livestock and Meat Trades Union; Animal Health Europe; the European Feed Manufacturers’ Federation; School of Veterinary Studies at University of Edinburgh; Dr. Frederic Leroy of the Food Science and Biotechnology Department at Vrije Universiteit Brussel  – and many more.

The US and Canadian signatories include: Dr. Frank Mitloehner of the Department of Animal Science at the University of California, Davis; the American Dairy Science Association; the Animal Health Institute; the Canadian Center for Food Integrity; the North American Meat Institute; the American National Cattle Women Association; Egg Farmers of Canada; the National Sheep Network; the National Aquaculture Association; the Center for Food Animal Wellbeing at University of Arkansas – and many others.

Other international signatories include: the World Veterinary Association; the Global Dairy Platform; the International Agri-food Network; the International Feed Industry Federation; the International Livestock Research Institute – and, again, many others.

It begins…

The letter, entitled: ‘Open Letter on the Value of Animal Agriculture: How livestock is supporting global nutrition, high standards of food safety and public health during the Covid-19 pandemic’ outlines the following:

The coronavirus crisis has brought into focus the incredible public health challenge our world faces, and nowhere is this challenge more apparent than in food production.

Nourishing the world during this crisis is a top priority across nations.

Our world needs the contributions of livestock.

Globally, 1.3 billion people depend on livestock for their employment, while billions more rely on livestock to provide food for their families.

Animal agriculture provides milk, meat, fish and eggs at a time when access to safe, nutritious and affordable food is necessary to fend off a potential global hunger crisis, and offers invaluable support for farmers facing severe, often existential, economic hardships.

The precise origin of Covid-19 remains under investigation, but ongoing research continues to confirm that domestic livestock production is safe and has not played a role in the spread of Covid-19.

Current evidence points to a journey from wild animals to humans, which aligns with research showing most zoonotic diseases originate in wildlife.

However, some are making unfounded claims that livestock and modern agriculture were somehow the source of the pandemic.

This threatens to distract the global public health response at a time when animal agriculture can offer lessons for wildlife zoonoses management as part of the long-term pandemic preparedness.

For example, livestock diseases are monitored globally to help prevent them from spreading across borders the way that Covid-19 has done, and advances in farm and facility practices, animal nutrition, veterinary diagnostics and medicine mean many zoonotic diseases, such as salmonella, are well managed in most economies.

Using these learnings to develop more robust early warning systems for wildlife could enhance our ability to detect emerging diseases.

Importantly, livestock production is a regulated, monitored system with food safety and public health at its core.

Even in the face of unprecedented challenges, farms and food facilities are taking every precaution possible to keep employees as safe as possible and fulfill their critical roles in our food supply, while producers continue to rely on bio-security, hygiene, vaccination, and other tools to control animal illness.

The knowledge and expertise of the livestock sector can help strengthen the global Covid-19 response and tackle the growing risk of nutrition insecurity.

We urge authorities, intergovernmental groups, and NGOs to support these efforts by:
  • Reaffirming the safety of livestock production and reminding consumers of our robust food safety system, including the important role of veterinarians and animal nutrition;
  • Refuting misinformation that tries to manufacture a link between livestock and the spread of Covid-19; 
  • Consulting with livestock experts, including farmers and other stakeholders in the feed and food chain to understand how to aid their efforts to feed communities.

During this pandemic, livestock farms and the value chain are working tirelessly to ensure we have safe and affordable food to eat and drink. It’s vital that society support these efforts and tap into their knowledge to build a more resilient world in the future.