Wetenschap - 12 september 2012

Animal scientists don't want to choose between intensive and sustainable

Should livestock farming in the Netherlands be more intensive or more sustainable? The Animal Sciences Group (ASG) does not see any point in choosing between the two.

'We focus on doing research that deals with the issues that concern society', says Martin Scholten, ASG's director. 'Those issues range from optimum resource efficiency - i.e. producing more with fewer raw materials - to society's demands and preferences concerning a better life, organic livestock systems, grazing in fields and an end to the use of antibiotics.'
Scholten is responding to the question put by environmental organization Stichting Natuur & Milieu and De Hoeve, a supply chain coordinator for sustainable pork, asking the Wageningen animal scientists to state their position. Chairman Aalt Dijkhuizen's one-sided plea for more intensive farming met with a counter-argument from Wageningen's plant scientists, say Natuur & Milieu and De Hoeve, but not from the animal scientists. 'Do the animal scientists agree with Dijkhuizen's focus on further intensification or are they potential partners for increasing sustainability based on a broader perspective?'
Scholten thinks having to choose between intensive and sustainable doesn't make sense. 'We are appealing for responsible livestock farming that ensures the sustainable production of food that is healthy and safe, where the animals are given priority, that is not disruptive to the local area and that is profitable for all parties in the supply chain. It doesn't matter whether that means a responsible intensification from a global perspective or a future-proof adaptation to specific conditions. I have learnt from experience that these two developments require similar insights, and so that is what we are focusing our research on.'

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