Response to the environmental and welfare imperatives by U.K. Livestock production industries and research services

Colin T. Whittemore*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Production methods for food from U.K. livestock industries (milk, dairy products, meat, eggs, fibre) are undergoing substantial change as a result of the need to respond to environmental and animal welfare awareness of purchasing customers, and to espouse the principles of environmental protection. There appears to be a strong will on the part of livestock farmers to satisfy the environmental imperative, led by the need to maintain market share and by existing and impending legislation. There has been support forthcoming in the form of Government-sponsored scientific research and technological development to provide the necessary framework for new environmentally sensitive practices. The agricultural community has itself made substantial responses to market demand through the inception of Farm Assured Quality Assurance Schemes. These appear to have a more sustainable future than the extremes of organic farming and free-range practices. Pollution of agricultural land with nitrate and phosphate by intensive livestock industries is a greater problem in some parts of continental Europe than it is in the U.K. The distribution of livestock out of intensive units and into mixed farming systems, would require substantial restructuring of the industry. Many of the animal welfare requirements which have been forwarded as a part of the environmental agenda for agriculture have been voluntarily accepted by livestock producers. However, some major aspects, such as alternative housing systems for pigs and poultry, remain unresolved. Analysis of the science and technology support for the environmental imperative, especially from Government sources, would suggest that, although dramatically increased in recent years, environmentally orientated research remains a relatively small proportion of the whole. Whilst a movement away from governmental funding of volume production appears to be justifiable, there has not been an equivalent balancing of effort toward funding for product quality, sustainability, environmental protection and animal welfare. Nevertheless, the university education system is producing a generation of more environmentally aware agricultural science graduates who are opting to pursue Government-sponsored environmentally orientated postgraduate research programs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-84
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics
Issue number1
Publication statusPrint publication - 1 Mar 1995


  • environment
  • greening
  • livestock


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