Summer 2019, Vol. 16, No. 4

John Ralph Essay Competition 2019
What is the future for animal agriculture?

Animals have been at the heart of agriculture for millennia, yet today there is a concerted campaign from a vocal minority to reduce – or even eliminate – animals from agricultural systems. While the livestock industry makes a significant economic and social contribution to Australia as an employer, provider of nutrition and a manager of landscapes, the sector is facing many challenges in public perception.

The environmental cost of traditional livestock production, changing animal welfare expectations, and health impacts of animal protein consumption are some of the many areas of concern for which an activated public is questioning the sustainability of animal agriculture.

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Same same, but different: creating positive futures for Australian animal agriculture

Jessica Ramsden – Winner JRC, Open Category

Australia’s animal agriculture industries are a major contributor to Australia’s GDP, a significant earner of export revenue and a major employer both on-farm and indirectly. They have nourished our nation by providing food and fibre to generations of Australians and occupy an important place in our nation’s history. With seemingly endless headlines like “why Australians are turning away from meat” and “the best way to save the planet: drop meat and dairy”, it is easy to feel despondent about the future of animal agriculture in Australia. Whether or not you agree with those headlines, it is impossible and unwise to ignore them. Buy now

What is the future for animal agriculture?

Walter Mansfield – Runner up

The future of animal agriculture is at a critical juncture as are many other foundations that we have built our society upon. The source of everything we consume is under scrutiny amid the irrefutable science of climate change. The complexity of the challenge facing humanity in overhauling our way of our life goes beyond fossil fuels and animal agriculture. There are no easy answers amidst the mire of this existential crisis but make no mistake, big change is coming and time for how that change can be managed is running out. 2050 is a year cited by many governments and organisations as the one by which we must cut emissions to net-zero. Buy now

Sheep brains for breakfast

Alison Van Eenennaam

Australians now consume around one-fifth of the amount of sheep meat they did in 1963. The sheep population has decreased by more than a half, and those remaining are more than twice as productive, thereby reducing the environmental footprint of a serving of lamb, while bringing in more than A$4.3 billion in export revenue in 2017–18. What an amazing all-around sustainability win for agricultural science and Australia! Yet, that is not how these developments play out in popular discourse. Red meat has become public enemy number one, despite the fact that lamb and beef consumption have decreased since the 1960s, while market share of chicken has trebled, and pork has doubled. Buy now

The future of animal agriculture

Greg Mills

The vegan and vegetarian diet has long been a part of modern society. Through religious observance or other personal or cultural beliefs, the possibility that the body can be sustained by a diet excluding animal products has been established for generations. Replacing animals on a plate with other sources of nutrition is definitely a possibility but replacing the role of animals in society would represent a far greater challenge. Animals do not exist in our society simply because they taste good. Primarily animals have become an integral key to the success of human society as animals convert food we cannot eat, into food we can. Buy now

What is the future for animal agriculture?

Matt Champness – Winner JRC, Novice Category

Animal agriculture in Australia has historically been a prosperous industry, with the national economy proudly ‘riding on the sheep’s back’ throughout the mid-20th century. Despite shifts in specific industries’ contribution, overall, animal agriculture is a significant employer and contributor to the Australian economy. Yet the future of animal agriculture in Australia is uncertain. Increasing climatic variability, enormous social pressures, competition with alternative protein sources, difficulty sourcing labour and capital, and small farming returns are just some of the challenges. Buy now

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