Editorial: Improving Animal Welfare through Genetic Selection

Abstract

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations predicts that the projected massive global increase in demand for livestock products will continue for several decades. According to Delgado et al. (1999), it is appropriate to term the course of these events a " Livestock Revolution, " which, as opposed to the Green Revolution, is driven by demand. While more precise production technologies, nutrition, and genetic selection methodologies will be successful in reducing the " yield gap, " the production is limited by finite resources including land, water, and energy, thus emphasizing the need for intensification. However, this often requires additional fertilizer, water, and chemical use (Foley, 2011). Godfray et al. (2010), thus, wrote: " A threefold challenge now faces the world: Match the rapidly changing demand for food from a larger and more affluent population to its supply; do so in ways that are environmentally and socially sustainable; and ensure that the world's poorest people are no longer hungry. " Intensification of livestock production in particular includes an important additional factor to the sustainability equation: the living animal. In response to the morality of intensive livestock production, the last few decades have witnessed a greater consumer demand for organic foods and free range products, and an increased political response and research toward animal welfare issues, particularly driven by public opinion. In addition, continuous selection for high production in livestock has resulted in animals that have been shown to be more at risk for behavioral, physiological, and immunological problems. For example, in this issue, Canario et al. showed that modern 1998-type French Large White sows with high lean growth rate and prolificness at birth were less active in the first 6 h after birth and less attentive to piglets, resulting in a higher risk of piglet death than 1977-type sows. As Van Rooijen indicated, suffering may result from a loss of harmony in animals with themselves (their physiology) and with their environment (natural environment vs. intensive production systems). Therefore, it is unlikely that further intensification of livestock production practices can count on much public acceptance if no measures are taken to guarantee sustainability. " Sustainable intensification " of livestock must be defined by economic profitability through improvement of productive output, while maintaining animal health and welfare, and without compromising environmental resources during the production process. Livestock breeding programs of today and of the future must adhere to this definition; therefore, …

DOI: 10.3389/fgene.2016.00069

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@inproceedings{Rauw2016EditorialIA, title={Editorial: Improving Animal Welfare through Genetic Selection}, author={Wendy Mercedes Rauw}, booktitle={Front. Genet.}, year={2016} }