Animals in agriculture

Europe’s population depends on farmers - including livestock farmers - to supply it with adequate amounts of healthy food. Increasingly, regions are also seeking security over their own food supply, ensuring they do not rely on imported supplies. Given Europe’s large - and growing - population, it is important that all sectors are both secure and sustainable.

Europe supports large numbers of food producing animals, farming almost 100 million cows, 98 million sheep and over 100 million pigs. As well as meat, livestock provides us with dairy products from cows, sheep and goats and eggs from a range of poultry. Fish and bees for honey form part of our livestock. But it's not just foodstuffs, these farm animals also provide us with inputs for clothing, medicines and a great many products forming part of our everyday lives.

For Europe to continue feeding its population and maintaining control over its food supply, a sustainable, productive - and therefore healthy - livestock population is important. Animal medicines and vaccines help farmers and authorities prevent or treat a huge variety of existing diseases - bluetongue, bovine mastitis, circovirus, foot-and-mouth disease - and emerging diseases such as lumpy skin disease or bovine besnoitiosis. Thanks to vaccination campaigns and other disease control practices, these illnesses are no longer a serious threat to our livestock.

There is another consideration; Europe’s economy. Europe is the world’s largest trader in agri-foods. Any impact on Europe’s farms that affects food production or movement of foodstuffs - as many infectious diseases do - could have a dramatic impact on exports. Therefore effective policies to protect our livestock is vital.

European agriculture is also striving to meet with EU Farm to Fork and UN Sustainable Development goals for more sustainable production methods while facing the enormous challenge of adapting to increased climate variability and more extreme weather. Along with this, farmers are having to deal with the impacts of new animal disease outbreaks with milder climates seeing a wider geographical expansion of vector-borne disease and more humid environments escalating the spread of disease.

When it comes to animal health, it is essential that both the political and business environment are conducive to innovation, with a framework that allows for resources to be invested in more R&D. By facilitating the uptake of modern technologies and streamlining current authorisation processes, new medicines may be developed and existing medicines may be improved to fill the gaps in disease prevention for animals and treatment solutions that do not exist at present or are not available in certain countries. More efficient procedures to authorise medicines in exceptional situations, can also allow for greater preparedness in the case of new or recurring disease outbreaks.

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  • Infographic: Animal Health and the SDGs Download