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Do We Really Need to Breed “Heat Resistant” Farm Animals to Feed the World?

Do We Really Need to Breed “Heat Resistant” Farm Animals to Feed the World?

Efforts underway to create farm animals who can withstand rising global temperatures, that some believe will be needed to feed the world’s growing population, are drawing both criticism and support from both sides of the climate change debate.

To address the ways extreme weather conditions from droughts to heat waves will impact farm animals scientists from the University of Delaware are working to create new breeds of chickens that can withstand heat and survive.

“The game is changing since the climate is changing,” Carl Schmidt, one of the researchers, told the LA Times. “We have to start now to anticipate what changes we have to make in order to feed 9 billion people.”

Their work currently involves mapping the genetic code of African naked-neck chickens to see if their ability to withstand heat is something that can be bred into domestic chickens who are bred for their meat. Similar efforts are underway at the University of California, Davis, Oklahoma State University and Michigan State University, where researchers are looking at ways to make chickens, cattle and turkeys, who are particularly susceptible to hotter temperatures, more adaptable.

At least some are criticizing the effort because it’s granting the factory farms that are already contributing largely to the problem the go ahead to continue business as usual, instead of focusing on ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions and looking at how we can change our habits to reduce our impact on the earth, in addition to ways we can support food security through plant-based diets.

Alan Miller, who recently retired as a principal climate-change specialist at the World Bank, told the LA Times this approach “is like trying to promote driver safety while helping the car industry make faster cars.”

His sentiments have been echoed by numerous conservation organizations, animal advocates and people like Bill Gates who continue to push the message that there’s no way to sustainably produce enough meat to feed a population that’s projected to reach 9 billion people by 2050. Gates has previously put his money where his mouth is by contributing to companies like Hampton Creek Foods, which aims to cut animals out of the equation entirely with products including Beyond Eggs and Just Mayo that mimic the real thing.

It’s certainly becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the consequences of meat consumption, which include a loss of biodiversity, deforestation, air and water pollution, diseases, violence and, of course, climate change itself. Continuing to try to manufacture animals who can be mass produced to meet the demand for meat also overlooks the suffering of billions of cows, chickens, sheep, pigs and other sentient animals who are confined, drugged, mutilated and abused before they are slaughtered to satisfy our appetites.

Are efforts to make farm animals more and more efficient, at their physical and psychological expense, really needed? Or does the focus need to move to changing the way we live now in order to ensure a liveable planet for future generations?

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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111 comments

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1:00PM PDT on Aug 22, 2014

Oh my, GMO chickens, what next!!!

7:52PM PDT on Jul 26, 2014

No livestock should be bred by humans. I don't think that breeders of animals for death even deserve life. They should be sent to their own slaughterhouses. The most despicable monsters that ever lived lurk in those factories of cruelty.. and that includes the political and corporate monsters that make a business out of mass murder.

1:38AM PDT on Jul 18, 2014

Thank you

7:48AM PDT on May 30, 2014

"Isn't man an amazing animal? He kills wildlife - birds, kangaroos, deer, all kinds of cats, coyotes, beavers, groundhogs, mice, foxes, and dingoes - by the millions in order to protect his domestic animals and their feed. Then he kills domestic animals by the billions and eats them. This in turn kills man by the millions, because eating all those animals leads to degenerative - and fatal - health conditions like heart disease, kidney disease, and cancer. So then man tortures and kills millions more animals to look for cures for these diseases. Elsewhere, millions of other human beings are being killed by hunger and malnutrition because food they could eat is being used to fatten domestic animals. Meanwhile, some people are dying of sad laughter at the absurdity of man, who kills so easily and so violently, and once a year sends out a card praying for 'Peace on Earth.'"
C. David Coats

CONTROL HUMAN POPULATION!!! GO VEGAN. Problem solved.

2:47PM PDT on May 27, 2014

OMG. When is it going to be enough. When are these people going to wake up and realize all those chemicals and genetic changes can and will affect humans. Babies now will be growing up in a world with unnatural fruits and vegetables, GMO meats, GMO filled baby food, toxic products being imported from China, cancer-causing shampoo, BPA cans and bottles, chemical and radiation-filled oceans and sea life that is now toxic and producing deformed offspring and dissolving shells, contaminated water supplies (if water is available) and total lack of respect for the constitution, ESA and women by the government.

1:56PM PDT on May 19, 2014

Thanks for sharing, more very sad news.

7:27AM PDT on May 15, 2014

Very sad, you'd think fixing the root of the problem would be a better idea than looking for ways to treat the symptoms.

8:45AM PDT on May 13, 2014

humanity sucks poor animals

9:04AM PDT on May 12, 2014

We don't have to use coercive methods, like China's "one child policy". Just making reproductive health care, including birth control, available to all the women that want it could cut the rate of population increase dramatically. Making it possible to know that the babies you do have are going to grow up, and that you don't have to have "extra" because of the baby and early childhood death toll due to malnutrition, childhood diseases that have immunizations available, simple and cheap preventive strategies for malaria, clean water, and other basic healthcare would decrease the fertility rates. The most dramatic changes of all come with universal primary education for girls, and a change in the Catholic Church's stance that birth control and the environment are completely unrelated subjects.

8:43AM PDT on May 12, 2014

Perhaps they should focus on making sure the human population does not reach 9 billion.

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