A recent report, produced on behalf of the World Health Organisation (WHO), suggests that organic farming practices can feed the world provided that food waste levels are slashed to almost zero levels and we cut back on the level of meat products in our diet.

I have no hesitation whatsoever, in backing any initiative that will deliver reduced levels of food waste. However, in my opinion, the reference to meat eating within the report is a sop to those who have a problem with modern livestock farming systems, for whatever reason.

This, in turn, will provide the aforementioned groups with an opportunity to have yet another pop at modern livestock farming systems, claiming that they are totally unfit for purpose.

I feel it is safe to conclude that those who espouse a plant-based diet today would not have survived had they been around a few thousand years ago, when all of mankind led a hunter-gatherer existence.

Back then it was a case of kill, or be killed, with animal products representing the only source of food that could deliver all of the nutrients needed by our early ancestors to stay alive.

But it’s all different now, of course. Those who have a problem with modern livestock farming can afford to criticise current agricultural production systems on the back of the modern lifestyle, which they enjoy.

But they should remember that all off the great industrial and technological breakthroughs achieved by mankind have their origins in the agricultural revolution that started some 10,000 years ago.

Had it not been for the intensification in farming practices that did take place, the opportunities to achieve all of these other wonderful breakthroughs would never have happened.

Evolution of agriculture

Let me put it another way. Our forefathers only got the chance to think about the bigger picture once they no longer had to spend all day hunting and foraging in order to feed themselves. In essence, farmers took over this responsibility on the behalf of everyone else.

No-one can argue that modern farming practices are not intensive. But this does not stop farmers, who want to feed the world, from caring for their animals in a totally meaningful way. For its part, Irish agriculture is one of the most regulated industries in the world.

Farmers are subject to more inspections than any other business grouping. And this is the way it should be.

The current EU support system for agriculture is based on the premise that consumers should have total confidence in the way their food is produced.

Farming is also a business.

On that basis alone, it is in every producer’s interest to ensure that his or her animals remain healthy and are maintained under the highest possible welfare conditions.

If this is not the case, livestock will not thrive and the businesses will be similarly affected.