Last week the United Nations launched its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of 17 aims included in a new 15 year plan. This plan aims to end poverty and hunger by 2030 and achieve a host of other truly worthy objectives such as gender equality.
There's a battle raging over the future of food and the countryside and some see industrial farming as the way forward to feeding a growing population, but this is not the solution. The SDGs offer all nations the opportunity to move away from the cruel exploitation of the planet's resources and to bring an end to factory farming. At last we have a set of goals that will help us fix our broken food system.
The fact is that there is already enough food for everyone, but much is wasted, not least by feeding precious crops to animals crowded and confined on industrial farms; a cruel and wasteful practice. It is clear that the planet cannot sustain the current growth in meat consumption, which is based on the industrial model. The SDGs reveal the inherent unsustainability of this model and, when implemented, will undoubtedly bring about a fairer, more compassionate world.
Having read the 17 goals and 169 targets, I especially welcome the SDG's commitment to achieving sustainable production and consumption in a world where "humanity lives in harmony with nature and in which wildlife and other living species are protected" (Intro, 9). The goals include promoting sustainable agriculture, achieving food security, ensuring healthy lives and taking urgent action to combat climate change.
Taken as a whole the SDGs are a blueprint for a fairer, "greener" world, where our precious ecosystems are protected, soil quality is improved, deforestation is halted, small-scale farmers are supported in their endeavours and everyone has access to sufficient and nutritious food.
With a water-hungry world anticipated, the SDGs are committed to reducing water pollution and protecting water-related ecosystems, halving food waste and cutting chemical pollution. The SDGs will promote sustainable use of natural resources and sustainable public procurement policies.
At the individual level, the SDGs foresee a world where "people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature" (12.8).
I endorse the SDGs - which aim for a world of fairness, environmental protection and healthy living for all. Small-scale farmers will be helped to increase their output, but the SDGs definitely do not endorse the crude exploitation of our planet's resources which underlies the factory farming system.
I believe the SDGs could see the end of factory farming, with its wasteful use of natural resources, its pollution of earth, air and water, its exploitation of human labour and its outdated view of farm animals as mere products.