“Livestock are domesticated animals raised in an agricultural setting to produce commodities such as food, fiber, and labor. The term is often used to refer solely to those raised for food, and sometimes only farmed ruminants, such as cattle and goats. In recent years, some organizations have also raised livestock to promote the survival of rare breeds. The breeding, maintenance, and slaughter of these farm animals, known as animal husbandry, is a component of modern agriculture that has been practiced in many cultures since humanity’s transition to farming from hunter-gatherer lifestyles.
Animal husbandry practices have varied widely across cultures and time periods. Originally, livestock were not confined by fences or enclosures, but these practices have largely shifted to intensive animal farming, sometimes referred to as “factory farming”. These practices increase yield of the various commercial outputs, but have led to increased concerns about animal welfare and environmental impact. Livestock production continues to play a major economic and cultural role in numerous rural communities.
The issue of raising livestock for human benefit raises the issue of the suitable relationship between humans and animals, in terms of the status of animals and the obligations of people. The concept of animal welfare reflects the viewpoint that animals under human care should be treated in such a way that they do not suffer unnecessarily. What is considered ‘unnecessary’ suffering may vary. Generally, though, the animal welfare perspective is based on an interpretation of scientific research on farming practices. By contrast, animal rights defends the viewpoint that using animals for human benefit is, on principle, exploitation, regardless of the farming practices used. Animal rights activists are often vegan or vegetarian, whereas it is consistent with the animal welfare perspective to eat meat as long as the production processes are defensible.
Animal welfare groups generally seek to generate public discussion on livestock raising practices and to secure greater regulation and scrutiny of livestock industry practices.”