This July, the UK government released the latest ‘Agriculture in the United Kingdom’ report for 2021

This July, the UK government released the latest ‘Agriculture in the United Kingdom’ report for 2021, so let’s take a look…

This annual report outlines agricultural, both plant-based and animal, production, costs, trade, and more. For animal farming, this includes the number of animals kept on farms, animal product production such as milk and eggs, and the number of animals slaughtered.

The volume of cow’s milk produced in 2021 decreased by just 0.05% and the dairy herd population – the number of dairy cows in the UK – remained stable at 1,850,000.

Despite plant-based foods such as dairy-free milks increasing in popularity, the production of dairy remains the same.

The beef herd decreased by 1.6%, dropping to 1,485,000 individuals, a reduction of 24,000 animals.

In the same period of time, the slaughter of beef cows and steers decreased from 2,854,000 to 2,700,000, a 154,000-animal reduction, equating to a 5.4% drop. For one of Britain’s ‘most loved meats’, that is a big reduction.

A saddening increase was seen in pig farming. It has been widely reported that the industry is facing huge pressures through worker shortages, slaughterhouse backlogs, skyrocketing feed and energy prices, yet the figures do not reflect that.

Pig slaughter increased to 10,918,000 – almost 11 million animals – which represents a 2.1% growth.

Sheep farming showed a stark contrast to the pig industry. The slaughter of sheep and lambs decreased from 14,985,000 to 13,409,000 – a huge 10.5% drop!

As many British lambs and sheep are exported overseas, pressures on live exports in recent years may be the result for this drop, with trade deals also being affected as a result of Brexit.

A huge sector of animal agriculture that has been growing year-on-year is the broiler industry. Broilers – or ‘meat’ chickens – are the most abundantly farmed and killed birds in the UK (and globally). Over one billion are slaughtered each year in the UK and this number is increasing.

2021 saw a rise of 0.08%, which sounds negligible, but due to the chicken industry being so colossal, this represents another one million birds. The figure stands at 1,183,000,000 chickens. An unfathomable number.

Another increase was seen in laying hens and egg production, which could reflect a rise in vegetarian-protein sources being consumed, with eggs often being viewed as a ‘healthy’ option.

The laying hen population increased by just 0.02% up to 40,568,000 birds, yet egg production increased by 4.1%.

Great news! The duck industry has continued to shrink.

Duck and goose slaughter has decreased from 11 million down to 10 million, a 9% reduction. This is following a huge drop of 25% from 2020 to 2021. In just two years, duck slaughter has plummeted from 14 to 10 million.

This is an industry that Animal Justice Project has targeted over the past three years and alongside Avian flu and Brexit, we hope that our investigative work that you have selflessly funded has made an impact.

The biggest decline has been seen in the turkey industry with a massive 25% decrease! Dropping to 12 million animals.

With rising energy and feed prices, the cost for farmers buying in turkey poults – young turkeys – has soared. We hope that this decline is representative of trends to come in animal agriculture as well as showing how fragile these systems are and that one key sector such as energy prices can make a huge – and hopefully, lasting – impact.

In some sectors of animal agriculture, more animals than ever are being produced, but in others, they are slowly declining. Despite a huge rise in veganism and plant-based diets, it is clear that this is not enough to counteract these cruel and destructive industries. So what now? We must keep investigating, campaigning and showing consumers where their ‘food’ really comes from, and that a kinder, more compassionate lifestyle is possible.

Animal Justice Project has such dedicated and generous supporters and we want to empower you to continue with us in this fight for animal liberation. Together we can make a huge difference for animals.

As always,

For the animals.

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