How would a reduction of livestock impact rural areas?

Livestock activities are deeply rooted in European rural traditions and are present in almost all rural areas of Europe proposing a wide diversity of production systems following local and geographical contexts. The livestock sector contributes substantially to the European economy (€168 billion annually, 45% of the total agricultural activity) and creates direct jobs for 4 million people and indirectly support the work of 30 million people, mostly in rural areas. European industries linked to animal production (milk and meat processing, feed for livestock) have an annual turnover of approximately €400 billion. Future livestock production could in fact contribute greatly to the circular economy or digital industry, creating new European economic champions. 

Food and livestock production is also the main contribution of rural areas to the EU trade balance. The EU is generally self-sufficient in animal products and sells on the world markets (€19.5 billion). It is a net exporter of pig meat, dairy products, poultry meat and eggs. In a more complex international environment, keeping a dynamic livestock sector is a strength benefiting not just Europe’s rural areas but indeed all of Europe, beyond the farming sector. Thanks to its export capacity, the EU is also able to promote its high standards on food safety, environment, animal health and welfare pushing its trade partners to increase their own standards.

Today almost three quarters of the European population lives in urban areas, by 2050 it is considered that 80% of Europeans will live in cities making Europe the most urbanised continental area in the world together with North America. Among the many reasons that continue to drive an exodus of rural communities to cities a clear link is observed with the higher level of income. A reduction of the livestock sector could directly increase this urbanisation trend. 

European Urbanization Trends