Save the Chickens?
Many farm animals are in danger of extinction
by David Johnson
The extinction of wild animals receives a lot of publicity. But many domestic animals are also vanishing, to the concern of experts, reports the BBC.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says there are more than 4,000 breeds of domestic animals and birds in the world. One third of these are in danger of disappearing.
Losing Two Breeds Each Week
Domestic animals are becoming extinct at the rate of two breeds per week. One thousand domestic species have vanished in the past 100 years.
Scientists say commercial farmers rely on certain species that produce the most meat or milk. As worldwide agriculture becomes more standardized, these economically productive breeds are adopted all over the world, often making indigenous animals unnecessary.
Poultry and Pigs Predominate
The international pig and chicken industries rely on the fewest varieties. But hundreds of different types of buffalo, yaks, ducks, goats, sheep, cattle, and ostriches are also in danger.
About one third of the 259 recorded types of domestic farm animals in the U.S. and Canada could disappear soon.
Danger in Uniformity
Using the same breeds all over the world is potentially hazardous because a species that thrives in one climate may not do as well in another. It also may lack resistance to local diseases.
If a specific species of animal or plant becomes infected with a disease, it could wipe out entire industries. For example, the Dutch elm trees once ubiquitous in American cities were nearly wiped out by disease in the 1950s.
More diversity has been proven to slow the spread of illness. A Chinese experiment recently showed that certain types of contagious plant disease spread more slowly when farmers planted more than one variety of rice.