What factors have led Argentina to intensify its pig farming? How did the 2020 government agreement with Chinese investors to build mega pig farms in the country come about? What were stakeholders' response? Did animal welfare matter? This report seeks to throw light on these questions. It explains several key points.
First: Argentina's economy and international trade plays a huge role in intensifying the country's animal agriculture, with robust support for the agro-export sector from the government. The introduction of GMO soy in the 1990s led Argentina to pivot toward planting soy to feed Chinese pigs and to intensify its own cattle production.
Second: Argentina identifies strongly with agricultural activities, meat production and consumption. Chicken production is almost completely intensified, and products are consumed domestically. Pig production is mainly extensive or semi-intensive, and the sector aims to increase productivity.
Third: The 2020 agreement to invest in mega pig farms is best viewed as a chapter of Argentina's economic, diplomatic, and trade relationship with China, which began in the 2000s. But there was a new driver - the outbreak of the African Swine Flu (ASF) that decimated Chinese pork production.
Fourth: Socio-environmental groups were the most active stakeholders and initiated the public debate. With the endorsement of animal rights advocates, they led the opposition to the agreement. Small and medium pork producers were involved in the debate because they feared potential competition from the mega farms.
Fifth: Animal welfare did not feature in the agreement and was barely mentioned by stakeholders. The legal framework for farm animal welfare in Argentina is vague and inadequate, and animal welfare training opportunities are lacking.
Sixth: Changes need to happen on three levels. Structural (e.g. move away from intensified animal agriculture). Institutional (e.g. support agencies such as INTA and CONICET to develop protein alternatives). Individual (e.g. inform the public of farm animal welfare).