Sustainable Development Goal 10
Reduce inequality within and among countries
Policies are needed to support and enable smallholders to better compete against industrial production systems, as well as social protections and policies to reduce worker abuse and the contribution of the industrial agriculture sector to inequality.
Wildlife policy must better account for the needs of local communities and discourage consumptive and unnecessary exploitation of wildlife.
Employers and exploitative industries must be held to account for their use and treatment of workers and animals, as well as their impact on the environment.
Oppression of human populations and exploitation of non-human animals have often been closely linked. For example, economic desperation may drive marginalized people to adopt livelihoods that exploit animals, such as wildlife poaching and trafficking and low-wage, high-risk employment such as slaughterhouse work.
Target 10.2 aims to empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status. Intensive agricultural systems correlate with negative effects on wealth distribution. In the United States, industrialized agriculture has resulted in lower relative incomes for farm workers and greater income inequality and poverty. Further, the agricultural sector in most countries is highly reliant on migrant labor--in California, for example, almost 90% of workers are migrants. Workers in the intensive animal production sector struggle to live above the poverty level and provide a decent quality of life for their families, despite the fact that their jobs are often associated with high rates of physical injury and psychological trauma.,, This reliance on vulnerable populations, especially migrants, is common to the animal agriculture industries of many countries, and perpetuates abuses in the sector. Exploitative industries employ millions of people and hundreds of thousands of animals in hazardous conditions, for example, the brick-making industry which is the backbone of urban development throughout South Asia. Despite the impact of such industries on human and animal welfare, as well as their environmental impact, owners are rarely held to account.
Exploitation of wildlife is also closely tied to economic inequality. A 2017 survey of poachers in Tanzania found that nearly 80% cited shortage of food and/or income as their major reasons for poaching, while 96% stated they would give up poaching if alternative livelihoods were available.
Target 10.3 aims to ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities of outcome, including by eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practices and promoting appropriate legislation, policies and action in this regard. Discriminatory policies exist in both the agricultural and hunting industries. Various policies force family and small-scale farmers to face vulnerable futures due to the rise in industrial agriculture. Corporate concentration of agricultural inputs, production, processing and distribution, known as vertical integration, has increased substantially in recent decades, giving these corporations a major advantage over small to medium-sized farmers. Many agricultural subsidies provide further unfair price advantages to large enterprises. Producers are also not held responsible for external costs such as social and environmental impacts of their production practices, including pollution, which harms local communities and often uses taxpayers’ resources if and when addressed.
The current food and farming system leads to unfair competition and inequalities between countries as well. For example, United States agribusiness corporations have exported food at artificially low prices, widening the economic divide between the global North and South.
Alternatively, certain wildlife “sustainable use” policies rely upon and exacerbate existing inequalities. For example, the benefits of trophy hunting for local economies are commonly exaggerated. The hunter advocacy group Safari Club International’s own statistics show that trophy hunters account for less than 2% of tourist expenditures in the countries they visit, and around 0.03% of total GDP. Meanwhile, encouraging trophy hunting while prosecuting poaching aggravates racial inequality, particularly in nations like South Africa and Zimbabwe with painful histories of racial discrimination. Legal trophy hunting upholds a de facto system which rewards wealthy trophy hunters who kill wildlife for sport, while punishing poor local communities who hunt for food or economic survival.
While Target 10.4 calls for the adoption of policies, especially fiscal, wage and social protection policies to progressively achieve greater equality, industries that profit off the exploitation of animals, such as animal agriculture and the hunting industry, are economically and politically powerful, and can easily utilize their influence in government to obstruct progressive reforms and regulations. Conversely, the human groups most negatively impacted by these same industries--Indigenous People and racial and ethnic minorities--typically lack adequate representation in government. While there are signs that the tide of public opinion is shifting against trophy hunting and intensive animal production, animal agriculture and the hunting industry remain profitable and politically powerful.
Policies can be adopted which invest in training and support for smallholder farmers and enable them to compete more successfully with large agricultural enterprises. Ensuring that corporations pay the full cost of their production impacts, such as environmental pollution, as well as the elimination of subsidies to harmful industries can also help level the playing field.
Wage floors and worker safety and well-being protections can help reduce labor abuse of vulnerable populations. Business owners and managers should be held to account for the welfare and well-being of both the employees and animals on which they depend. Working in partnership or through consortia-based approaches to highlight cross-cutting issues leads to more comprehensive action plans for tackling abuses in exploitative industries, as well as creating more momentum around the movement.
Governments, regulators and corporations must provide adequate training for people working in animal farming, transport and slaughter. This will help increase their competence and skills, make their jobs more rewarding and ensure animals are treated humanely, benefiting both humans and the animals under their care. The implementation of good animal welfare agricultural practices will also increase the competitiveness of smallholders in the market.
Policies which promote sustainable local livelihoods and food security can play a role in stemming wildlife poaching and crime. Furthermore, policies which alienate local communities from their land and resources and privilege use to wealthy, foreign interests should be lifted.
Labor ministries should develop strict policies in the animal production industry to reduce labor abuses and psychological trauma suffered by workers, as well as improve animal welfare through developing and enforcing legislation and safeguards implemented at all stages of animal handling, from farm to transport and slaughter.
Governments must ensure that conservation initiatives protect wildlife from exploitation in ways that fairly weigh the needs of human communities (i.e. hunting for subsistence must be given primacy over consumptive and unnecessary uses of wildlife).
Governments must ensure that the voices, interests and concerns of workers, Indigenous Peoples, racial and ethnic minorities are strengthened in policymaking, and that actions are taken to reduce the outsized political influence of powerful agriculture and hunting industries.
Human rights and animal protection organizations can cultivate positive working relationships and seek ideological common ground, mobilizing public support and holding governments accountable to enforce policies that benefit both humans and animals.
Human rights and animal protection organizations can partner with agricultural extension services to train workers on best practices for animal welfare, as well as their labor rights and supportive resources to counter abuse.
Wildlife, conservation and natural resource ministries can partner with local communities and human rights and animal protection NGOs to develop community-focused policies and programs that transition away from exploitative uses of wildlife.