Stable with buffalos for milk production in suburban Andheri, India.
hoto: J. Boethling

17.11.2014

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Not only rabbits and guinea-pigs but sheep, goats, cattle and pigs also play a crucial role in the food and income situation of countless city-dwellers world-wide. However, when people and animals live in such close proximity, health risks are inevitable. But instead of banning urban animal husbandry, as was, for example, considered in the course of the swine influenza epidemic, framework conditions ought to be created that enable people to make use of this business branch to earn a profit without running risks.

Different forms of keeping animals in cities for agricultural purposes have existed for a long time. In the Maya Empire and in China, but also in Europe, animals were already kept in cities in biblical times and during the Middle Ages. Horses and camels served as a means of transport for goods and armies, of which street names are still a reminder in many places. Just 100 years ago, cows in Copenhagen were fed with scraps from beer production, while Londoners kept rabbits on their balconies during the Second World War.

Today, animal husbandry still plays a frequently underrated role in small cities and urban centres, especially in developing countries and emerging economies. The animals are kept seemingly invisibly, predominantly in the disadvantaged city areas. For the poor population, these farm animals are often an important contribution to food security, whereas more wealthy strata of the population above all keep animals as a status symbol and as pets.

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