13 October 1999
Rare breeds face extinction

MORE than 1000 of Europes rare breeds, including pigs, cattle, goats, horses and sheep, are at risk of extinction, according to a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation survey.

It has found that of up to 5500 breeds of worldwide, or some 30%, are at risk of extinction.

A total of 467 of Europes 2238 breeds, are at a critical population size, while 729 are classified as endangered.

Experts say that rare breeds may prove vital over the coming years in fighting hunger across the globe.

They may prove important to farmers as Europe reduces production subsidies and moves to less intensive farming.

Consumers are increasingly demanding foods with better flavour produced using fewer drugs and chemicals and with a higher emphasis on welfare.

Rare breeds often taste better than intensively bred hybrid animals and are adapted to survive better outside in various terrains without needing larger amounts of processed feed.

Breeds at risk in Britain include three cattle breeds – the Irish Moiles, Shetland and the Vaynol – and four varieties of pig – the British lop, Large Black, Middle White and Tamworth.

  • The Times 13/10/99 page 13