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Sustainability is one of the biggest topics in our time and considerably affects veterinary medicine as well. In a broad sense, the definition is as follows: “Sustainability is the collective willingness and ability of a society to reach or maintain its viability, vitality, and integrity over long periods of time, while allowing other societies to reach or maintain their own viability, vitality, and integrity”(Wiek et al, 2015). In terms of food production and security, sustainability demands that economic, ecological and societal aspects are considered at the same time. The production of save food in an eco-friendly manner often stands in conflict with the use of common farming and animal treatment practices. For example, on the one hand the use of anti-microbials has improved food safety but on the other hand furthered anti-microbial resistance. Veterinarians work in this wide stretched field, covering the whole food chain from primary production to consumers. In the European Union, an extensive amount of research funding is currently invested in the field of sustainable food production. Especially veterinarians could take part in this endeavour, since they are experts in the management of farm animal health as well as food and feed production. International cooperation is often recommended in these research projects.
As example for a topic, and our current field of research, the pig as an important farm animal and moreover a model used in medical and nutrition research could be a point of interest. Thinking about the problems that are globally to be solved in pig farming, like manure overproduction, animal welfare and use of antibiotics, especially the gastro-intestinal system of the pig and its inhabiting microbiota are a suitable research field.
To bring together as much veterinary competence and influence as possible, we aim to start an open research network. We are looking for colleagues who are interested to work together with us on this challenging subject and explore the role of veterinary medicine in sustainable food production or already have some expertise in this line of work. We aim to connect with other networks and raise funding (e.g. Horizon 2020) for joint research projects.