S. Aerts

University of Leuven, Louvain, Flanders, Belgium

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Publications (10)6.04 Total impact

  • S. Aerts
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    ABSTRACT: A common framework to describe the difficult situation of today’s agricultural markets is the different (perceived) attitudes of the citizen (as found via surveys) and that of the consumer (assessed via buying patterns). It is said that the citizen is demanding for ever increasing animal welfare and environmental efforts (usually at an increased production price), but at the same time the consumer in the shops is heading for the cheapest product, regardless of the production system. This dilemma (or paradox) has been confirmed many times by scientific and market research. This way of framing does however not align with the complexity of contemporary food production. It starts from the – flawed – assumption that food producers (farmers) and consumers interact. But only on rare occasions they still do. Except in short-chain commercialisation systems, consumers do not buy food as it is produced by farmers, but instead they buy – even fresh produce – from retailers that have acquired it from auction markets. For other food products many more intermediate steps exist. In this paper we will show that in most instances in which conventional food production systems made progress towards more welfare friendly or more sustainable production this has been done by circumventing the citizen-consumer paradox instead of addressing it. Examples are the shift to non-battery eggs in the Low Countries in 2005-2006 and the current steps towards non-castration pig production. We conclude that focusing on the consumer in order to restore balance is – if not futile – overly optimistic. It assumes a consumer position that is not in line with reality. Furthermore, it obscures the important leverage of other actors in the food chain, some of whom may not be unsympathetic to this ‘invisible’ position.
    No preview · Chapter · Jan 2013
  • S. Aerts · R. Boonen · J. De Tavernier
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    ABSTRACT: In general, prevention is considered an epidemiologically good strategy because it decreases the likelihood of animal disease outbreaks (and thus epidemics), mainly by hindering the infectious agent spread and thereby lowering the number of diseased animals and the economical losses. Similarly, surveillance, i.e. monitoring and early detection of diseased animals, is generally considered as an epidemiologically good strategy because it increases the probability of controlling the outbreak before it reaches an epidemic scale. Both prevention and surveillance are proactive rather than reactive approaches, but there seems to be no clear a priori advantage of prevention over surveillance or vice versa. Nonetheless, some suggest that prevention offers better disease control results than surveillance and thus that both can be mutually exclusive. This discussion paper challenges this assumption and argues that both approaches should be seen as complimentary measures rather than opposing actions. A blended strategy that builds upon synergies between the prevention and surveillance approaches, will offer a stronger defense against epidemics than a single approach. The specific combination of prevention and surveillance measures depends on a series of factors, of which availability of technological innovations and economic benefits can be one. To bridge the suggested dichotomy between prevention and surveillance, we use a set of ethical arguments comprised of three principles: the 'right-to-know', the 'right-not-to-know', and the 'duty-to-know'. For important animal diseases and with the emergence of advanced diagnostics/monitoring technologies, the balance between these three principles shifts away from the right not to know towards a duty to know. This set of principles thus demonstrates the importance of surveillance within the overall strategy. We argue that, in a combined disease control strategy, prevention must be the most important component, which we would therefore term a 'vigilant prevention strategy'.
    No preview · Article · May 2012
  • S. Aerts
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    ABSTRACT: The discussion about the functions of agriculture needs to be broadened beyond the Food-Fuel-Fibre discussion. The '6F' framework has been proposed that incorporates most - if not all - functions of agriculture: Food, Feed, Fuel, Fibre, Flower, and Fun. In an increasingly resource restricted world, agriculture is confronted with an increased demand for each of the 6 Fs. Climate change will increase the 'natural' stress on production in regions that are already less favourable, while population density and civil pressure will increase 'human' stress on production in regions that are well suited for agriculture. Data on water availability, water stress and natural production capacity of different world regions clearly show that (1) many regions rely on irrigation for large parts of their food production (and agricultural production in general); (2) most of those regions experience (or will soon experience) water stress; and (3) the water stress indicators of other regions (e.g. Europe) are equally high, although water seems abundant there. Historically, the largest populations have grown where food production was easiest. For example the coastal areas of the US, Western Europe and Eastern Parts of China are areas with much arable land and large populations. This has resulted in much of the world's most valuable arable land now used for other purposes (habitation, industry, etc), something that is nearly impossible to reverse. Additionally, and quite evident in Western Europe, industrialised societies increase their non-production demands on the rural areas: recreational use of 'the outdoors', pleas for the conservation of 'natural vegetation', etc. Given that higher production is necessary (more people, more consumption), we cannot increase our production apparatus (land, water), and our current apparatus will be under more stress (climate change, environmental protection), the challenge for the future is clear: more for more, with less. Thus, agriculture must intensify (increase the output/input ratio; an improvement of efficiency by better management). The inevitable outcome of the 6F equation is that we have no choice but to intensify production methods and stop tolerating efficiency losses on a global level. The only other option is to strike some of the Fs from the equation.
    No preview · Article · May 2012
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    ABSTRACT: More and more, animal production is questioned, not only by animal welfare organizations or vegans, but also in the context of climate change. Some even say that animals are the number one greenhouse gas emitters, not only directly (e.g. ruminants), but also indirectly by land use change, especially in South America. Others say that animals are a very inefficient way of food production, since feed conversion always means a certain loss. From a food production point of view, animal production can be divided into three groups. The first one is the group of extensive grazers. Since only a small percentage of the land surface is arable land, herbivores (especially ruminants) are the only way to produce on – from an anthropocentric point of view – ‘useless’ grounds. Also, one billion poor people in those regions are depending on animals for food, manure, draught or as ‘living bank’ in those harsh conditions. Animals are thus necessary to survive and everything produced by them can be seen as a net gain, increasing the land use efficiency. Secondly, animals can be used as converters of crop residues, especially meals from vegetable oil production for human consumption, chemistry or biofuels. Animals, especially ruminants, are very efficient in recycling energy and proteins which are not digestible or wanted as food by humans (or other animals). Probably, second generation biofuels shall replace at least for some part the use of animals as converters, depending on economics or policy. To balance the animals’ diet, also grains are needed to make sure the animals stay healthy. If you look at feed efficiency in this way, efficiency ratios for different animal species differ from the traditional feed conversion and for some species animal production even means an efficiency gain. The third group is the surplus group. Those animals are produced not because they use ‘useless’ land or energy and proteins, but because some people are wealthy enough to feed them with edible products. Although some of them have the best feed conversion ratios, this group of (mostly monogastric) animals produces animal products in an inefficient way from a human-animal-competition or ecological point of view. Only this group of animals could be considered as ethically problematic. It will become a pressing issue because of the increasing demand from upcoming economies for animal luxury products.
    No preview · Chapter · May 2012
  • R. Boonen · S. Aerts · J. De Tavernier
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    ABSTRACT: When talking about 'sustainability' in theory, people often refer to the triple P-concept, where People, Planet and Profit are three pillars of equal value. In practice, these three terms are very often used against each other to prove one's right, depending on one's worldview. If one is looking to sustainable solutions for different problems, it is very important to understand how others see the world and evaluate things. One way to analyze different worldviews is by dividing them by focusing either on their ontological status (reductionism versus holism) or on the epistemological status (subjective versus objective). Combining these two gives us four different worldviews: personal-egocentric (subjective-reductionist), culturalsocial (subjective-holistic), ecological (objective-holistic) and technical (objective-reductionist). For each of those four worldviews, a 3P-ranking can be made. In a personal-egocentric worldview, Profit is the main goal because it pleases the People. Planet is often used within the limits of promoting the other P's, as becomes illustrative in the green-washing by companies. In a cultural-social worldview, People as individuals, as a group or as a species are the major concern, followed by Planet as a necessary biotope for man. Profit is used to make sure that both Planet and People are protected. In an ecological worldview, the Planet as ecosystem is the most important thing, which can only be saved by People and where Profit is the trigger to let People behave in a Planet-saving way. In a technical worldview, mostly People, Planet and Profit are considered as independent entities. This implies that different people have different desires and act different in the same circumstances in order to reach their individual 'sustainable' solution.
    No preview · Article · May 2012
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    ABSTRACT: Some anatomical characteristics of 507 Belgian Blue (BB) cattle, withers height (WH), heart girth (HG), the distance between the two tubera coxae (TcTc) and the distance between the two tubera ischiadica (TiTi), were compared with the internal pelvic measurements of width, height and area. Mean values were 58.9 ± 6.2 cm for TcTc, 14.6 ± 2.3 cm for TiTi, 15.2 ± 2.1 cm for pelvic width (PW), 18.8 ± 1.9 cm for pelvic height (PH) and 288.5 ± 60.9 cm(2) for pelvic area (PA). Cows that calved per vaginam had larger WH (p < 0.05), TcTc (p < 0.05) and TiTi (p < 0.001) and internal pelvic measurements [PH and PA (p < 0.001)] compared with those whose parturition was managed by caesarean section (CS): Correlations between internal pelvic measurements and TcTc were higher (r = 0.58-0.63) than TiTi (r = 0.22-0.28). Correlations between other external body measures such as HG and WH with the internal pelvic measurements were even higher for HG (r = 0.69-0.74) and for WH (r = 0.67-0.74). HG and WH, together with internal pelvic measures, may be added to estimated breeding values (EBV's) that should assist breeders in selecting cows that can calve per vaginam, thereby reducing the breed's dependence on elective CS for maintaining its unique characteristics.
    No preview · Article · Sep 2011 · Reproduction in Domestic Animals
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    ABSTRACT: At calving, purebred animals of the Belgian Blue (BB) breed are compromised by the incompatibility in size and shape of the dam and her calf resulting in a very high incidence of dystocia problems. To clarify which body parts of the calf are of decisive importance to allow natural delivery and to investigate both the mean value as well as the variation among these body sizes within this breed (variation being an important condition for selection), measurements of nine body parts (body weight at birth (BW), body length (BL), length of the head (LH), shoulder width (SW), hip width (HW), heart girth (HG), withers height (WH) and the circumference of the fetlock of both the front (CFF) and the hind leg (CFH)) were assessed in 147 newborn purebred BB calves on 17 farms. Simple and partial correlations were assessed and we examined whether environmental factors (gender of the calf parity of the cow, type of calving, season of birth and time of measurement after birth) were significantly associated with these specific calf measurements. The mean BW was 49.2 +/- 7.1 kg. The average BL was 56.4 +/- 4.5 cm and the mean LH was 24.4 +/- 2.3 cm. Measurements obtained for SW and HW were 22.4 +/- 2.2 and 22.9 +/- 2.1 cm, respectively, whereas the mean WH was 71.1 +/- 4.7 cm. Measurements of circumferences revealed a CFF of 17.9 +/- 1.1 cm, a CFH of 18.0 +/- 1.0 cm and a mean HG of 78.0 +/- 5.4 cm. Partial correlations of the BW with eight body measurements were significant (P
    Full-text · Article · May 2010 · animal
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    ABSTRACT: This article describes a study of the behaviour of double muscled Belgian Blue (BB) cows during the peri partum period to assess the differences in pain perception in cows calving per vaginam vs cows delivering by caesarean section (CS). In one herd, a total of 30 multiparous cows, of which 17 delivered by CS and 13 calved per vaginam, were closely observed at approximately 1 month before calving and at days 1, 3 and 14 after parturition. The main behavioural indicators of pain were alertness, transition in posture from standing to lying and vice versa, aggressive behaviour, vocalization, rumination quality, reaction on wound and vulva pressure and the percentage of visible eye-white. The main significant differences were lower overall activity and more transition in posture in animals that delivered by CS than in cows that calved naturally. Less time was spent on eating and ruminating in the CS group, their total resting time was longer and their total standing time was shorter. These significant differences were only observed on the first day after calving. Cows of the CS group reacted significantly more when pressure was put on the left flank on the first, third and fourteenth day after calving, whereas animals that calved per vaginam showed more reaction when pressure was put on the area around the vulva, but only on the first day. Based on the results of the present study, we can conclude that there are some significant short-term behavioural differences between BB cows that calve naturally and those that deliver by CS, but in general, the differences are subtle and of short duration.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2010 · Reproduction in Domestic Animals
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    ABSTRACT: The accuracy of the Rice pelvimeter for measuring pelvic area of double muscled Belgian Blue (BB) cattle was investigated by comparing measurements in the live animal with these obtained from the same animal after slaughter. Pelvic measurements from 466 BB-cows aged 2–10 years old and of an excellent carcass qualification (S and E in the SEUROP classification) were measured with the pelvimeter approximately 12 h prior to, and by graded ruler within 2 h after, slaughter. The mean difference of measurements between living and dead cattle were −0.2 cm for pelvic width (95% limits of agreement −2.5–2.1 cm), and 1.2 cm for pelvic height (95% limits of agreement −1.8–4.1 cm). The correlation coefficient between all pelvic measurements was between 0.46 and 0.59 (p
    No preview · Article · Apr 2009 · Livestock Science
  • Look · van de · I Kolkman · H. Vervaecke · J Vicca · D Lips · S Aerts
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    ABSTRACT: De vraag is in hoeverre het welzijn van het dier door een keizersnede aangetast wordt. Onderzoek aan de Katholieke Hogeschool van Sint-Niklaas vergeleek de pijnindicatoren bij natuurlijk bevallen met het kalven via keizersnede bij Belgisch witblauwe runderen
    No preview · Article · Jan 2007

Publication Stats

31 Citations
6.04 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2009-2010
    • University of Leuven
      • Centre for Sciences, Technology and Ethics
      Louvain, Flanders, Belgium