Issue 18: What does "success" mean in government actions related to food animal production in LMICs?

November 15, 2023

There is hardly any advocacy group that does not realize that government actions – and inaction – matter in the production of food animals in their countries, and sometimes beyond their borders as well.

Even if a country firmly eschews "big government", even if one is a diehard champion of free-market economy and consumer choices, the fact remains that governments cannot be taken out of the equation when it comes to the raising of food animals, the processing and marketing of products made from them. Governments are required to act, to make decisions on these issues at least some of the time.

But how often do government actions "succeed"? What does "success" mean? "Success" for whom?

Does it mean the actions or decisions work exactly as the government intends? Does it all depend on the actual outcome on the ground rather than what is stated on paper? What is the time frame (e.g., two years, 20 years), and must outcomes be measured linearly? What if it turns out that things have indeed shifted according to the government's plan, but there are also loads of unintended consequences undesired by the government – would one then label the government actions as "unsuccessful"? Must "successful" government strategies and policies generate deep, persistent impact (good or bad)?

These are important questions. Especially so for developing countries where governments often pay a lot more attention to their animal agriculture sector than in advanced economies. And it is much more challenging for them to implement and enforce policies.

Government actions and their consequences are highly complex. When one tries to encourage or pressure the government to act in a certain way, when one seeks to attribute certain developments to government decisions, one needs to understand thoroughly the specific context and nuance. A word to the wise: Beware of unfounded assumptions and jumping to conclusions; ask plenty of questions; interrogate the roles of other powerholders (e.g., private investors); review trade-offs; join up the dots.

This issue of ASWT features five cases that illustrate the diverse actions and decisions that governments in the Global South have taken – or can take – on the production of animal-source foods, from China to Chile, from cows to chickens. Some may find these actions and associated outcomes to be unexpected. Readers can form their own opinions on whether they are "successful" or not.

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