Livestock is defined as any domesticated animal that is raised in an agricultural setting for the purpose of fiber, food or labor. The definition of livestock can include farmed fish and poultry and the inclusion of these in the general understanding of what livestock is, is actually quite common.
Typically, livestock are raised as a means of generating revenue or for survival. The raising of animals is known as husbandry and it is a critical part of modern-day agriculture. This is something that is practiced across countless cultures ever since people have moved beyond hunting and gathering to farming.
Raising animals is something that arose out of the shifting of cultural norms into farming communities that were settled as opposed to living as hunters and gatherers. When animals have their living and breeding conditions controlled or managed by humans, they are considered to be domesticated.
Throughout the years, the collective physiology, behavior and life cycle of livestock have undergone radical changes. A lot of farm animals today are no longer suited to life in the wild. In East Asia, dogs were domesticated approximately 15,000 years ago and sheep and goats were domesticated in Asia around 8000 BCE. At approximately 7000 BCE, pigs or swine became domesticated in China and in the Middle East. The earliest known evidence of the domestication of horses is believed to date to 4000 BCE.
The Kings James Bible and older English sources reference livestock as cattle, rather than using the word deer, which was at this time, what wild, unclaimed animals were called. Cattle is a word that comes from the Middle East word chatel, which refers to many different types of movable property such as livestock, which could be differentiated from property that could not be moved, such as land. Smaller livestock was often referred to as small cattle in later England, in the sense of being
Smaller livestock was often referred to as small cattle in later England, in the sense of being movable property on a person’s land that would automatically be included in the purchase or sale of said land. Currently, cattle, without any qualifier, generally refers to bovine animals that have been domesticated. Other bovine species are frequently referred to as wild cattle.
Livestock is a vague term that can have both narrow and broad definitions. On a very broad scale, livestock can refer to any population or breed that humans keep for commercial or useful purposes. This can include semi-domesticated animals, fully domesticated animals and wild animals that are held captive.
Semi-domesticated is a designation used for animals that are of a disputed status or that have only been very lightly domesticated. Populations such as these may even be in the middle of the domestication process. There are also times when people use the term livestock in reference to domestic animals or to animals that bear red meat.
When raising livestock for the benefit of people, there is always the question of the bond that animals and humans posses in terms of how animals rank and the obligations that people have. Animal welfare encompasses the idea that the animals humans care for should be treated in a specific way so that their suffering is minimised.
What is deemed unnecessary suffering in these instances can vary. In most instances, however, the general viewpoint is based upon the interpretation of studies that have been performed concerning farming practices. Conversely, animal rights activists believe that using animals for the benefit of humans is exploitation by nature, irrespective of the farming practices being maintained. Animal rights activists typically lead vegetarian or vegan lifestyles while those with the animal welfare perspective are generally meat eaters and depend upon the related production processes.