Environmental concerns top the popular political agenda in a lot of countries these days. There are mass student protests in Sweden, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium, but the ‘gilets jaunes’ of France were also partially driven by environmental taxes deemed too high and too unfair on the working class. Animals loom large in these environmental concerns – either as endangered species, or as livestock raised in questionable circumstances. Blockchain can do its part to help here.
Before we tackle how exactly Blockchain can improve animal welfare and help protect endangered species, Blockchain technology itself has been criticized for contributing to pollution. This is mainly because Blockchain’s best-known application, Bitcoin, requires a lot of energy to perform its security and encryption tasks. However, this is not necessarily true for all Blockchain-based applications and certainly not for the newer generations of these apps and technologies.
Bears, tigers and lions, oh my!
Tracking animals through microchips isn’t new. But using IoT (Internet-of-Things) capabilities mixed with Blockchain tech is. In 2018, ‘Care for the Uncared’, a wildlife protection NGO based from Uganda, started just such a project. The project created an immutable, distributed ledger of data on movement, behavior and habitats of endangered species such as blue whales, Indian tigers, giant panda bears and others. This type of data collection is superior to current methods in terms of reliability and security.
The NGO’s spokesman, Bale Kabumba, said: “This record would be publicly accessible in the block[chain] and although the work is just beginning and the future is uncertain[,] we definitely believe this will change the way we behave and interact with nature. This record will eventually help understand the determining factors in species extinction.” (1)
From the prairie to the plate
At the consumer end of human-animal interaction, conditions in industrial farms and fisheries are frequently decried as unethical and cruel. Green labels in supermarkets inspire little confidence in the consumer because they are often window dressing to jack up prices.
However, if a consumer could access a Blockchain record of the journey the animal has made from the farm to the market, it becomes much more difficult for the industry to lie and much easier for agriculture companies that are invested in ethical consumption to shine. Last year, start-ups across the world, and especially in the Asia-Pacific region, have begun pilot projects for this.
Combatting fake food
To demonstrate that this application of Blockchain isn’t just for dreamers is the Australian company Ultimo Digital Technologies (UTD), partly funded by hundreds of thousands of dollars from Chinese venture capitalist Victor Huang. The reason for the Chinese interest in Blockchain in the food industry is less related to animal welfare than it is to the problem of counterfeiting.
John Baird, UTD’s CEO, said on ABC: “We’ve talked to China about using it as a way of shipping Chinese [food] goods out of China, ensuring that what goes out of the country has the quality the manufacturer intended. Quite often their own goods are subject to counterfeiting on the way out.” A Blockchain process that requires verification along every step of the way the product makes through the supply chain makes it nearly impossible to counterfeit. (2)
But Mr. Baird emphasized that they are also considering animal welfare. “We can figure out what stress looks like for a cow, and at a later point in the journey, if we can start to see that behavior again we know that the cow is stressed at that point, and .. something has got to be done about it,” he further told ABC.
This idea is also catching on in the United States. Free-range cattle ranches have problems presenting steel-clad evidence their animals have, in fact, been raised in free-range environments all their lives. That’s why a Wyoming start-up named BeefChain was founded last year. US Senator and rancher Ogden Driskill, who co-founded the start-up, told Forbes: “What the Blockchain does is: The tag allows us to download it to a program to actually verify that what’s been done is done correctly and is backed up by multiple layers.” (3)
Becoming part of the revolution
Places like Uganda or the rural American state of Wyoming are places that are unlikely to feature in the imagination of tech innovators. Yet, that Blockchain technology can inspire companies far away from the traditional tech hubs seems to bode well for its applications in animal welfare and protection.
Are you working with animals, too, or are you part of the food industry? Then you don’t need to travel to Australia or China to get advice and inspiration on how to implement the Blockchain and its benefits in your organization – you can get these things right here from us. We can provide you with everything from general advice to a detailed roll-out of Blockchain applications today.
Curious? Drop us a line via our contact form. Let’s talk!
Sources and further reading
- (1) AMBCrypto, ‘Endangered species protection finds Blockchain and Bitcoin love’
(2) ABC, ‘New Blockchain technology applications could trace animal welfare, stop counterfeiting’
(3) Forbes, ‘Free-Range Beef Bound By The Blockchain‘