When we first moved to this farm almost a decade ago, I decided to buy some chickens. I had raised chickens when I was a little girl and was excited by the prospect of acquiring some of the breeds I had known and loved in my childhood. Little did I know that many of these breeds were now hard to find, and in some cases the breeds had almost completely vanished. Who would imagine that a chicken could be on an ‘endangered’ list? It seems crazy, but it is true.
[I]t is estimated that about three-quarters of the genetic diversity found in agricultural crops have been lost over the last century, and this genetic erosion continues. For example, today, 90% of our food energy and protein comes from only 15 plant and 8 animal species, with disturbing consequences for nutrition and food security. Wheat, rice and maize alone provide more than 50% of the global plant-based energy intake. (Convention on Biological Diversity)
Almost everything we eat is produced by fifteen plant and eight animal species. Let that sink in for a minute. And the breeds and varieties within those twenty-three species are few. About thirty percent of all livestock breeds face extinction.
Not only is vital genetic information being lost, but we are also losing part of our culture. The farm animals of songs and stories, animals which lived on the farms of our grandparents and great-grandparents, are disappearing at an alarming rate. These animals were not only useful and well adapted to their environments, but they were, and are, beautiful.
“Rare Beasts: A Bestiary of Rare and Endangered Farm Animals” is a project of twenty large collages, each depicting a farm animal which is currently on the Canadian Livestock Conservation List. The aim of the project is to stimulate discussion about the consequences of the loss of these animals and to celebrate their beauty and diversity.