Report reveals how the meat on your plate is harming Earth

meat products, climate change, carbon emissions

The demand for animal protein has risen in the recent past to unprecedented heights.

Photo credit: SHUTTERSTOCK

What you need to know:

  • Four of the biggest factory farming hot spots were assessed – Europe (using data from the Netherlands), US, Brazil and China. Top-line findings show that land is cleared in biodiversity hot spots to grow crops to feed farmed animals, releasing carbon into the atmosphere and destroying wild animal habitats.
  • Crops are traded globally, destined for factory farms.

A new study has revealed the adverse impact of animal agriculture, or factory farming as it’s commonly known,  on the planet.

The demand for animal protein has risen in the recent past to unprecedented heights. Due to this, it has now become economical for producers to raise many animals in small available spaces.

A latest report by international animal rights organisation World Animal Protection titled ‘Climate change and cruelty: Revealing the true impact of factory farming’, analysed the environmental impact of factory farmed chicken and pork in four of the world’s biggest factory farming hot spots. It found that emissions from chicken meat in Brazil, China, Netherlands and US alone are equivalent to keeping 29 million cars on the road for a year.

This report exposes the hidden climate impact of factory farming, showing that we need to shift diets away from pork and chicken as well as beef to plant based diets if we are to combat climate change from our food system.

Four of the biggest factory farming hot spots were assessed – Europe (using data from the Netherlands), US, Brazil and China. Top-line findings show that land is cleared in biodiversity hot spots to grow crops to feed farmed animals, releasing carbon into the atmosphere and destroying wild animal habitats. Crops are traded globally, destined for factory farms.

In Africa,  factory farming is expected to explode as demand for meat is expected to increase by as much as 30 per cent by 2030. Also, the research indicated that when deforestation to grow feed crops – especially soya - for global trade is considered, this doubles the overall climate change impact of factory farmed meat in the Netherlands and increases the impact by more than one and a half times in China.

According to the findings, a 50 percent reduction in consumption of both chicken and pork by 2040 along with a 50 per cent adoption of higher welfare products would halve the annual climate impacts of chicken and pork production across these four hot spots. This would be equivalent to taking 45 million cars off the road for a year in the four hot spots combined.

“Factory farming - either directly or indirectly through the feed chain, is to blame for the destruction of vital habitats, the displacement of wildlife, and is the largest cause of animal suffering on the planet,” said Dr Victor Yamo, Farming Campaign Manager at World Animal Protection.

Dr Yamo also added that there is need for governments to step-up to meet commitments to address deforestation and emissions by ending factory farming. “They need to recognise the damage it does to animals, people and planet.”

The study is the first to measure how eating less factory farmed chicken and pork could help safeguard our climate if combined with ending the cruellest practices on factory farms.

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