More animals than ever before—92.2 billion—are used and killed each year for food
By Kitty Block
The most recent data about land animals bred, kept and slaughtered for consumption has revealed a figure higher than ever before: An estimated 92.2 billion land animals are slaughtered annually in the global food system, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.
Not only is the scale of animal suffering unfathomable, but for years mounting research has pointed to the food system as a major source of stress on the climate. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
A team from Humane Society International will attend the United Nations Framework on Climate Change conference in Bonn, Germany, this month, to engage with negotiators, high-level officials and key stakeholders to advocate for a transformation of the global food system that we all so desperately need.
There is hope. Shifting to plant-based eating habits can reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of our food system by 49%, reduce food’s land use by 76% and reduce freshwater use by 19%. And it’s heartening to know that everyone can do their part by committing to eat just a few more plant-based meals per week.
Today’s unsustainable global food production methods and consumption habits are responsible for about one-third of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, and the production of animal-based foods is responsible for 57% of these emissions, nearly double that of plant-based foods. Emissions from the livestock sector account for as great a share of global greenhouse gases as the exhaust emissions from all cars, planes, trains and boats around the world combined.
The existing food system also puts enormous pressure on agricultural land and water. Meat, dairy and aquaculture production systems use the vast majority (83%) of the world’s farmland despite providing just 18% of global calories and 37% of protein. Farmed animal production has also dominated land-use change, pushing crop production and pastures into wild habitats and contributing to an alarming rate of species extinction.
Such a massive problem beckons for a global solution. Around the world, our teams are demonstrating that modest changes in consumption, procurement and spending habits can be implemented successfully at scale to address this growing crisis. For example, Sodexo Canada, one of Canada’s largest food service companies, made a nation-wide commitment to transition 20% of their current protein purchases to plant-based at more than 200 locations across the country. Similar shifts are being implemented in municipalities across Brazil. Since 2022, we have been working together with Mercy for Animals Brazil to secure and implement commitments from Brazilian cities to transition 20% of all meals served in municipal schools to plant-based offerings. These commitments will result in more than 19 million plates going from animal-based to plant-based every year, providing over 280,000 school children with healthy, sustainable meals and sparing more than 640,000 animals from suffering.
Despite compelling scientific evidence, most governments with significant animal agriculture lobbies have been reluctant to consider or implement even the most modest reforms or policies to transform our global food system. That is why we are joining climate advocates and scientists from around the world to advocate for initiatives and policies that support a just transition to a more resilient, plant-centric global food system with concrete action. We need governments to shift public procurement away from animal-based foods to more plant-based foods. We need policies that encourage the plant-based industry; we need to support and incentivize farmers to transition to more sustainable, plant-based agriculture; and we need to foster innovation and growth in developing protein alternatives such as cultivated meat.
We’ll bring this message to Bonn, to the next UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai at the end of this year and beyond until governments and other stakeholders adopt meaningful reforms in the global food system. Animals and our planet cannot wait.
Urge world leaders to create a more resilient and more plant-centric food system.
Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.
‘I am paying $7,000 for ashes’: One family’s Petland story
Lovie Langston’s complaint came to our Stop Puppy Mills team in December 2022. “I am paying $7,000 for ashes,” she stated. Langston said she purchased a Maltese puppy whom she named Ziva Girl as a holiday gift for herself and her family at the Petland . . .
It’s time to put an end to mink farming
U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat (NY) has just introduced a bill that responds to growing concerns about the public health threat posed by mink fur factory farms. The Mink: Vectors for Infection Risk in the United States Act (‘‘Mink VIRUS Act”), H.R. 3783, seeks to prohibit . . .
Cooking with love: Finding unexpected connection over plant-based food
In 2013, our Farm Animal Protection team upped its investment in reducing meat consumption in the U.S. and around the world by expanding our work with the biggest food service companies to bring plant-based dishes to their menus. This has led to hundreds of schools . . .
Alternatives to animal experiments are shaping the future of science
For years our undercover investigations at U.S. animal research laboratories have helped to raise awareness about the immense animal suffering caused by animal testing and experimentation. Pregnant rabbits are force-fed toxic pesticides. Cats have their spinal cords damaged and are forced to run on treadmills. . . .
Why painted tree trunks are a sign of progress for animals
A recent story in U.S. News and World Report highlighted a simple, creative solution to prevent conflicts with wildlife: The Parks and Outdoors Department in Chattanooga, Tennessee, coated tree trunks with a mixture of sand and latex paint to deter beavers from gnawing on the . . .
There is simply no way to make horse slaughter humane
Horses are celebrated in America for their beauty and athleticism, yet they are also sometimes viewed as expendable commodities. Even though horse slaughter has not occurred on U.S. soil since 2007, horses across the U.S. are still being sold and sent to slaughter abroad when . . .
Breaking: Our team saves 114 dogs and puppies from North Carolina breeder
On Tuesday morning, our team arrived at a dog breeder’s property in North Carolina. Behind a chain link fence, dozens of Australian shepherds mixes paced back and forth, barking and peering out. We were on site at the request of the local sheriff’s office to . . .
Revealed: 100 reprehensible US puppy mills in Horrible Hundred report
In a photo taken by a state inspector, a dog stands looking away from the camera, her tail pointing down. At first glance, this image may seem like a sweet photo because of the boxer’s soft brown eyes and emotional expression. But farther up in . . .
Breaking: Supreme Court upholds strongest farm animal protection law in U.S.
We are thrilled that after months of tireless efforts and unwavering dedication, we have emerged victorious in our landmark Supreme Court defense of California’s Proposition 12. The decision, announced earlier today, upholds the nation’s strongest farm animal protection law and unanimously rejects the pork industry’s . . .
Maryland becomes first state to require animal testing labs to contribute money to non-animal research
Maryland has a groundbreaking new tool to help the state transition away from animal experiments. This week, Gov. Wes Moore signed HB 626/SB 560 into law, making Maryland the first state to require that animal laboratories contribute to a research fund that will be used . . .
Breaking: U.S. Congress has new chance to stop horse soring
In 1970, the U.S. Congress passed the Horse Protection Act to end the cruel practice of horse soring, which is the use of caustic chemicals, chains, weighted shoes, hard objects, cutting and other painful techniques to force horses to perform the artificial, high-stepping gait known . . .