The facts are clear: More than 88 billion land animals are bred, raised and slaughtered for food every year. The animal agriculture industry is responsible for at least 14.5% to 16.5% of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions globally, on par with emissions from all the planes, trains, automobiles and ships around the world. By 2030, the livestock sector is projected to account for nearly half of the world’s emissions budget for 1.5°C. In addition to causing significant greenhouse gasses, the farm animal production sector is also the single largest anthropogenic user of land, with meat, egg, dairy and aquaculture production systems using approximately 83% of the world’s farmland while providing just 37% of the world’s protein and 18% of calories. Animal agriculture is also a major driver of deforestation, species extinction, land degradation, exhaustion of water resources and pollution.
The need to reduce the environmental impacts of our diets has never been more urgent. And yet, despite intensive animal agriculture being one of the largest contributors to climate change, it is largely neglected by countries around the world in climate change mitigation strategies and commitments. If we want to prevent a climate change catastrophe, it is imperative that world leaders acknowledge and act to cut every major driver of climate change, including industrial animal agriculture. Transforming our global food system to one that incentivizes more plant-based diets is one of the most effective climate-mitigation measures we can take. Scientists agree—including the 107 experts who prepared a report for the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the more than 11,000 signatories from 153 countries to a recent paper on the climate emergency in the journal BioScience—that a global shift towards more plant-based diets will be key in tackling climate change.
World leaders are preparing for the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP26, which will take place in Glasgow this November. The annual conference offers a vital opportunity for world leaders to make meaningful commitments to tackle climate change, restore biodiversity and help reduce the number of animals suffering on factory farms. Humane Society International, along with other global animal welfare and environmental organizations, corporate partners and celebrity advocates, are urging these leaders to take meaningful action on the animal agriculture sector. We’re asking them to stop ignoring #TheCowInTheRoom.
The #TheCowInTheRoom campaign is a multifaceted push to ensure that animal agriculture is included among the priority areas on the agenda for COP26—and beyond—and that mitigation policies and solutions are discussed. We sent a letter signed by more than 50 animal protection, environmental and food justice organizations from around the globe, as well as a letter signed by 19 of the world’s biggest celebrity advocates for plant-based diets—including Martin Freeman, Moby, Billie Eilish, Joaquin Phoenix, Alan Cumming, Alicia Silverstone, Leona Lewis, Lily Cole and Stephen Fry—to the president of the conference, Rt. Hon. Alok Sharma MP. In collaboration with global food awareness organization ProVeg, we also launched a public petition in which the public can show their support for this important ask.
The UN’s latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report warned that the climate crisis is poised to get worse if greenhouse gas emissions continue to surge, and that the future of the planet depends on the choices that humanity makes today. Reducing our consumption of animal products is one of the best ways we can both help animals and reduce our climate footprint.
But individual action absolutely must be supported through policy change at the local, national and multinational levels. Building a sustainable and resilient future requires comprehensive policy reform, financial incentives and widespread collaboration among governments, policymakers, financial institutions, businesses, communities and other stakeholders of the food system. Thankfully, we are already beginning to see things change.
Earlier this year, France announced that its climate and resilience bill will include meat reduction as part of a plan to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions. Around the world, institutions ranging from schools and universities to factories and major foodservice providers are setting goals to reduce their use of animal products. In just the last 18 months HSI has secured new commitments from over 50 institutions around the world to transition animal-based meals to plant-based offerings, impacting millions of meals per year. HSI also planned and executed more than 70 virtual plant-based trainings, cooking demonstrations and panel discussions on plant-based cooking, reaching more than 5,000 people including high-end restaurant chefs and institutional cooks around the world. A formal recognition at COP26 of the need for efforts like these would encourage world leaders to commit to vital meat and dairy consumption reduction strategies to help meet the Paris Agreement’s target.
You can be a voice for change by signing our petition. You can also find out more about the impact of intensive animal agriculture on our planet and the lives of animals around the world.
Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.