Position Statement on Climate and Animals

Emissions from the livestock industry is a major contributor to global warming, and alarmingly, livestock production is projected to increase substantially over the next decades. Government policies and trade agreements are driving demand by encouraging the globalization of Western diets and consumption patterns, and by facilitating animal products at artificially low prices via subsidies on livestock feed. The US alone spends $38 billion each year to subsidize meat and dairy, while greenhouse gas (GHG) have risen 61% from 1990  to 2013. Unless we change policies and our diet, farming of animals will continue to cause rapid global warming.

Livestock production is a top contributor of serious environmental problems - deforestation, habitat destruction, desertification, climate change, air pollution, water shortage, water pollution, loss of biodiversity, and extinction. Animal products, both meat and dairy, require more resources and cause more greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than plant-based alternatives. Protein from cows produce 40 times more global warming compared to beans, and 10 times more compared to chickens. 

Cows accounts for 30 percent of the industrial world’s meat consumption, but contributes 78 percent of meat’s GHG emissions. Every kg (2.2 lb) of cow served is the global-warming equivalent to spewing 19 kilograms (42 lb) of carbon dioxide. Pigs, at 38 percent of consumption, contributes 14 percent of meat's GHGs. It takes about 4.25 kg (9.3 lb) of CO2 to produce and fry each kg of pig. Another 32 percent of the meat consumed worldwide comes from chicken, which contributes 8 percent of meat's GHG in developed countries. Grazing land for ruminants accounts for 26 percent of the world’s ice-free land surface. Global vegetarianism would free up 2.7 billion hectares (10.4 million square miles) of that grazing land, along with 100 million hectares (about 386,000 square miles) of land that’s used to grow crops for livestock.

We have polluted and depleted the oceans - over 90% of the big fish gone. And, for every ton of fish harvested, there is a substantial GHG cost - for Norwegian fish it’s 1,750 kg (3,858 lb) of CO2 equivalents, 2,250 kg (4,960 lb) for Chilean salmon, 2,500 kg (5,511 lb) for Canadian fish, and 3,300 kg (7,275 lb) for Scottish farmed stock. There are 3 kg (6.6 lb) CO2 costs associated with each kg (2.2 lb) of frozen salmon brought to North America from Chile, and 5.5 times that GHG cost for fresh Chilean salmon flown into the Northern Hemisphere. Growing, marketing, peeling and boiling a kg of potatoes takes 280 grams (0.6 lbs) of CO2.  

If we reduce emissions from fish and livestock, we could curb global warming fairly rapidly. By making our food system more efficient and by eating healthier food, we can reduce emissions from agriculture by up to 90 percent by 2030. That is the equivalent of removing all the cars in the world.

Just like we can and must use renewable energy and practice energy conservation, we can and must change government policy and our diet. Lowering subsidies for livestock feed, and lowering meat and dairy consumption, are essential to lowering greenhouse gases. We can and must pressure governments to restrict factory farms, resist liberalization of tariff and non-tariff barriers for food safety, animal welfare, environmental standards on imports, and trade in animal products via trade agreements, and start health education campaigns on the dangers of animal products. We can and must use vegan substitutes as we go about our daily lives.

Changing our diet and position on animals is one of the most important things we can do, but we can't stop there. We must educate, organize and agitate for equal and sustainable communities.

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