The Link Between Meat Eating and Climate Change

Posted by April Nockleby, ALDF's Online Content Manager on October 15, 2009

In honor of Blog Action Day, an annual event that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day with the aim of sparking discussion around an issue of global importance, I’m taking this opportunity to talk about a dirty little secret that’s having a huge effect on our climate change crisis, which is the focus issue for Blog Action Day 2009.

What is one of the most significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions? Transportation, right? With 700 million vehicles on roads throughout the world, planes rocketing from city to city and continent to continent, cargo ships spewing pollutants at every port and across the oceans, and diesel trucks transporting our food and fashionable knick-knacks to towns and cities around the globe, how could it be anything else? Well, put your Prius keys down, because there’s another culprit in the climate change crisis that tends to get a lot less airplay.

It might likely surprise you to hear that the United Nations has identified animal agriculture as the largest single contributor to climate change. According to a 2007 report by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), livestock generate a whopping 18 percent of human-related greenhouse gas emissions–that’s even more than the gas-guzzling transportation industry. In addition, the report states that animal agriculture is a major source of land and water degradation.

Many people have a general idea of animal agriculture’s destructive potential without knowing the full extent of how truly catastrophic it is. Like author Jonathan Safran Foer writes in his recent New York Times piece “Against Meat,” “I didn’t know the details of factory farming, but like most everyone, I knew the gist: it is miserable for animals, the environment, farmers, public health, biodiversity, rural communities, global poverty and so on.”

Scientists, however, know that global warming and animal agriculture are directly linked. Yet while millions of dollars are being spent to create systems to fix the problem of high-methane-emitting pig poop and belching cows, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, head of the Nobel Prize-winning United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests a more simple solution: reduce your meat consumption. In the New York Times article, “As More Eat Meat, a Bid to Cut Emissions,” published December 3, 2008, Dr. Pachauri is quoted as saying, “I’m not sure that the system we have for livestock can be sustainable.” It goes on: “A sober scientist, he suggests that ‘the most attractive’ near-term solution is for everyone simply to ‘reduce meat consumption,’ a change he says would have more effect than switching to a hybrid car.”

Still not convinced swapping your T-bone steak for tofu will make a difference? Take a look at this video of Jeremy Rifkin, president of the Foundation on Economic Trends, discussing the devastating role factory farms play in the climate change crisis at the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s last Future of Animal Law conference. One fact about climate change is undeniable – we all have the ability and obligation to work toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And a simple and effective way to do so is by eliminating animal products from our diet. Seriously, it’s that simple.


One thought on “The Link Between Meat Eating and Climate Change

  1. Thanks for this well thought out article and the links to valuable information.