Reading Time: 2 minutes 'The negative impact of animal agriculture is ignored at our own peril' Credit: Adobe. Do not use without permission
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Animal agriculture is responsible for at least 87 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new report. 

The Climate Healers position paper, by Dr. Sailesh Rao, has been published by the Journal of Ecological Society.

Greenhouse gas emissions

The report argues that the earlier studies have ‘underestimated’ the environmental impact of livestock farming. Moreover, Climate Healers says prior calculations have ‘failed to include the negative impact of forests lost to animal agriculture’.

Therefore, the new report includes the impact of deforestation on climate change in general and CO2 levels specifically.

‘Rapidly accelerate’ global warming

It also says global warming will ‘rapidly accelerate’ if we focus ‘exclusively on fossil fuels and ignore the threat posed by animal agriculture’.

In a statement sent to PBN, Climate Healers said: “When people think of animal agriculture and climate change, they’ve been encouraged to consider it only from the perspective of the methane produced by the animals themselves. 

“This is a significant issue, as animal agriculture accounts for at least 37 percent of methane released annually, according to the FAO itself. 

“However, it is only one of the negative impacts of animal agriculture. Animal agriculture is also the leading cause of desertification, habitat destruction, wildlife extinction, and ocean dead zones… All of which degrade the climate.

“This paper affords a crucial wake-up call to governments, non-profits, private industry, and the media. The negative impact of animal agriculture is ignored at our own peril.”

Conflicting views on Animal Agriculture

There are many differing views on the extent to which the meat and dairy industry is driving climate change. The World Watch Magazine claimed in 2009 that animal agriculture is responsible for greenhouse gas emissions of 51 percent. And it maintains that the environmental impact in the supply chain of animals has been ‘vastly underestimated’.

This view, as well as the Climate Healers’ report conflicts with the more widely accepted United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organizations (FAO), however. The FAO says animal agriculture is only responsible for 14.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, in a report published in 2018.

Associate Professor in Human Ecology at Rutgers University, Pamele McElwee, backs this, referencing the 2019 IPCC Climate Change And Land Special Report..

While Dr. Rao claims the opportunity cost for land used for animal agriculture accounts for a large amount of GHGs, McElwee disagrees.

McElwee says: “There is no reason to think that lands currently used for pasture would be automatically rewilded. And, how that would be equivalent to 56 percent of total current GHG emissions appears to be pulled out of a hat. In short, this is wrong and not supported by the greater scientific community working on these issues.”

You can read the full paper here

*Updated September 9, 2021 at 11:49am BST*

This article was updated to include additional information on the conflicting reports surrounding greenhouse gas emissions, and critiques of the report.

Liam Giliver

Liam is the former Deputy Editor of Plant Based News. He has written for The Independent, Huffington Post, Attitude Magazine, and more. He is also the author of 'We're Worried About Him'.