Cancun Climate Change Conference:
The Main Cause, Meat Production, is Not on the Agenda

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Cancun Climate Change Conference:
The Main Cause, Meat Production, is Not on the Agenda

From Four Paws International

Easting less meat helps the climate more than anything else can!

In February 2009 the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) released a report that concluded that climate change will cost us 40 billion (40,000,000,000,000) dollars by the year 2050. Almost 80 percent of this money (32 billion dollars) would not be required if we were to reduce our consumption of meat, milk and eggs. To make some sense of this astronomical sum: one could use it to purchase more than 200 million family homes at a cost of $150,000 each – a new house for everybody in Europe, Russia, Australia and Canada combined.

From Monday (November 29, 2010), representatives from several nations will meet at the Climate Change Conference in Cancun to once again discuss how to combat the climate change endangering the planet. Following the disappointing previous conferences, hopes are not particularly high. The conference will discuss the usual issues of industry, transport and energy. However, these factors contribute less to climate change than our dietary habits do. Once again, this will not be an issue at Cancun.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has released a report outlining the most important factors influencing human contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. This report has since become the reference for all further reports on the issue. In the report, animal production is deemed to be responsible for 18 percent of the emissions, ahead of transport. The World Watch Institute reacted by publishing a report designed to include factors the FAO report did not consider. According to the WWI report, animal production is responsible for 51 percent of climate change caused by humans.

"Eating less meat does more to help the climate than anything else“, says FOUR PAWS director Johanna Stadler. “People unwilling to reduce or end their meat consumption for animal welfare reasons should be prepared to do it to save the environment.” Although there is significant public discussion about causes and solutions for climate change, the consumption of animal products such as meat, milk and eggs is normally ignored.

Statistically, we consume an average of six portions of meat per person, per week. However, nutritional scientists recommend eating no more than 2-3 portions a week. We are therefore consuming twice as much as the recommended amount. This is not just damaging to our health and responsible for the suffering of millions of animals – it is also responsible for the biggest human contribution to climate change.

Of course, it makes sense to evaluate the effects of all aspects of our lifestyles on our environment. However, to achieve sufficiently effective improvements by concentrating only on transport and energy production requires significant investment in new technologies and structures. It is therefore irresponsible to ignore the most effective and cheapest method of combating climate change: our meat consumption is not only the largest factor in human contribution to climate change, but is also the easiest to reduce without resorting to investment in new technologies.

In fact, this highly effective method to protect the climate would save large amounts of money: at the moment, the price of animal products is heavily subsidised by tax income. Animal farmers are provided with a minimum price for their products which cannot be achieved in a free market. Every produced litre of milk, piece of meat or egg therefore costs us tax – even if we do not buy it ourselves.

Cheap, low-quality products are able to compete with high-quality products due to a lack of a reliable, effective and comprehensive labelling and control system for quality standards. If such a reliable labelling system for quality standards was introduced and tax income was no longer wasted on supporting the production of animal products, the money saved by national and EU governing bodies could be invested in other sensible measures. Our consumption of animal products is already unhealthily high; a state-sponsored increase in the use of animal products is therefore not only unnecessary, but also damaging to our health and to our economies which rely on state subsidies.

A clear labelling system must be introduced to identify animal-friendly products, to enable consumers to easily identify differing levels of quality. This is, after all, the only way that people can rely on the fact that they are purchasing high-quality products. As a result of this, farmers would be able to demand fairer prices for their products (even without subsidies), in return for ensuring higher standards of quality and animal keeping. As improved keeping conditions demand more work, additional agricultural jobs would be created.

The animal products, of which too many are consumed anyway, would therefore become more expensive, but also much better. If the subsidisation of animal products ends, fruit, vegetables and grain would once again become competitive in terms of price, therefore making it easier to have a healthy diet. Healthier people mean lower costs for health providers. These savings could then be used to provide better levels of care for those who do fall ill.

This way we could slow down climate change, improve national economies and create additional jobs. In addition, we could save innumerable animals from factory farming and processing which completely ignores their requirements and their wellbeing.

The facts:

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has released a report outlining the most important factors influencing human contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. This report has since become the reference for all further reports on the issue. In the report, animal production is deemed to be responsible for 18 percent of the emissions, ahead of transport.

The FAO takes into consideration the emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide caused by animal keeping and the production of crops for animal feed. For a large part, emissions caused by the clearance of land by fire for grazing and feed-growing are also taken into account. However, the FAO does not consider the amount of CO2 which could have been processed by the lost forests in order to stabilise the climate, despite the fact that 70 percent of the rainforest is destroyed to enable grazing and animal feed production. Between 30 and 50 percent of the world’s grain harvest and 80 percent of the world’s soya harvest are fed to animals.

The World Watch Institute responded to the report in November of 2009 by releasing their own report which included the factors the FAO report had neglected. According to this report, animal production is actually responsible for 51 percent of the human contribution to global warming.

In February 2009 the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) released a report that concluded that climate change will cost us 40 billion (40,000,000,000,000) dollars by the year 2050. Almost 80 percent of this money (32 billion dollars) would not be required if we were to reduce our consumption of meat, milk and eggs. To make some sense of this astronomical sum: one could use it to purchase more than 200 million family homes at a cost of $150,000 each – a new house for everybody in Europe, Russia, Australia and Canada combined.

Easting less meat helps the climate more than anything else can!