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November 16, 2009

Calling Attention to Animal Agriculture at Copenhagen

HSI attends climate change conference

Humane Society International

All animals are vulnerable to the habitat destruction, extreme weather events, and other impacts of climate change. The solution to the climate crisis lies, in part, in the way we treat animals, specifically our relationship to farm animals. The animal agriculture sector is the largest single contributor to global climate change, and reducing emissions from meat, egg, and milk production may be the fastest and most effective means of mitigating this crisis.

HSI will be taking this message to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen, where world leaders will come together to discuss a treaty for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Governments must take the lead in measuring GHG emissions from the animal agriculture sector and mandating improvements in production practices.

In 2006, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reported that animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of all human-induced GHG emissions worldwide. A more recent study suggests this sector’s may account for as much as 51% of global GHG emissions. These emissions result from the resource-intensive nature of raising and slaughtering nearly 65 billion land animals for meat, eggs, and milk annually.

The animal agriculture sector encompasses many more inputs than merely raising animals. It includes such “ingredients” as grain and fertilizer production, substantial water use, and significant energy expenditures to transport feed, farm animals, and finished meat, egg, and dairy products. Greenhouse gases are also emitted by farm animal waste, particularly when animals are confined in factory farms using large, outdoor, open-air manure cesspools.

HSI works to mitigate this sector’s impacts by promoting a transition away from industrial farm animal production to forms of agriculture that are more environmentally sustainable—and better for animal welfare— as well as a reduction in the amount of meat, egg, and dairy products we consume.