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January 15, 2010

HSI in Copenhagen

Raising awareness about animal agriculture's contribution to climate change

Humane Society International

  • Many people remain unaware of the huge impact of animal agriculture on climate change. © iStockphoto/Tsekhmister

by Dr. Chetana Mirle

HSI's Farm Animals department worked to raise awareness of animal agriculture’s impact on climate change while attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen from December 7–18, 2009. As part of our climate change campaign, we emphasized the importance of measuring and regulating greenhouse gas emissions from factory farms, an essential step to reducing emissions. In addition to attending the COP15 proceedings, HSI also participated in KlimaForum09—the civil society climate change conference held parallel to the U.N. conference in Copenhagen. At both venues, we distributed copies of our climate-change policy recommendations.

Open to change

HSI was invited to speak about our international campaigns against factory farming during two sessions at KlimaForum09. During “Eating the Planet,” sponsored by Compassion in World Farming, I fielded participants’ questions about the links between animal agriculture and hunger in rural India. I found that the young activists, in particular, were extremely sensitive to the fact that the poor in developing countries are more vulnerable to climate change and other environmental problems. When we explained that global hunger [PDF] is also exacerbated by factory farming, most of the young activists seemed committed to reducing the amount of animal products in their diet.

Our multifacted strategy

“Meat World: China,” a KlimaForum09 session that focused on the environmental impacts of rising global meat production and consumption, was hosted by the group Brighter Green. At the session, we discussed our campaigns against factory farming in Brazil and India. HSI's campaigns in both countries reach out to consumers, leaders in government, and the food retail industry to raise awareness about the animal welfare, environmental, and public health [PDF] problems associated with factory farming.

HSI attended several COP15 sessions on carbon markets and other mechanisms for financing greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction efforts. HSI seeks to ensure that worldwide public and private carbon markets, currently in operation and in development, do not benefit factory farms, which degrade the environment and compromise animal welfare. Similarly, we will work to ensure that efforts designed to support GHG reductions in developing countries, such as the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism, do not support factory farms in those countries.

Progress made

While world leaders failed to reach a binding agreement on greenhouse gas reduction targets during COP15, HSI made strides in the global campaign against factory farming—building relationships with rural development and sustainable agriculture groups around the world who share our views on animal welfare, environmental sustainability, and social justice. We look forward to building on these connections to benefit farm animals through our climate change work and our international factory farming campaigns.