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May 15, 2012

Animal Agriculture Should Be Included in Rio +20 Discussions, Says HSI

Humane Society International

    Animal agriculture causes significant pollution. istock

One of the most important environmental conferences in years will be held this June in Rio de Janeiro. This year’s United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio +20, is poised to address a number of important issues, including food security, sustainable agriculture, and water availability. However, Rio+20 will be incomplete if it ignores animal agriculture’s important role in these pressing environmental and human development concerns.

The way animals are raised for food affects human health, the environment, food security, and the well-being of those animals.  Worldwide, approximately 67 billion land animals are raised and slaughtered every year for food, many of these animals suffering immensely in factory farms. Animal agriculture is recognized by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations as one of the “top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.”

Despite requests to the United Nations from numerous environmental and animal welfare organizations highlighting animal agriculture's significant environmental impacts, the topic is still not on the agenda for Rio +20. “Given Rio +20’s focus on a ‘green economy in the context of sustainable development,’ and because of animal agriculture’s multiple negative impacts on the environment, this year’s conference discussions will be seriously lacking if there is not a discussion or significant outcome regarding humane solutions to animal agriculture’s environmental impacts,” said Guilherme Carvalho of Humane Society International (HSI) in Brazil.  “The welfare of billions of animals, as well as the health of the planet, is a stake.”

HSI will be at Rio+20 promoting Meatless Mondays, a growing worldwide movement that encourages consumers to leave meat off of their plate one day a week to help the environment—and to reduce animal suffering.

Did you know

  • According to the FAO, animal agriculture is responsible for nearly one-fifth of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Pasture expansion for farm animals is a key driver of deforestation, especially in Latin America. Seventy percent of deforested areas in the South American Amazon have been converted to pasture, while the other 30 percent is used largely to grow animal feed. 
  • Worldwide, we use more land to raise and feed farm animals than for any other purpose. More than 97 percent of soymeal and more than 60 percent of the barley and corn produced globally are fed to farm animals. 
  • Animal agriculture not only harms the environment, but also causes animal suffering. Tens of millions of animals in Brazil are confined for their entire lives in small cages and crates in factory farms.

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