Animal Agriculture One of the Largest Contributors to Global Warming, UN Body Reaffirms

HSI urges consideration of animal welfare and sustainable consumption

Humane Society International

  • Ignoring the need for increased attention to animal welfare and ecological sustainability in agriculture, as well as a worldwide reduction in meat consumption, would entail dire consequences for the planet and all animals. nullplus/istock

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has reaffirmed the devastating impacts of raising tens of billions of animals for food, following up on its seminal 2006 report on livestock’s effects on the environment. Humane Society International again calls for increased attention to animal welfare and ecological sustainability in agriculture and a worldwide reduction in meat consumption. The alternative would mean dire consequences for the planet and all animals.

More than 70 billion land animals are raised for human consumption each year. In 2006, the FAO concluded that the livestock sector was one of the top two or three major contributors to environmental degradation. Seven years later, this is still the case, with animal agriculture alone representing 14.5 percent of global, human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, according to the follow-up report, Tackling Climate Change Through Livestock. The updated report recognizes that animal welfare safeguards should be included when pursuing emissions reductions programs in the farm animal sector.

“Clearly, we need a rapid and vast redesign of the way we raise animals for food,” said Geoff Orme-Evans, Humane Society International’s public policy manager. “Billions of animals around the globe suffer from extreme confinement and poor welfare on industrial farm animal production facilities. To help animals and the environment, we need to reduce the numbers of animals we raise for food and find humane solutions to environmental problems.”

HSI advocates compassionate eating – or the Three Rs: “reducing” or “replacing” consumption of animal products, and “refining” our diets by choosing products from sources that adhere to higher animal welfare standards.

HSI and its partners will continue to work with governments and international institutions to further these goals. For more information on HSI’s work and research on animal agriculture and climate change, please visit


  • Animal agriculture is a key contributor to climate change, water pollution and water use, and pasture expansion for farm animals is a key driver of deforestation, especially in Latin America.
  • Worldwide, industrial systems now account for approximately two-thirds of egg and poultry meat production and over half of pig meat production.
  • Each one of us can lessen the environmental footprint by reducing our consumption of meat, egg and milk products. According to a study from 2008, for example, in the U.S., an average household shifting from a red meat and dairy to a vegetable-based diet just one day a week reduces greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to driving about one thousand miles less per year.
  • According to a 2012 study, animal products generally have larger water footprints than non-animal products. For example, in terms of protein, the water footprint is six times bigger for beef, and one and a half times larger for chicken, eggs and milk, than it is for legumes.
  • Meatless Mondays is an easy and delicious way to help mitigate climate change. The campaign was created by the U.S. government as a resource-saving measure during World War I. In 2003, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health re-launched the effort with The Monday Campaigns to promote replacing meat one day a week for our health and the health of the planet. Increasing numbers of small farmers also are voicing support for Meatless Mondays as a means to achieve more sustainable, community based agricultural systems. 
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Media Contact: Rebecca Basu, 301-258-3152,

Humane Society International and its partner organizations together constitute one of the world’s largest animal protection organizations. For nearly 20 years, HSI has been working for the protection of all animals through the use of science, advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide — on the Web at

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