The livestock sector plays an often unrecognized role in global warming. Animal agriculture specifically drives climate change, and is linked to increasing GHGs, the food crisis and water emergencies. The animal agribusiness has many footprints on the air, land, water, energy, material, health, and other areas. These various footprints are part of livestock animals' life-cycle and byproducts' supply chains.
These footprints include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and other GHGs, that have a larger cumulative effect on climate change than from each added up individually. And unless livestock's emissions are reduced along with fossil fuels, they may set in motion various feedbacks, and result in the surpassing of climate change tipping points.
In reducing fossil-based emissions, an argument can be made that fossil fuels are not essential for human survival, and that many non-carbon sources of energy already exist, and should be used instead. This argument is often inverted when dealing with livestock emissions. Animal-based diets are viewed as non-negotiable and indispensable to human survival. And, the common perception is that other protein sources are not as good or available.
In contrast, a World Bank study on the consumption of animal products and the risk of chronic diseases found that in many situations, the partial displacement of carbohydrate staple source of energy with animal products may have neutral or no beneficial health effect. In contrast, the study found “the use of plant source of protein and fat, such as soy products, nuts, and vegetable oils, may provide even greater health benefits and should therefore be considered simultaneously when considering investments in development.”i
Fossil-based emissions and pollution are a huge problem, and regulations need to be used and strictly enforced in order to reduce risks to the environment and human health. Similar to pollution from fossil fuels, animal-based diets cause many negative effects on human health and the environment. And, in turn, animal-based diet related illnesses and animal waste pollution generate huge amounts of CO2 emissions in health care and habitat restoration.
The animal carcass, eggs and cow's milk lobbies are well-organized, and many politicians minimize and ignore the issue due to conflicts of interest. For example, European Parliament member Baringdorf, minimized the issue by saying, "I don't believe that the world will come to an end because of cows burping and farting."
And, a senior member of the staff of the German Environment Minister admitted, "We have exempted agriculture from the climate protection strategy in order to limit the number of potential sources of conflict.” While, Martin Faulstich, chairman of the German Advisory Council on the Environment was more explicit in stating, "No one dares to say that we ought to eat less meat and more plant-based protein."ii
i Frank B. Hu and Walter C. Willett. 1998. "The Relationship between Consumption of Animal Products (Beef, Pork, Poultry, Eggs, Fish and Dairy Products) and Risk of Chronic Diseases:A Critical Review." Dept. of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health. A Report commissioned by the World Bank‟s Agriculture and Rural Development Department. May 19. 1998.