Climate Week 2022: Factory Farming is The Hidden Culprit of Cruelty and Climate Change
September 19-25 is Climate Week NYC and World Animal Protection US is highlighting the urgent need for governments, companies, and the public to acknowledge and address the devastating impacts of factory farming on our environment.
While there have been many global and local climate initiatives enacted to hold some of the largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters accountable, they continue to leave factory farmed meat and dairy off the hook despite the industry’s significant role in global emissions.
The situation is getting more dire, and we cannot afford to keep giving factory farming a pass.
What Are CAFOs or Factory Farms?
CAFOs, or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, also known as factory farms, are the industrial method of raising animals—such as pigs, cows, and chickens—for food. These systems prioritize maximizing speed, efficiency, and profit at the expense of animals.
More than 9 billion (yes, billion) land animals endure unbearable cruelty on factory farms in the US every year. To put this into perspective, there are five times as many factory farmed animals as there are humans in the United States.
In the factory farming system, thousands of sentient beings are condemned to lives of confinement in crowded environments, subjected to painful mutilations, and prevented from performing any of their natural behaviors throughout their stressful, pain-ridden, and short lives.
How is Factory Farming Linked to Climate Change?
The impacts of factory farms reach far beyond the billions of animals living inside them as they are also devastating our climate. All along the supply chain, producing meat and dairy on an industrial scale is depleting our natural resources, polluting our air and waterways, and releasing GHGs.
Factory farming is expected to increase around the world in the next few decades, and experts have warned that unless factory farming declines, we cannot achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and keep below the 1.5°C increase maximum.
Deforestation and habitat loss: Growing crops, primarily soy and corn, to feed billions of farmed animals is contributing to the destruction of forests and grasslands, releasing carbon into the atmosphere, and decimating wildlife habitats along the way.
Carbon emissions: GHG emissions from factory farm animal feed production and processing represent 45% of total agricultural emissions, accounting for the biggest climate change and environmental impacts within this unsustainable system.
Methane: Methane is a greenhouse gas with a high climate-warming impact. In the US, factory farms account for 33% of agricultural methane emissions and 13% of total U.S. methane emissions.
Food waste: Food waste accounts for 2% of US greenhouse gas emissions. On a consumer and retail level, about 26% of animal products are discarded, meaning billions of animals are suffering and environmental impacts are compounding only for meat and dairy products to end up in landfills.
Substantial reductions in meat consumption are urgently needed to protect animals, halt and reverse the climate crisis, and build toward a more sustainable and kind food system. In fact, our research shows that reducing pork and chicken consumption by 50% per person in the US by 2040 would result in a 43% and 41% decrease in the climate change impacts of pork and chicken, respectively.
How You Can Help
1. Commit to reducing your meat consumption by signing up for Meating Halfway:
Sign up for Meating Halfway today—a 21-day journey toward reducing your meat and dairy consumption—and join a movement of people committed to creating a more sustainable future.
If you already follow a plant-based diet, please share the link with your friends and family.
2. Urge Your Legislators to Support the Farm System Reform Act.
The factory farming industry can no longer plausibly deny the massive toll it imposes on animals and our planet. The Farm System Reform Act—a critical piece of legislation introduced in US Congress—would decrease the number of farmed animals kept in extreme confinement and subjected to brutal mutilations. It also calls for imposing a moratorium on new factory farms and stricter environmental standards.