Livestock farming and climate change

Climate change is bad. To ignore the needs of animals as well. And that both even
has to do with each other, needs time to be digested. Here is some high-fiber information for it:

According to the UN 18% of climate change is caused by livestock farming.
In December 2006 the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) caused a global stir with this number. Sounds simple, is simple - but the details behind it are just as thrilling as complex.

Beneath the heading "Livestock's Long Shadow" [1] , the FAO investigated the environmental impacts of global livestock farming. Besides the climate it also deals with the contamination of soil, water and air, and the loss of forests and Biodiversity.

The summary [2] provides already plenty of facts and an excellent overview of the topic.
At the bottom of the armingly high 18 percent there are the Greenhouse gases CO2, methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) in roughly equal proportions. [3]

  • CO2 is released mainly through the immense slash and burn agriculture in primeval forests and the deforestation for fodder crops and grazing land.
  • Methane is produced especially during the digestion of ruminants (cattle, goats and sheep), and to a lesser extent during the digestion of other livestock animals and while manuring with animal excrements.
  • Nitrous oxide escapes for the most part during the prozess of manuring the soil with animal excrements. A small amount is being contributed by mineral fertilizers, used for for the cultivation of Forage.

Do you ask yourself whether the situation for the environment improved if we, instead of the animal-stuff, ate plants, which after all, also cause environmental consequences?? Then click here.

Global agriculture is an extremely complex system. Greenhouse aspects differ greatly by region and crop. Global material-flows link continents together in cause as well as in effect. This way the Brazilian Rainforest dies, by way of example for genetically modified soybean shred, which is being fed to the German Cattle, while farmers in Western Europe in turn no longer know what to do with the vast quantities of animal excrements.

Not even the global transport puts so much on the climate-scale as livestock farming.

This conclusion is also being found in the FAO study on "Livestock's long shadow" [4]. According to IPCC, the rate of global transport is at 13 percent.

For politics and the media that's still an inconvenient truth.

For politics and the media that's still an inconvenient truth.
Being a climate-interested person, you know how important it is that the media finally takes the subject of climate more into focus. Even the government now doesn`t get around, at least to pretend as if the problem is a matter of concern.

So far, especially the two sectors energy and transport have shifted into the public consciousness. The large field of agriculture and the most global-warming-impacting part of livestock farming, on the contrary, gets still little attention.

Did you know that a modern industry-average-cow contributes to climate change as much as a compact car? And what other environmental impacts a steak on your plate has? Until a few years ago, we didn`t even know it ourselves.

As politically minded people we rely more on the power of political pressure than on individual blame. Oat milk from the organic food store is a good thing, but even more important is that politics and business have no other choice than to attend this topic. And this can be achieved, as so often, just by passing on, discussing and getting together. And then also through the media, letters to the editors and over
uncomfortable questions to politicians.

Would an end to the animal-economy bring something else?

Aside from climate and animals being better off? Indeed! Here is a selection:

  • Clearing of tropical rainforests: 70% of the deforested Amazon forest are being used for pasture, and feed growing occupies a large part of the remaining 30%. The pet industry is thus the main cause for deforestation in the Amazon [4]
  • Air pollution: 64% of global emissions of ammonia are for account of Animal-economy. This promotes acid rain and an acidification of ecosystems [2]
  • Water: 8% of the global human water consumption are being allotted to livestock farming, mainly for the cultivation of fodder crops. Livestock farming is moreover the probably biggest water polluting sector.[2] Because of the strongly increasing water scarcity (also induced by climate change) in some regions of the world, livestock farming is going to contribute in this century thus to violent conflicts over water
  • Biodiversity: The 30 percent of the earth's surface, which is now largely used for livestock farming in monoculture, were once a habitat for countless animal and plant species. Through deforestation, pollution, overfishing and other factors, the animal economy is among the leading causes of the loss of species [2]
  • Hunger: See our extra page about global hunger

And what shall I do now with all that information?

Well, ease it down a little. Doubt, research, read. Tell acquaintances, ask questions collectively, get thoughtful. Something like that…

And then think about it every now and then. In the general election, when standing by the refrigerated display case in the store, in a comfortable round of talks. Or if your pedestrian zone could tolerate an info desk. Or your parish, a panel discussion. Or your newspaper a reader's letter. Be just a political person. Because of the justice, and in virtue of a permanently beautiful world for all. 

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