A new report by Greenpeace International calls for a 50% cut in production and consumption of meat and dairy products by 2050, reflecting the now accepted science that industrial agriculture is enormously destructive to the global climate, biodiversity, and human health.
“If left unchecked, agriculture is projected to produce 52% of global greenhouse gas emissions in the coming decades, 70% of which will come from meat and dairy,” the report states.
“The need to reduce demand for livestock products is now a scientifically mainstream view,” said Pete Smith, a former convening lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in an interview with Greenpeace.
Choosing to produce “the same mix of foods as we consume now [but] more sustainably cannot deliver the reduction in environmental impacts we need to protect the planet for our children and their children.,” he added.
In addition to being a prime driver of climate change, the explosion of industrial agriculture over the last 50 years has devastated natural ecosystems, the report concludes. “Since 1970, the Earth has lost half of its wildlife but tripled its livestock population. Livestock production now occupies 26% of land on Earth.”
And then there is the link between industrial animal agriculture and the frightening emergence of antimicrobial resistance which, Greenpeace notes, was declared a “global health emergency” last year by the World Health Organization.
Heavy consumption of red meat and dairy is also “behind a latent global health crisis,” the report adds. “Millions of lives could be saved each year if people had access to a diet rich in plant-based foods.”
Instead of continuing to “support massive meat and dairy operations,” said Greenpeace Executive Director Bunny McDiarmid, governments should help farmers “shift towards ecological methods of growing crops and raising an amount of livestock the planet can sustain,” while also helping the public—which is actually increasingly alert to the issue, she noted—shift to a plant-based diet.
“What we decide to eat, as individuals and as a global society, is one of the most powerful tools we have in the fight against climate change and environmental destruction,” McDiarmid added.