What is the greenwashing trick?
Many people do not connect the meat on their plate or the milk in their cup with the climate crisis. Some meat and dairy companies exploit that gap by highlighting the impact of fossil fuels on the climate, which makes the livestock sector look better by comparison.
But research shows that if global food systems continue with business as usual, the resulting increase in emissions from agriculture alone would likely add enough extra warming to take the planet’s average temperature beyond a 1.5°C rise. We need a sustainable food system to avert climate catastrophe.
How is this trick used?
Have you ever heard of the world’s largest meat producer, JBS? Probably not – but you have heard of Shell. Even though the five largest global meat and dairy corporations combined are responsible for more annual greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuel giants Shell, ExxonMobil or BP, public scrutiny is still focused predominantly on fossil fuel companies. And while we need to address the emissions that come from fossil fuels, Big Livestock’s contribution to climate change is significant and growing – and it’s time they started making significant, absolute cuts to the emissions that stem from animal products.
Why is this bad for the climate crisis?
If business as usual continues, the global livestock industry will be using up almost half of the world’s 1.5°C emissions budget by 2030. To meet the steep and rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions necessary to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, global livestock numbers must be driven down substantially. We have already reached “peak livestock”, but if the sector continues to dodge scrutiny and skirt responsibility, it’s unlikely to change.
Governments can and must regulate the livestock industry’s numerous environmental and social impacts and ensure that these companies do not transfer all the risks of transitioning from mass animal production onto farmers. We need to eat less and better meat, and farmers within and outside corporate supply chains have a critical role to play in a deliberate, just transition away from mass industrial livestock production and towards livestock-raising systems that are healthy for the planet and people.