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World Soil Day: FOUR PAWS warns of effects of extensive global meat consumption on soil and climate


© FOUR PAWS | Nicholas Fuerschuess

International animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS used  World Soil Day on December 5th and the recent UN Climate Change Conference in Paris,  to warn of the immense environmental effects of intensive animal production. 


Intensive farm animal production and keeping have a direct, undeniable effect on soil degradation and climate change. Reducing the consumption of animal-based products does not only prevent animal suffering but it is also good for the climate and soil.

About 60 billion animals are slaughtered worldwide every year

A vast majority of arable land is used for the production of animal products such as meat, eggs and dairy. While in industrialised countries the consumption of animal-based products is at a high yet stable level, consumption in China and other developing countries has been skyrocketing in recent years. 

Farm animals, soil, the climate and human health – everything is connected

An overwhelming majority of farm animals are kept in intensive production systems. This involves several health as well as animal welfare issues. Animals are crammed together on very little space, a prophylactic use of antibiotics and mutilations such as tail docking of pigs to fit the animals to their given conditions – to name just a few examples.

© FOUR PAWS | Fred Dott

Intensive animal production is also connected to major threats to soil such as loss of organic matter, compaction, erosion and salination. One third of the arable land worldwide is used for fodder production, making animal production a main contributor to soil degradation. In the context of climate change, animal production is extremely relevant. It causes 18 % of the global greenhouse gas emissions, it generates 65 % of the nitrous oxide (N2O) and 36 % of the methane (CH4) emissions. Both of these gases having a much higher global warming potential than CO2.

Consumers can make a change

The most common argument to justify intensive farm animal production is the need to meet consumer demand for cheap and readily available animal-based products. This is why everyone can contribute to make an improvement. Reducing the consumption of animal-based products is good for the animals, the climate and the health of the individual as well. By doing so everyone of us can personally contribute to reduce animal suffering and the effects on the climate and soil.

Moreover, FOUR PAWS urges public bodies to take this topic more seriously. Meat consumption should be covered as a topic in schools more critically, trade schools, restaurants and hotels could train more cooks on vegetarian and vegan cooking, while authorities should support and promote meatless initiatives.