Target: Greenpeace USA Executive Director Annie Leonard
Goal: Insist that environmental organizations recognize the devastating impact of big agriculture on global warming
Scientists agree that greenhouse gas emissions from human activity contribute to global warming. However, one of the largest sources of these emissions is rarely mentioned when it comes to conversations about the environment. Livestock production (and that of resources livestock require) constitutes a leading source of greenhouse gas emissions, with a recent report from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science suggesting that livestock-based food production causes a fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions. Livestock production contributes to emissions through enteric fermentation, i.e., cow farts, as well as by cutting into forests (emitting CO2), and (literally) eating up valuable resources, including both food crops and water. To put this in perspective: according to a study published in the journal Global Change Biology, 86% of the land used globally for crops is devoted to feeding cows (compared to 8% of land used for crops which are eaten by humans). That’s an order of magnitude of land use for crops which could be eliminated if humans were to switch to a plant-based diet.
Despite these egregious numbers, environmental organizations like Greenpeace USA place relatively little focus on livestock production as a significant contributor to global warming, as pointed out in the recent documentary Cowspiracy, produced by Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn. What’s more, political groups may have vested interests in keeping livestock production around, given the amount of money the U.S. government alone pours into its system. According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, the U.S. Department of Agriculture shelled out nearly $250 billion in subsidies for “commodity crops,” a large part of which goes towards animal feed, not to mention the $5 billion that goes to dairy and $3.5 billion that goes to livestock.
Join in affirming that the current system of agriculture is broken and is killing our planet (not to mention our planet’s animals, who are often treated and slaughtered inhumanely). Encourage environmentalist groups to recognize that the system of food in this country (and on this planet) is broken.
Dear Ms. Leonard,
I write to you to thank you for your service at Greenpeace. It is imperative that such an organization continue to address the threats that humans pose to the planet, including carbon emissions from factories, cars, and other artifacts.
However, I urge you to consider place more emphasis another harmful threat to the planet that humans pose: we are killing our planet by eating meat. Livestock, especially cows, are the among the top contributors of human-based greenhouse gases. Eating meat is an extraordinarily inefficient way for humans to stay nourished. Only a tiny fraction of the land currently used for crops is for human consumption; the vast majority (approximately 86%) is used for crops that will become animal feed for cows alone–and grazing pastures take up three times that amount of space.
Despite the devastating impact that livestock production has on the environment, many environmental organizations have neglected to devote sufficient attention to this issue. I urge you to use your influence at Greenpeace to right this wrong. Address the impact of big agriculture on the environment and urge your members to fight back by reducing meat and animal product consumption.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Martin Leng via Wikimedia Commons